After the bar we spent a chilled hour or so looking out over the black chasm of the valley from my balcony. Frogs croaking incessantly down below. The one disturbance was a loud bang, must have been some kind of electrical fault next door.
The next day I set out for the dambetenne tea factory to walk to liptons seat, he of liptons the grocer and liptons tea fame. My bus is a batters mini bus, functionality is the main priority jammed with hard women with saris jumping on and off, some with babies, some with 20 kilo sacks of rice. The road hugs the side of the hillside, very dramatic winding up through the tea bushes.
The walk is quite arduous and is a climbs maybe 300m. I follow the road, switchback after switchback, later coming back I use the shortcuts through the tea fields. It’s different from Ella. The tea pockets, barefoot dark women with sacks on their backs call hello, and are not asking for money. Small kids, however do. The walk is fantastic and very beautiful. Lazy or maybe more sensible others catch struggling tuk tuk rides to the top of the mountain. The cloud is low. Actually we are above the cloud. The fantastic view remains largely hidden. I feel quite ill, I’m cold and nauseous and vomit. Maybe it’s something I ate, maybe all the unwashed hands I’ve touched. The sun comes out briefly, it warms me and I see the beginning of the extend of the view. I have the most satisfying cup of tea and begin a descent which becomes increasingly wet. I chance upon Rolf, who I met in Ella, coming the other way. We sit and chat then part.
Signs painted on the walls of the tea fields bless echoing us to take care of nature, that animals fates are linked to ours. Messgas in 3 languages telling the planters not to pollute the water ” for the brothers and sisters in the valley”
The valley has the wonderful aroma of drying tea leaves. The bus back the intoxicating fig of Ayurvedic balm, the medicine of the masses.
Later that evening he comes by with some special medicinal soil to ease my stomach. We chat at length about politics, Germany, Britain then I go back to bet. Need to get better.
Waking today the cloud is swamping Haputale. Everything is wet. This doesn’t seem like the best weather to go for another walk.
Various times frm 6,30 to 8.30 this morning…
Fran has been here already 2 hours while I have been waiting upstairs.
We are in a quandary about how to do dinner. It’s after 7 and it’s raining and the cloud is low. The town is a misty blur with some stores still open, especially the wine shops. Little dives with fridges full of super strength beers and shelves of arrack. The one we went into has a small partitioned off area where men, it’s all men, can drink I observed. Our beers are wrapped in newspaper. We mange to eat at a Muslim curry stall, but all that is left is fried rice. Fran insists on going to the bar with the bright signage, the high cliffs resort. The entrance isn’t obvious and we have to be guided in. The atmosphere to begin with is a little word. Fran the only female. It feels brown, dated. Fran of course wants a bottle of wine. We discover gamini, the batman has never opened a bottle of wine before. It takes 15 minutes to pull the cork and everyone in the bar gives it a go. The locals are civil and friendly and gamini warms to us, taking his photo endears us to him and he gives us mangoes to take home.
Over breakfast I chat to Rolf, the German next doe, about that German identity thing and how even now he feels some kind of imposed shame and regret that he can’t say Germany is great or good, or even speak its virtues. A long important history, rich in culture, invention and innovation, all sullied by 12 years of hitler. Changing the subject. Siva, the manger tells us about giant vegetables. His best story is the massive freak papaya out of which flew 2 bats when hacked in half. I’m not sure whether to believe this.
At Ella station I’m met by Fran. The train to Haputale is quite full, and I stand by the open door for the sinuous slow climb through jungle and tea plantations up 400 meters to Haputale, which is perched atop a ridge with staggering views, down on the clouds and the undulating toylike landscape beneath. At the station we are touted by the owner of the abc guesthouse, named after his sons first initials. He has 3. The place is on the hillside with a n amazing view from my balcony. The price is good too. The road leading down from abc is being extended with occasional explosive blasts.
The town is certainly less touristy than Ella. In fact I hardly see a white face. There are numerous shacks selling freshly fried snacks, alcohol shops selling a rack by the quart. Many poor faces. A withered hind woman who tugs our sleeves and shoves out a hand. She bugs me so much later on that I have to gesticulate wildly and shout at her to stop following me. Alcohol and betel seem common here. A mango seller gives me his phone number, insists I visit him for dinner. I think it could be a mistake….I chat to a snack firer and take his picture along with two curious cops. I sit on the fence by the railway waiting for Fran and share my snacks with a bedraggled old guy selling destroyed looking found shoes.
We have decided to go to the Benedictine monastery which is housed in a mansion built high in the kills by an English tea planter. The book says its 3 km away. I want to walk, Fran takes a tuk tuk. The walk is much further, more like 3 miles. It winds up along the ridge through the tea plantations and through a nature reserve. I hear wild boar, I think, making a fearful sound of pain and aggression. The monastery is curious if nothing else. I cannot see the view for the clouds. The garden has many fruit trees and the monks, who is font see either. Make jams and chutneys. I buy a wood apple jam and then look at the three rooms we are allowed access to.
Like a junk shop
Battered reel to reel tape recorder, a pair of 1940s era radios! some cracked wash bowls! a large scale and some rusty weights a cluster of tarnished crucifixes. A screw down printing press, an old black hole punch. A martellii desk fan
The sign in the first room reads silence. So much for the sound of the video tape playing. The living room contains fake leather well sat in arm chairs. An aura of sombreness and dullness. Think wooden doors with rounded doorways. A clock stopped at 1.45 am or pm. A severe portrait of an austere ecclesiastical looking from above a wooden gireplace. Dreary sofa covered with a plastic dust sheet.
Fran has set off back ahead of me. I finally find her grimacing at a tea stall by the road. She has naively taken a betel parcel and is chewing it unaware of what it is. She makes a bit of a scene and asks for tea to relieve the bitterness and numbness. Somehow we lose each other on the walk down. I take a slight wrong turn back in Haputale and cheeky cricket playing kids ask me for money.
Sun has now set on my balcony. The road builders have built a fire and the mosque is calling to prayer.