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.
Little Adams peak in low cloud
Cloud is Blowing through the tea plantations hundreds of metres below. Tamil women younger than they look, sat on the path under trees drinking tea from bottles labelled whiskey,, scooping handfuls of red rice from lunch boxes. This is the tea planters lunchtime. They ask if I want to take their photo, which I do then hand them a few rupees.A women with betel stained teeth mimes picking tea and asks me to take a photo in exchange for a few more rupees. I meet a lady on the way up called kanti. She tells me she runs a library for kids and teaches them handicrafts. I promise to visit her.
The views are amazing, the cloud drifts and conceals then reveals little Adams peak, ravana falls and the road snaking along and up Ella gap.
On my way back I buy some seed necklace from a girl and her mother. She shows me the plant that the seeds come from. They dry as red or grey or black seeds. I tell Her aim. From Brighton and she produces a faded card of Brighton pavilion given to her by another traveller.
Children chase me ask if I want to take a photo. They want sweets and school pens. Pass a small shack on the edge of a plants settlement. Young teen boy in pink shirt with gents fashion written on the back calls me over for a wood apple shake.clothes washed and spread out to dry on the thick bushes.
It’s not raining .
I chat with the boy. He is called Jackson. A very young looking 16. He is Tamil, parents are tea pickets. He is working in his school holiday. He likes volleyball and gardening. He dances and body pops for me. Sassi, his boss appears and breaks this spell.. He is also Jackson’s volleyball coach, a bit pushy but kind. He offers to show me the little muddy village where they both live. A shack with cows, where the cow hand shows me his pride. Women carrying jugs of water from the stream, I offer to help one. The houses are roofed with leaking metal sheeting. The walls stone. Dim, dingy. An outside communal toilet. Sassi’s house is full of posters of Indian actors and volleyball trophies. Jackson lives with 6 family members in one house. They cook over wood fires. We go to the playground next to the little Hindu temple. I make some videos of the local boys playing cricket with a bat hewn from a tree trunk. I also have a turn at batting.
I take lunch at the cafe. It is meagre poor and overpriced. Jackson is attentive and smiley. We arrange to meet in the evening. I’m going to treat them to beer. We write the appointed time on each other’s hand.
I have a headache. From the change in climate? Heat? Altitude? Maybe from being unaccustomed to tea.
On the road back I do visit the children’s library and am amazed by kanti’s resourcefulness. She is building a shack, at hatching it with palm leaves, as a place to sell her cushion covers. I decline a head massage from the guy with the shop next door. I think it might make a migraine even worse.
After a sleep I meet the tamil guys at dusk. We walk up and down looking for a place to eat. They choose an unwelcoming soulless place where the beer is costly. Sassi tells me Jackson is hungry. I don’t really want to buy them dinner…is this mean? By fluke Fran is the other side of the window that separates the restaurant from an Internet shop. I relent and buy the boys a roti kotthu. Their eyes light up at the sight of meat. They say this is the first time they have eaten out since April. This is a treat for them. They shake my hand. Thank you my friend. You are good heart. Fran joins us she and sassi sketch each other. Jackson looks cold and tired. 8.30 is his bed time. He is wearing a pink and black hoody emblazoned with the words punk coulture, which I try to explain, but this means nothing. Unsurprisingly. We talk more. Sassi claims to have a girlfriend. Jackson says he doesn’t like doesn’t like. He has 20 computers in his school. Sassi tells me he only owns 2 shirts. He asks me for at shirt. I tell him impossible. Tonight he and Jackson’s re wearing their best clothes.
Jackson 3 February
Sassi 2 November
They leave at 8.30, it’s time for their bedtime.
Fran and I go to another place. Where she ensues in a confused discussion. About wine. It’s a. Bit like being in Brighton. The curry and rice is feeble, but as luck would have it the waiters maths are not too good and we get undercharged. By 10pm the town is shutting down and there are hardly any tuk tuks. At the junction in that dark are cops. I spot a couple of tuk tuks that have stopped a little up the road. I go and chat to the drivers. They tell me they are drunk so they won’t proceed and get stopped by the police. Finally we find a sober one, with 3 guys in the back. Fran clambers in for a dicey ride home.