Back in Wales a favourite past time was to hike up windy, isolated paths whilst being pelted with sleet. So we jumped at the chance to visit Sri Lanka’s hill country during the inter-monsoon. Our destination was Haputale, a small Tamil town straddling the area’s southern-most ridge.
We arrived after a nail-biting bus journey of tight hairpin bends and steep climbs. Haputale, what charm! The bustling market town was full of life and character, perched above the clouds and tea plantations that blanketed the hills.
At nearly 1500 metres above sea level the weather would descend in the blink of an eye, constantly on the move and making sure no view was ever the same again. This, combined with a town-scape of dilapidated buildings on crumbling stilts and concrete Breese blocks, made a breath taking scene.
Our residence was a family run guest house just out of town. With Old Reserve arrack in hand we presided over an epic abyss and a view that stretched to the south coast. Eagles soared and patches of cloud plumed like white smoke below; night time was punctuated by the call of a million insects.
We took the observation car back to Colombo. The interior oozed tired colonial grandeur: clad in wood with brass trimmings, it was seen to by a well turned out gentleman in stunning white, polished shoes and gold embossed cap. The train snaked upwards along mountain ridges and through dense forest, high above the valley floor. It reached its summit at Pattipola, 1891 metres above the sea and the highest station in Sri Lanka, from where the slow descent began.
In times past the hill country kingdom held the status of myth; impenetrable, exotic, and unique. We emerged onto the flat plains of Kegalla as if from a Tolkienian fantasy.