To all my Sri Lankans, suba aluth avurddak weva!
To make the most use of this extended Sinhala & Tamil New Year weekend (4 days!), we decided to head to the hills! Trust AirBnB to have some places with spectacular views, promise! To get out of the heat wave descending on all unfortunate humans in Colombo and the suburbs, we made our way up the winding roads to chilly Ella and then Nuwara Eliya. We’ve been here tons of times before, but I think this adventure warrants a blog post in itself. Why? Just wait until you read about our adventures, guys!
We reached Ella around 9PM on Wednesday and walked up the crooked stairway to the top most hotel room. Our room/place might as well have been a penthouse with a kitchen, a living room, an actual and functioning TV, and most of all, the view from the wrap-around balcony. We weren’t picky about the food, so we got some cheese and ham kottu to go and started stuffing our faces with steamy goodness. We sat on the rocking chairs, eating away, and enjoying the night sky (we saw a few stars, but not very many considering it had just drenched the town the night before). Did I say I was very grateful to my father for taking full responsibility of the alcohol this trip? Red wine & kottu make a delicious pairing, if you were interested…
We hit the sack close to 11PM as we were going to make our way to Little Adam’s Peak the next morning. We checkout around 7AM and made it to 98 Acres Resort Spa about 20 minutes past. This resort is absolutely stunning and I have a weak spot for ecolodge-esque places. Got me shaky in the knees, you better believe it! We admired the view for a while and listened to our dad ramble on about the teas here (you can’t escape this talk when he’s been in the industry for almost 40 years). The trek to the top wasn’t long, and props to 98 Acres as the route cuts across their resort and gives a fantastic view of hay-roofed villas nestled in the green. The trek took around an hour and a half, mostly because us kids (i.e. all children over the age of 21) kept taking goofy pictures after being inspired by living-on-the-edge instagrammers (did I mention we also took a picture in our underwear? Yeah…). Trust me when I say we couldn’t replicate their photographs, and trust me even more when our dad gave a blistering lecture about safety! The view at the top was fantastic, the Ella gap was right before us and a small waterfall next to the rock was a beautiful speck of white in the lush forest.
After admiring the view (more pictures below), we ramped up the speed to the resort to get some drinks before heading out for breakfast. We know Ella is known for their fluffy pol rotti and godambara rotti, so we head a few milkshakes at 98 Acres and drove into the heart of Ella town for breakfast.
Highest salute to the owner of Ella 360, the kindest and charming gentleman who walked us through the menu and got us ordering a slightly staggering amount of food. Yet did we have any leftovers? No, sir. We got portions of goddambara rotti, dosai, kiribath portions, rice and pork curry platters, burrito-style rotti and…pancakes with banana and chocolate sauce. This is for a total of five people, and we all but licked our plates clean. We were so full we had to walk around the town before we could even think about driving to Nuwara Eliya.
Happy as clams and full to our eyeballs, we made our way to Nuwara Eliya close to the the afternoon. Brotato (my brother) booked an awesome sauce place right on Gregory’s Lake with jet skiers and boat riders creating patterns on the water as the hazy mist set in to the atmosphere. We went for a quick hunt to our local grocers to prep for our BBQ that night and then went for a walk into the markets. Walking along these streets transported me to a place that didn’t feel like my island. It was cold, and I was thrusted into a meat and vegetable market with throngs of people getting fresh produce right before the New Year. Bargain hunters talking with shop owners and little children running around our legs as they make their way through the enclosed market within the city’s buildings. We got some fresh strawberries and Indian sweets before listening to some baila music and heading home to get the grill working! Three types of sausages and chicken accompanied the most delicious homemade BBQ sauce we cooked up. Once again, salute to my dad for the tequila as I downed cocktail after cocktail of strawberry goodness. I have to admit, I was right royally buzzed and it got my mum laughing and my dad slightly worried about what he’s done to his poor daughter! We were never good in the kitchen (except for our mum), so the grilling took about an hour and a half. We chalked it up as a fault to the Wind Gods as they kept sweeping the heat off the grill. Of course we’d refuse to take the blame. Typical family life in this circle!
While the food was delicious, I retched the insides of my body into the toilet bowl and questioned what god I pissed off to be suffering at 3:45AM. Clearly a god who relished at the idea of a poor soul hugging the toilet in pitch darkness inside a cold cold bathroom. Ah Kavi, why does it always have to be you, eh? I tried to be a total trooper about it and didn’t slow down my breakfast as I downed a few rottis and fruit before we took the climb to Lover’s Leap.
Before you even ask what the favorite part of my trip was, it was the trek to Lover’s Leap. Lover’s Leap is a waterfall just outside Nuwara Eliya, famous for its story and the view. The story is different depending on who you ask, but the essence of the story was that a prince met a damsel in the forest and became lovers (shocker, eh?). The girl was not to the liking of the prince’s family and the couple thus decided to fall to their deaths to immortalize their love. I heard this story and I’m over here thinking what happened to communication and understanding? Am I being too cynical? Probably. Moving on.
