Chasing down Thomas Lipton on the tea plantations of Haputale, Sri Lanka
Haputale is a great stop if you're traveling through the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. For example, if you're taking the train between Kandy and Ella and you don't want to do the whole 7-hour ride in one single trip. Perched at the southern edge of the Hill Country, this mainly Tamil town is clung to a narrow mountain ridge. Because it lays in the mountains, chances are you need to wear your sweater and some longs trousers. On the other side, a higher elevation offers some great views of the surroundings. Even when stuff gets clouded and misty, views are still great. So aside from the views, why else should you visit Haputale?
The highlight of Haputale is Lipton’s Seat. This viewpoint was used by Sir Thomas Lipton (yeah the tea guy) to overview the plantations. Nowadays it's a popular tourist destination because of the viewpoint, especially during sunrise. So how to get there on time?
We stayed in a hostel called White Monkey Dias Rest which was a very decent place. Bit humid but that's because of the area. Our room was clean, the food was very good and the people nice. Supposedly the view from our room was great as well but all we saw during our stay were some clouds. Anyway, the son of the owner hooked us up with a tuk-tuk driver for the next morning. So around 5 am he picked us up near the road and we were off to Lipton's Seat.
Fun thing was, during dinner the night before we were making fun of an English couple that visited Lipton's Seat that morning and where kind enough to take a man with them up the hill in their tuk-tuk. Turned out the guy is the gatekeeper who sold the entrance ticket ;D. Well, you can guess who we ran into. Anyway, we hardly had a choice since the driver offered him a seat next to him. I don't think it would have mattered anyway since there was a barrier next to the ticket booth. After we bought the tickets we drove the last part of the trip. It was starting to get less dark by then and everywhere we looked we saw tea plantations arise from the darkness.
Lipton’s Seat viewpoint
We walked back through the tea plantations
Once at Lipton's Seat it was around 7.30 I think. We thanked and paid our driver and went the last bit up on foot to some kind of viewpoint building. On one side we had a beautiful valley and on the other tea plantations as far as the eye could see. We were just in time before the clouds moved in and disturbed the view in the valley. So when that happened, we grabbed our gear and started walking down the hill. First via the road but later through the plantations. More and more people woke up and a lot of kids were getting ready for school. The ran passed us on all sides, down the hills through the plantations. It was great to see, but I felt a bit sorry for them knowing they had to get back up the hill once school was finished.
Kids on their way to school
We made our way down to the Dambatenne Tea Factory which is around 2,5 kilometers of walking distance. This tea factory is built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton and is really ugly (in my opinion). The factory offers a tour through the factory to see all the different processes of making tea. Fermentation, rolling, drying, cutting, sieving, grading etc. I did a tour in a factory back in Malaysia when I was visiting the Cameron Highlands, so I already knew most of the things they told. As you would expect in such factories, the process of making tea is quite similar. But nevertheless, it was still interesting to see.
Haputale train station
After the tour, we grabbed a tuk-tuk that was waiting in front of the factory and made our way back to our hostel for a well-deserved breakfast!
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