Madulkelle, Sri Lanka
6th-8th August 2013
Do you sometimes get tired of the monotony of life? Do you want to get away from the concrete jungles to some place where you are cut off from the world? Do you crave a vacation which would allow you to completely switch off and relax in the lap of Mother Nature? Then the Hill Country of Sri Lanka is the right place for you!
I know I am beginning to sound like a promotional advertisement, but this is exactly what we discovered in Madulkelle, a small village nestled in the Sri Lankan highlands surrounded by beautiful tea plantations. The village itself is an hour and half ride from Kandy, which is the jumping off point to most hill stations in the highlands. Just near the village lies Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge, a plantation lodge where we stayed during our visit. And it is at this lodge, that I had one of the most relaxed vacations in my life!
The Ride up
As was our tradition of travelling by public transportation in Sri Lanka, we came to Kandy in a rickety local bus all the way from Passikudah on the east coast. It was a long journey with the bus stopping in many places in between. It was already getting dark when we reached Kandy and we were really tired by then. Thankfully we had arranged for a car from the lodge to take us on the hour and a half long journey uphill. The narrow single road from Kandy up the hills to Madulkelle was supposed to be very scenic, but also scary due to the horrible condition and lack of any guard rails. Since it was already dark by the time we started, we missed the scenery (unfortunately) but was also completely oblivious to the dangerous road (fortunately!). There was little traffic and it was pitch black outside. After driving for what seemed like an eternity with just the headlights of our vehicle to guide us, the driver finally showed some specks of lights far above and indicated that was our lodge. Beat that for isolation! After an incident-free ride to the top, we finally arrived at the remote lodge.
Entering the main reception area, we were transported back in time to the British era. The main bungalow was exactly designed to resemble the estate house of a British plantation owner in the times of the Raj. The quaint fireplace, the vintage head trophies, the candlesticks, rows and rows of old hard-bound books, and the staff who were dressed as butlers – everything was a throwback to the colonial times of yore.
The main bungalow was surrounded by luxury tents, each of them was a fair distance away from each other. These tents which stood on stilts, looked simple from the outside but when you enter the tent, you cannot differentiate it from any other star hotel room. The breathtaking views that we have from the tent are simply unparalleled. Entering the tent, we quickly realized that we were rather intimately connected to Mother Nature. Through the thin fabric of the tent, we could not only hear but feel the wilderness outside, with even the tiniest sounds like an insect screeching or some leaves rustling being audible throughout the night.
Imagine falling asleep to the symphony of frogs and crickets in the midst of nature, and then waking up next day to the sounds of birds chirping. Imagine opening your eyes to a magnificent view of the fog-ridden valley directly overlooking the bed. Imagine yourself being cuddled up in the folds of white linen, not having to get out of bed to work, admiring the scenery as the sun cuts through the slowly dissipating fog. That is how my day started!
What was our plan for the duration of our stay? Doing nothing. And we were determined to execute the plan to the letter. The thing with Madulkelle is, there are not too many places to see or visit nearby. We were surrounded by tea plantations and you would not find better sights than the vast property itself. So we just lazed on our beds, read books, stitched (that was my partner), strolled around the grounds, admired the amazing views and philosophized about life. Walking around the tea plantations and observing the tea-leaf pickers at work had an incredibly calming effect on me. During the course of walks in and around the resort, we also discovered some small rivulets and mini-waterfalls nearby – nothing spectacular, but the kind of surprises that make your walk worth it.
The resort is decidedly eco-friendly. Apart from the vast plantations, they have a small garden where they grow fresh fruits and vegetables to be used in their cooking. Near the garden was an infinity pool overlooking the hills and the valley. Swimming in this pool would have been quite an experience, but unfortunately the weather was too cold for me to contemplate taking a dip.
The staff was extremely friendly and did the utmost to make us comfortable. Especially in the dining room, we were absolutely pampered. Chucking the old adage about ‘Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a commoner, Dinner like a pauper’ out of the window, we basically had all four meals in a day like a king. During our day meals, we were seated outdoors with a stunning view of the infinity pool and the hills, and each of the meals involved stuffing ourselves with the fantastic food they served, whether they were local dishes like Sri Lankan curry and hoppers, or continental fare like fried prawns.
The Ride down
As all good things must come to an end, our stay at this lodge also ended. After bidding farewell to the folks there, we started downhill for Kandy. In between, we stopped at a tea factory where we were taken on a tour of the factory and were walked through the process of processing tea out of raw leaves. While the tour was mildly interesting, I was to appreciate the specialty of Sri Lankan tea much later, when I tasted the tea we purchased there. To this day, that bag of green tea from this Hill Country remains the best green tea that I have ever had!