As we continued our journey into the hills, my parents, husband, daughter and I stopped at Nuwra Eliya to visit the manicured Victoria Park, including trees shaped like pineapples and flowerbeds with signs telling us to ‘Behave Decently’.
The kid’s playground was the old style colourful metal play equipment that would not pass safety laws in Australia, but all the kids seemed to enjoy it and nobody got hurt. Our daughter’s favourite was the ride on the miniature train.
We went to my favourite shoe shop in town, Bata, which had the cheapest kids shoes ever. There were many grand buildings in Nuwra Eliya- the bank, the post office and the Grand Hotel. We stopped at the famous Hill Club, but didn’t venture inside as we were not properly attired and were tired from all our playing in the park.
The next part of our drive wound through Mackwoods Tea Estate, past Ramada Falls to a lookout point over Kotamale Lake. We were getting higher and also prettier. Another drive past Kotamale Dam and we reached our destination- my aunt and and uncle’s boutique tea estate and homestay- Ebony Springs.
My uncle Bernard had worked for many years at several of the large tea estates Upcountry and had recently decided to branch out on his own with speciality white teas. The statue of Letchmi the tea plucker had been rescued from a previous place of employment and now stood at the front gates as the icon of estate.
We spent a little time out eating the lovely food that my aunt Pauline and her helpers prepared- fresh sambal, curry crab and hoppers. We played karum, read and played with the dogs.
I went inside my uncle Bernard’s small factory where his three workers cut and hand rolled tealeaves into various shapes and sizes. Equipment, now out-dated in the bigger more automated factories, found its home here for drying and sorting the tea.
My uncle Bernard’s favourite invention was the tea urchins that opened up like a lotus flower when hot water was poured on them. Ahh bliss!