0730 hrs start again and straight into the “dodge-em”, bleep, bleep, bleeping crazy traffic with crazy, suicidal drivers, especially on two wheels. One strange thing we see are whole families on 1 motorbike with the parents wearing crash hats but up to two children on board without crash hats!
Anyway I digress. Our first stop around 0930 hrs, was for coffee and
toilets this was a hotel over looking the river where they filmed the “Bridge Over The River Kwai” and where the cast stayed; Princess Elizabeth (before she became Queen) with
Prince Philip also stayed here. Nice views but crap coffee and tea, it was the water we think, tainted!!! After a quick wander round the grounds we were off again.
About 15 minutes of driving we stopped again
and were taken along a well trodden path, down a precarious hill to where the actual bridge was constructed for the film “bridge Over the River Kwai”, this bridge together with the filming that took place on it started construction in 1956, completed 1 year later but only took 3 minutes to destroy; I suspect these days they would use a model. Walking towards this site we passed a few “local’s” homes, poor people, and one of the women
latched onto us and gave us all the lowdown
on the bridge, where the various scenes were performed and down to how they mocked up a real train with dummies and just before the Big Bang, with the train going over
the top, how the actual driver of this train escaped, just in time! In today’s world I think “health and safety” would have something to say about that!!!!!
A fascinating insight into this film that was
released in 1957 and won many oscars: I must get the DVD and re-watch it.
Next stop lunch at a mediocre hotel but with front a seat view of the Ramboda Waterfalls. We elected to go with the buffet along with many other tourists, but though it was cheap, the catering was for the masses but the food was tasteless, our first
poor lunch. Joe was also pushing and wanted to get on but and we couldn’t understand why, we did find out why later in the day though!!!
Our next stint of driving took us right up into the higher mountains, at around 2000 meters, Joe was explaining how high we were but after we said we had been up Mont Blanc and the Andes , both around 4,000 meters, he said
“well 2,000 meters is high in Sri Lanka” we have been told!!!!! Still the views were bordering on spectacular and some of the back lanes he took us along, twisting around the mountain sides, apparently built by the British around the turn of the century, and the surfaces showed it, were like the roller coaster at Ferrari world; well nearly!!!! He showed us the Dam built by the Swedish, several more temples, and passing through several towns and villages, we arrived into
the tea growing areas.
Our next stop was the “Blue Field Tea Gardens” factory, tea shop and restaurant. We had a private guided tour of the factory by a very personable Sri Lankan young lady, it was
most informative and we were surprised how simple the process is from the tea bush to the finished tea. The other amazing fact is that each tea bush gets “plucked” every week and a bush can go on producing for over 50 years. Whilst there I
enquired about the tea pluckers, how much were they paid, 800 Sri Lankan Rupees a day, about £4.00 for 20 kg of leaves said our guide; there is also a bonus paid for every kg they pick above the 20
kg, but we suspect it will take all day (0800 hrs to 1630 hrs) to get to their target, after all the tea producers have been doing this for 100
years or more and know what’s possible!!!!!
After all the tea leaves have been brought back to the factory each evening, they are immediately laid out in very long but shallow trays where the first process starts, drying.
These trays each hold 2,000 kg of leaves and when they are removed for the next crushing process 12 hrs later, their weight is half, 1,000 kg.
After the tour we were invited to sample a complimentary cuppa, I went for green tea, Christine went for BOP, Broken Orange Pekoe, or as we commonly refer to it as English Breakfast Tea! One thing that did surprise us was the difference between Green Tea and Normal tea, firstly they are the same leaves and go through the first same two processes, but then the
normal/black tea sits on a slab and ferments whilst the leaves allocated for green tea, go into an area for a natural drying process. Once the black tea has completed its fermentation process, about 2 hrs, it is transferred to a drying oven, the heat for which is by a fire box burning wood; this helps with the flavour.
All the tea produced here is bulk packed into cwt sacks and sent to the tea auctions in Colombo.
We now started our journey to the town known as “Little England” and drove past hill after hill, row after row of tea plants,
God, don’t we drink a lot of tea in the world, but as we drove through the streets of Little England, it certainly didn’t look like little England to us, we could have been in any Sri Lankan town/village. There were several old colonial buildings that Joe took us past, including an old Hotel called St Andrews but I pointed out, St Andrews is in Scotland, not England, no response!!! Joe Drove us all around including the golf club founded in the late 1800’s, then dropped us off at
this posh new 5 star hotel, just opened by the Sri Lankan President. He said he would pick us up in abut half an hour, so in we went, toilets first then sat in the lounge area waiting for service, nothing happened even though I went to reception for the Wi Fi code. So after clearing e mails we had, we walked out to wait for Joe.
The car arrived about 5 minutes later and we were away. Where are we going now we asked, back to the Galle Face Hotel Madam, oh good, and how long will that take we asked. Joe answered and after a pause whilst we caught our breath we asked again: 5 hours Madam came the answer for a second time, we were gob smacked, ouch!!!
Had we known how un interesting Little England was we would have asked to go back to the Hotel after visiting the Tea factory. So if anyone reading this blog, don’t go to Little. England, here in Sri Lanka.
The reason our hearts dropped was that we would have to endure five hours of suicidal driving, overtaking against oncoming traffic, cutting in or being cut up by other drivers, whether they be in a car, truck, Tuk Tuk or Motorbike, or missing pedestrians who just walk across the roads dressed in dark colours; they are all lunatics and Joe seems to have a transformation after dark, and just joins in and if that is not all, we have the constant beep beep beeping of ALL road users.
We were so pleased when we drove into the front drive of the Galle Face Hotel at 2215 hrs, nearly 15 hrs after we left. We are not sorry today is our last long day out and about.