NJ joining the seasoned travellers day 7
Ella – Horton Plains – Nuwara Eliya
After a very restless sleep on all counts – me because of being rudely awakened in the night by a creature pulling at my hair and scaring the living day lights out of me. I sat up straight and by the time I plucked up the courage to switch on my nightlight, found the family cat curled up asleep just under my pillow. After failing to budge it, I lay down next to it for the rest of the night, not really able to relax. The other two woke in the night too and thought it was hilarious enough to take a photo – not sure if it’s blog worthy or not…
We had ordered breakfast in the home stay and found the sun blazing through the trees, enough for me to have to wear sunglasses for breakfast what a change to yesterday! Fresh fruit, bread, sachet butter and jam or an unknown variety (served in a yoghurt pot) plus tea – which I actually drank and quite enjoyed 🙂
Off on the road just before 9 and a long a windy road brought us to Katherine and Jayne ‘s eighth and final UNESCO sight in Sri Lanka. All the guides advised us to get up onto the mountain by 7 to get the full benefit of the views, but we weighed up the issues of driving in the dark and the likelihood of hundreds of people being up there early too and decided we would enjoy a lie in, a leisurely drive and hopefully experience a quiet walk and be lucky enough to still see the view.
Horton Plains is the only National Park in Sri Lanka you are allowed to enter without a guide, but you are only allowed to walk on the path so you don’t really need a guide and shouldn’t get lost. Annoyingly to enter we had to pay : an individual fee, a group fee(!) and a fee for the car, plus taxes. We just hoped it was worth it 😉 as soon as we entered the park we saw a huge stag by the side of the road. It was so still I though it was a statue, until it ran off into the bushes – already worth it!
As soon as we got out of the car, another deer (sambur) approached us warily – clearly looking for food. Jayne was able to get some amazing close up photos as it was more than happy hanging around.
The walking round trip is just under 10km with a few steep climbs and drops, and takes in the mini world’s end, world’s end proper (or greater depending on which sign you read) and Baker’s waterfall. The big draw, and the reason to get up so early is that the almost 900m drop off the end of the world gives an amazing view on a good day all the way to the south coast through the valley. After about 10am the clouds created by evaporation from the valley floor shroud the view in a wall of white mist and you can’t see anything. However, when we arrived although the mist was there, with a little patience every so often it cleared enough to see the villages and tea plantations far below and even once we saw the reservoir in the far distance.
This area is an example of the very rare cloud forest (only first heard of when I visited Costa Rica and now I’ve been to two!). The trees are stumpy and covered in lichen, literally hanging off the branches. Lots of endemic wildlife in the area – lots of the birds were out and about – jayne was trying to teach me how to spot hawks, Falcons and eagles, but I was a very poor student.
For much of the walk we had the path to ourselves and were glad to have missed the 2/3 large groups of school kids going in the other direction as well as all the hundreds of tourists that had arrived early by looking at the number of minivans in the car park.
The waterfall was very impressive. I could sit and watch water fall over a cliff for hours, unfortunately the seats were very wet and covered in mud, so after hundreds of photos (jayne) we made our way back up the path. Once we arrived at the visitor centre we went into the museum which explained the formation, history and current threats to the area. Elephants used to roam this area, hunted to extinction but there are still leopards, but they are rarely spotted (see what I did there?!)
Another hour’s drive down even windier roads brought us into Nuwara Eliya the launch place for trips into the national park. We eventually found our hotel and after last night’s rather cosy room we feel we’re in luxury with room to swing more than just a cat and a really hot shower. We are a bit out of town but we decided to walk in and see what was ‘happening’ as we have eaten in our hotels 3 nights running. A bustling high street with mostly local shops and very little choice for food. We had a repeat of my first dinner – kottu – although this time with cheese (almost with chicken, but I spotted a huge bone and sent it back!) which was not too spicy (probably too bland for the other two)
A shorter walk home and into bed – ready for my very long day and going home tomorrow. 😦
Friday 19th February 2016