Hill Country, Sri Lanka February 2013

This past week I have swapped the steamy plains of central Sri Lanka and the sport of mosquito swatting for the cool heights of Hill Country.  In this southern highlands region steep interlocking hills stretch for a hundred kilometres or more, dotted with sapphire blue lakes. The hillsides are carpeted with tea plantations – like a brilliant green tapestry threaded with a maze of tiny winding red dirt paths. The panorama is breathtaking – as if the slopes have been sculpted of green gloss – the new growth tea leaves shine with glittering shades of different greens under the sunlight.  The steep slopes fold gently into each other carrying your eye to the distance where mists silhouette the winding valleys beyond.

In their day the Brits built a railway to transport the spoils of the Empire out of the highlands.  The old steam trains still rattle through the picturesque hills – it feels like the clock has been turned back as you hang out the open windows listening to the clang of metal on rails, catch the crisp mountain breeze in your face and wind slowly through the manicured tea estates.  I catch glimpses of figures between the tea bushes as we pass – Tamil women with coarse sacks strapped to their backs deftly picking new growth pekoes of finest Ceylon tea.

In Hill Country it is the journey that is to be savoured – in one instant you want to urge the train around the next bend, greedy for the scenery that lies ahead, but at the same time you wish that motion and emotion could suspend itself so that the voyage would last forever.

I have hopped between several small towns in Hill Country – the region offers some strenuous hiking for rich rewards as well as the option of simply sipping tea while spellbound at the views.  The highlands of Sri Lanka have been a dreamy place for me and somewhere to gather my thoughts… but there are still safaris ahead and beaches to explore on this trip yet..

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