Greetings from MB in KSA and hope all well your end. Football season just started & HX club doing well, al hamd’allah. All well in the desert.
HX blog follower Young Sudani lad was complaining to MB during the week that he is bored with Sri Lanka stories, so maybe MB will wrap it up this week. Got to keep the paying customers happy lads, and keep the numbers growing. The public gets what the public wants.
MBs cabin & view for the 10 hour overnight journey to Haputhale. Sleep was impossible on the paper-thin mattress. Sri Lankan lad snored on the top bunk throughout. A memorable but hellish journey!
So Sanath & MB pulled into the Tea Factory car park and parked up the tuktuk. The factory is called the Dambatenne Tea Factory and the former Lipton’s Estate is now known as the Dambatenne Estate, no longer owned by Liptons. The factory dates from 1890 and was built by the legend himself Sir Thomas Lipton.
First impressions are not great MB must inform you. Passing it earlier on the way to Lipton’s Seat did not leave any great impression and now the closer-up view was also not giving any wow. A nursery school sits just across the road where factory & tea plantation workers can drop their young kids each morning before the working day begins. A primary school for the older kids lies just behind the nursery and there is also a Hindu Temple on the school grounds.
Hindu temple roof
Sanath made the introduction at the factory reception for MB prior to MB’s tour of the facility. The factory tour guide could do with some training. His whole manner cries out – Fu*k me, not another tourist for the tour. Some how-to-smile & enthusiasm-generation training would not go astray. And the ‘No photography warning to MB – really made MB see red. You gotta be kiddin man said MB to himself, with thoughts of four-hour flights, ten-hour train journeys and very little sleep in preceding days – just to get to this plantation and this factory – racing through MB’s brain. No Photography – screw that. Screw that for sure.
Factory tea tasting area. But no tea for visitors.
Of course MB ignored the ‘no photos‘ rule and tried to take shots with MB’s smaller Nr 2 spy-thriller type camera every time non-smiling guide turned his face away. MB was caught out on a few occasions and non-smiling guide kept referring to ‘big boss‘ who would be seriously pissed off and get very angry at MB if he discovered MB taking all the sneaky shots of his factory.
MB & non-smiling guide continued the tour in a sort of uneasy truce with MB only taking shots when absolutely certain nobody else was in sight and when non-smiling guide’s back was turned, just to give him the ‘I never saw him clicking’ defense if big boss was discreetly watching MB, hidden under some bags of tea or whatever. In the end big boss actually appeared and greeted MB with strong handshake and a dodgy smile. MB knew immediately that big boss could be a nasty bastard and now understood why guide was a non-smiling guide and a non-enthusiasm-generating guide. And was probably fearful for his job throughout the entire tour with camera-clicking loose-canon (get it?!!!) MB.
All in all a little disappointing, as the historic building could do so much more to generate additional income. Its famous history would at least merit a little tea shop where visitors could taste the great tea one would have thought. But on asking at the end of the tour MB was informed – “No Sir, we do not have tea shop“. However, MB spotted a small cupboard with a sign on it that said ‘Tea For Sale’. So MB purchased three packets of the best quality BOP (broken orange pekoe) tea from the factory, after five-minute wait while the guide looked for the lost cupboard key!
Interesting of course to see the tea production process. The leaves are initially dried to 45% moisture content and then fed through chopping machines and subject to further drying a number of times. At the end of it all the product is separated into different tea grades, with the very smallest grains manufactured from the smallest leaves being sold as the superior tea, and the larger grains from larger leaves the inferior.
MB & Sanath remounted the tuktuk and headed off for the next adventure – a ninety minute journey away to the Horton Plains National Park to view one of the most famous geological features in Sri Lanka called World’s End. WE is an 870M cliff that ends in a huge valley which opens out onto a vast plain, and the sensation is that you are at the end or the edge of the world. Very spectacular, and there is also a smaller similar feature nearby called Little World’s End and a waterfall called Baker’s Falls.
Timber for the tea factory boiler
After entering the park and eventually reaching the visitor reception building (quite basic) one heads off on a 3 hour walk which is approx 50% on a difficult-to-walk-on narrow rocky dry river bed (which floods during rains) and 50% on forest & park trails. Lots of panting puffing tourists encountered on the walk but MB & Sanath skipped round it like a pair of sprightly gazelles, with MB giving the legendary tuktuk driver some photo tips on the journey. Sanath later took decent shot of MB at the falls, and his grandchildren will no doubt hear this story many many times in future years!
The tea leaves are dried on arrival at the factory to 45% moisture content before the processing begins
During the journey back to Haputhale MB & Sanath stopped off at the Adisham Benedictine Monastry. The building was originally built by a British settler (Sir Thomas Lester Villiers) in 1931 and is just a very large house, with a spectacular view out over the adjoining valley. The Benedictine order purchased it at a later date. MB bought some jam in the shop as gift for the wife of Mr Ali, as she had already informed MB that the Eid meal that night would be free. Nice flowers and gardens all around, but it was resting time for the eight monks who reside there. So disappointingly, MB never got opportunity to shoot the breeze with the monks about monk things. Pity. Would have been a crack.
Back to Ali House. Eid dinner in the company of two young Danish guys who had arrived that day. Paid Ali’s daughter the bill for the two days and thanked the family for the hospitality. Could not give the money to Ali as he would just have blown it on Arrack and family would have suffered. To bed and arose at 5am when Senath picked MB up for the last time to take him to the bus stop in the village for the journey back to Colombo. Cup of tea and some sort of a pancake with Senath in an ‘early doors’ cafe. Then goodbye to Sanath & onto the bus. The train journey zig-zagging up mountain slopes to numerous small towns & villages had taken ten grueling hours to reach Haputhale. The bus journey back down to the capital would take five!
But enough for this week lads. Will give you all the final Sri Lanka story next week of MB’s last day of his trip in Colombo, a guided walk around the port area, a Bollywood movie shoot on the streets, and some pics from the Tamil festival of The Veil. And if Young Sudani Lad doesn’t like it he can lump it!
The finished product
Take care all, and have a nice weekend.
The tea factory front garden
The view from the factory
Sanath – shot by MB
MB – shot by Sanath
Wild monkeys in the park
Adisham Benedictine Monastry