Whilst staying at the Langdale Boutique Hotel, in Sri Lanka’s hill country, a walk through their tea estate was recommended. Due to the heat, it was suggested we leave at either 7am or 4.30pm, and we chose the latter.
We set off not really knowing what to expect, but immediately began heading up the side of the tea plantation with our hotel guide setting quite a pace. We struggled slightly to keep up with him whilst turning round to take photographs, admire the views and take in all the knowledge he was imparting. We learned that the tea pluckers are paid 1,000 Rupees or £3.60 a day, and that if they start at 8am, they can usually pluck the required 18kg by 2pm.
We continued climbing higher and higher, along the neat narrow rows of short bushes, designed to accommodate the size and height of the Tamil workers. There were two types of bushes: one with slightly redder stems was silver tips which made an expensive white tea. The plantations were dotted with tall straight turpentine trees and other smaller trees to reduce erosion.
As we rose, we skirted the factory, passed brightly coloured houses for the workers and further in the distance, spotted white houses which were being built as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility plans. We could also see a cricket ground, developed by the British, which is still used by the company’s senior managers.
Eventually we reached our destination, the highest point, called Somerset Viewpoint, where we stopped for a few minutes to catch our breath. At this point it would have been nice to have had a reviving cup of tea.
On our return journey, we stopped at a second viewpoint to watch the sunset before climbing steadily back down, pleased we’d decided to wear our walking boots.
Walking back down wasn’t much easier, and by the time we got back to the hotel two hours later, all thoughts of a reviving cuppa were abandoned in favour of a reviving G&T in the bar.