Views from the train, Ella to Haputale
The train down to Haputale wasn't too busy, except for a German tour group, and the hour journey (LKR50, 2nd class) flew by. The scenery was nice looking down some steep drops into the valleys. We arrived just before 11am and the only other tourist getting off the train was a London lad called Mark. we got chatting on the platform as the touts arrived and he was heading to Sri Lak View Holiday Inn, which he'd heard was good. I decided to give it a look too, and when we got there it was indeed a nice place, with fantastic views from the balconies. We agreed to share a room for LKR1,200/night, which worked out well for both of us. The manager and staff were very friendly, so all was good.
Mark had been travelling for 15 months, just around Asia and China and we immediately hit it off. He's planning to set up his own boutique tea shop in London when he gets home and was trying to visit a few tea plantations to get contacts and try the teas out. I love my tea (as everyone knows!) so we headed off to the Dambatene plantation, which was famous as it was owned by Sir Thomas Lipton, who first brought tea to the masses in Britain by buying this plantation back in 1880. It only cost us LKR20 on the tea workers bus from Haputale and then LKR200 for a guided tour of the factory. Some of the machinery was pretty ancient, but it seemed to be working well and they were churning out plenty of tea! It was interesting to discover the different types of tea leaf and how they are grown and used. Now I know where my English Breakfast comes from!
The Dambatene factory
In the afternoon, we just mooched around, contemplating whether to do the hike to World's End in Hortons Plains National Park.
We looked into it - we'd need to get a tuk-tuk to the starting point at Farr Inn, and we were quoted LKR1,500 ($15/£8.50) by the tuk-tuk 'cartel' - we hoped that with competition we'd get a good price, but they all just conferred with each other and said the same price - thieves! When we added in the entry fees for the National Park - US$20 each, plus a service charge of US$9 per group - and read reviews of the walk, we laughed it off, it seemed like a rip-off. We'd heard that there were just as good views from Lipton's Seat, which is free, so we decided we'd do that the following morning. There was a dearth of restaurants in Haputale, so we ate at the guesthouse and had an average rice and curry. It was then off to bed early to get up early for the walk tomorrow!
Mark tried to buy this classic Ceylon Tea Board poster at Dambatene factory, but they wouldn't sell!
We got up early enough to get the first workers' bus to Dambatene plantation, which is the starting point for the walk to Lipton's Seat.
The walk is on a sealed road, so it's not too tough, although it is all uphill! (You can even get a tuk-tuk from Haputale all the way for about LKR500) We wanted the exercise and it was a nice bright morning, so we felt good to be out in the fresh, clean air. Mark and I chatted the whole way there, putting the world to rights as we walked past massive tea fields, and an hour and a half later we were at the top at Lipton's Seat. The views were pretty spectacular, although not quite clear enough to see all the way to the south coast, which is meant to be possible on a perfect day. we got back to the tea factory and a very nice tuk-tuk driver agreed to take us back to Haputale for free - we couldn't believe it, and thought he must be scamming us! But we realised that he'd must've just got a big fare from two westerners who had just got out. It saved us a bus-ride, although the suspension in the tuk-tuk made the 9km journey bone-shakingly uncomfortable! We gave him LKR100 to say thanks, and he really didn't want to take it - we had to force him!! Must be my most positive experience of a tuk-tuk driver ever - usually they are like all taxi drivers - fecking thieves!
Walking through the Dambatene plantation towards Lipton's Seat
We'd got back in good time, and checked out of the hotel with enough time to get the train onto Hatton, ready for Adam's Peak.
Me at Lipton's Seat...yeah!
Haputale Hotels & Accommodations review
I found this place through my travel buddy Mark. He was planning to go there, so I followed! A good choice. The staff are very friendly and helpful… read entire review