We made it to the waterfall, where the water collides on hard granite before slowing down into a stream used for drinking. Of course, the Iddawela’s could never be happy just looking at a waterfall, could we? Instead, we wanted to climb to the TOP of the waterfall. My brother had done this climb a few times but could never find the entrance as it is illegal. Yep, I said it. We crossed the line (much to our mother’s disappointment) and found three little boys barely around the age of 10 who agreed to take us if we give them biscuits. No second thoughts, we climbed up. The trek was about 30-45 minutes and boy it was hard. It was mostly straight uphill and no clear path, it was a lot of climbing with our hands and holding on to rocks to go up (picture me like a gecko on a climbing wall losing my footing…that was me). To our surprise, we met fellow German brother and sister Lia and Vincent who were in it for better trek and hike, and they joined us closer to the top. We finally reached the top and…you guessed it…the watcher from the bottom saw us and started shouting at us. We were so dead. So dead I was sure my mother would kick us all the way to Colombo and bring us back just to amp up her lecturing. But, did we stop there and climbed back down like normal humans? Nope. We trekked even higher. At this point, the entire trek was in water and it was water that was clearer than the blue skies above us. The water was breaking in ribbons when the flow was barricaded by the jotting rocks, and small crabs were jumping around the edges of the stream as they scuttled to find food. We jumped into pools of water and took some sick shots (you’ll know it when you see it below). We had a great group of trekkers and some cute boys who could barely understand us. We decided to head back about an hour into the venturing the streams as getting our ears burnt to red twin crisps by our mother was inevitable. Much to our surprise, she just looked at us sour and made sure we were safe and whole before we trekked down.
Trekking made us ravenous so we decided to hit the street food scene at Nuwara Eliya and ordered some Kottumee (instant noodles), chips, rice and curry, and of course more rotti. My brother and our good friend Jay couldn’t stop staring at the girl behind the potato counter, and kept ordering plate after plate of twizzler-style potato crisps. We had a good cuppa tea to digest it all and called it an afternoon to head for the bungalow for a nap. We woke up close to dinner time and in the name of New Year’s, we dined at the Indian Summer restaurant in Nuwara Eliya. We loved the food at the restaurant in Colombo, and decided to get a table reserved for New Year dinner. We wanted to try our luck at the Grand Hotel first, but it was pretty much overbooked and we decided Indian Summer was second best. We got the coolest view in the restaurant – on the glass balcony jutting out towards the road over looking the lake. The lake was light up all around with individual starry bulbs illuminating in yellow color as the moon floated right above us. We ordered assorted Indian rottis (no surprise), mutton biriyani, and two creamy chicken and mutton curries while we drank our lassis and enjoyed each other’s company. I felt like I hadn’t laughed like this in days as we talked about our days in school and my brother being the biggest cheater on the planet! I laughed so hard tears started rolling down my face and I realized I couldn’t love my crazy, dysfunctional family more and I’d never trade it with anyone. Of course being the tea family that we are, we had a few round of Masala Chai and headed back to our rooms. Jay and my brother ventured out into the carnivals happening alongside the lake but we decided to call it a night as the next day was just as packed!
The next morning, we took our time eating breakfast and packed our stuff to say goodbye to the amazing hosts at the bungalow. We took their advice to visit the bootha bangalawa (haunted bungalow) and decided to make our way there. Everyone whom we talked to as we drove up gave us different stories about this house, from the nationality of the owner, to his demise, his martial fights, etc. Curious blokes that we were, we went. We crossed into illegal once again when we trespassed their land as the gate was locked. Did I know we had lock pickers in the family? Nope, but I do now. We parked the car a few meters from the intimidating structure and went inside (my mother of course kept saying she’d stay in the car and pray for all of us).
The house/hotel looked so peculiar. It had rooms with no windows (no structure for windows), and had a eery attic and a basement that looked like a dungeon. Vlad Dracul, do I suspect some architectural influence here? Birds flew like bullets across us, getting our heart rates up and imagining actual ghosts (it didn’t help that my brother witnessed his tale of ghost busting in Boston in a few years ago and told us that story the night before). We started to really panic when we heard the sounds of someone running up in the attic with faint whispery noises from children (I am not even kidding you, guys!!). We started to make our way back (albeit quickly), when we saw a group of young children coming from the top floor…as we saw them, we got SO BUSTED. The watchman for the house started shouting at us and threatened to call the police for trespassing. Did I know my dad was such a smooth liar? Nope, but now I do as he lied his ass out of that police call and even made nice with the owner (who we though had died…). It was all so confusing but we decided to close the chapter on that and head on over to Moon Plains.
Moon Plains is a different sort of safari…it was a scenic safari across mountains while we saw buffalos chilling L-Z-Boy Style. We got up all the way to what they call the atrium, which is a 360 view of all the rocks, waterfalls jutting across the central hills of our country. No words can do justice to the view, so here are the pictures!
We finally decided to hit the road after getting some fresh milk from the Ambewela farms. Lunch was late at the Mlesna Castle St. Clair. The view here was spectacular as we got to check the view from the balcony! The food was just as yum too!
We reached home close to 9PM. This trip was absolutely fantastic and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I hiked with the best trekker (my brother), and had the most amazing time with people I am lucky to call family. We’ve already started planning our next trip and I can’t wait to share the excitement of that soon!
This was one long blog, but if you read it to the end, thanks, mate! It was a lot of writing! More photographs below!