Here I am, waiting for my brekkie on the verandah of the Castlereagh Villa, one of the restored colonial ‘bungalows’ maintained by Ceylon Tea Trails in the hill country of central Sri Lanka near the town of Hatton.
First they bring tea to your room…
Then it’s a stroll to the verandah for a sumptuous breakfast, which starts with a mountain of fresh fruit and freshly-squeezed juice. Scrambled eggs are on their way. The bread is home-made, crusty and warm. All food has to be brought in by seaplane or over that long and winding road. I’m becoming even more convinced that this is where most of my money went. Note digest of Australian news especially prepared for moi, as I’m the only Aussie here.
Then it’s off to visit the tea fields and a tea factory. I got chummy with Sawadh, the thin dark young man centre front, who’s a diving instructor, underwater photographer and guide from the Maldives. I watched one of his films on his smartphone. It looked good enough for a David Attenborough documentary. I told Sawadh as much, but I think he knows it. He’s about to set up his own Youtube channel.
He’s travelling with Amy, the little woman in the picture below. She’s a businesswoman from Taiwan. Not sure what their relationship was – guide/traveller, husband/wife, latest squeeze…? They did everything together but are off to their respective home countries after this. She was chummable too. Her English wasn’t good enough for me to pry delicately and of course I would never ask a gentleman!
There was an English family: father, mother and four children including a 6-month-old baby. The parents seemed very young for such a big family, but they were very good at managing their large but well-behaved brood. They were all very good-looking. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Amy was a bit the same, cooing and goo-gooing at the baby.
I got chatting to the mother a bit and learnt that the little boy was Rupert and the baby was Francesca. Posh names, posh accents. Probably not short of a quid.
Okay, okay. I’ll leave them alone now. I could tell you all about the tea-processing but….meh. They did turn some big machines on which chuffed and chugged away, but I still find people more interesting.
Only older women remain to pick the tea. The young have all gone to the New World or the Middle East, according to tea guide Bernard.
One tea-related fact I did retain from Bernard is that it’s definitely NOT true that teabags are filled with sweepings from the factory floor. And I trust him on this because he was trying to persuade us of the virtues of proper loose tea that you put into a proper teapot to make a proper cup of tea.
In so doing he presented a solution to the question of what to do with my 8180 LKR: buy some tea! Part of Bernard’s spiel was that all teas except white teas are essentially dead. White tea, he said, has not yet gone through the processing that destroys all the health-giving qualities of camellia sinensis, and it’s known to be good for arthritis, rheumatism and high cholesterol. He, Bernard, had given up the statins since drinking white tea regularly, and his old bones felt better too, he said. It might be bollocks but I decide to give it a try for my arthritic feet and hands and my cholesterol, which would be sky-high except for the statins on which I started less than a year ago.
So I select two 100g packets of the white tea, thinking to give one to my similarly afflicted sister, and throw in a tin of orange pekoe because that is my favourite brekkie brew. ‘That’ll be 10,600 rupees’, said the softly-spoken elfin young woman at the till. Faaark! Says I (not aloud), that’s my whole stash and more! Further enquiry reveals that the white tea is the costly one, at 4900 rupees a packet, worth about $A50 according to my original currency exchange, but I may have copped the rough end of that pineapple and more likely it was about $A35 a packet, still very expensive. So I dump one of the white tea packets (Judy, I’ll give you some of mine if it works!) and keep the orange pekoe, with enough change left over, I hope, to buy a Sri Lankan fridge magnet at the airport tomorrow and tip Vernon the driver if he gets me there on time.
Then it was back to the villa for lunch…
…followed by dessert. This is very much Asian-tinged modern international cuisine, not unlike modern Australian. I must admit to welcoming the change from the lentils, vegies and rice that have been my staple over the past few days. There’s been a bit of fish and chicken too, but I haven’t been eating the rice if there’s naan or parathas or poppadoms about. The fish is no doubt frozen and the chicken is only so-so, because it’s invariably the boring white breast meat they give me. What do they do with the legs, wings and thighs, I wonder? Give them to me, I say! Sadly, not many people agree with me that those are the best bits, just as not many agree that rice is the most boring form of carbohydrate.
There’s no TV here but the wifi is good and I’m happy to while away the rest of the afternoon blogging gaily in my room. Then a walk about the grounds, then a G & T at cocktail hour in my private garden, then the company of Amy and Sawadh over dinner, which is washed down tonight with a few French sauvignon blancs instead of last night’s Jacob’s Creek chardonnay. Both wines were okay, and their RELATIVE ordinariness in no way detracted from the overall feeling that I may have died and gone to heaven.
Coming up next: the Last Post!