Monday, August 19, 2013

Travel Mondays: An impromptu visit to "Little New Zealand"

I discovered a really special part of the island a few weeks ago. As you may have noted by now (after reading my blog), I love those impromptu weekend road trips that take you by surprise... the fork in the road where you have to decide to go left, or go right. One road leads you to a known destination, and one road takes you to destinations unknown. 

I'm in tea country and supposed to be driving leisurely back to Colombo. But, I come to a turn off for Ambewela and I figure... why not? I've never visited before and I've heard wonderful things about the area. And so, I find myself taking the turn, and drive up the road toward a new destination cool (Note - if you aren't driving, you can also reach Ambewela by train via Nuwara Eliya)

Ambewela is a small hill station, located in the Nuwara Eliya region en route to the Horton Plains National Park. It is sometimes referred to as "Little New Zealand" owing to its scenic landscapes, cooler climate, cow herds and dairy farms. Ambewela is situated at one of the higher altitudes in Sri Lanka -  6,064 ft (1,848 m).

What makes the drive up to Ambewela enjoyable is the scenery: hilltops, valleys, abundant greenery, vast expanse of sky, unusual cloud formations, bendy roads, little towns, tea estates and other things to catch your eye.

When you drive along at a leisurely pace certain things sometimes catch you eye. For example, I came across this public shower by the side of the road. I think there are no water bills charged for this sort of thing! My guess is the water comes off the mountain and this structure was built to enable locals to make full use of the free shower facilities!

The change in scenery make you want to stop and take photos, as well as, try to figure out what people are growing, and more.

I think this spot is one of the most gorgeous on the drive up (and down). 

I stopped at this spot to have a mini-picnic. I had a packet of crisps (I think they were spanish tomato or masala magic flavor) and some biscuits in the car. So I spread out a picnic blanket by the side of the road and fully enjoyed the view. Sometimes you just have to make the most of it!

After probably ten minutes, I had a few cheeky visitors come and join me. They were particularly keen on feasting on my crisps and biscuits, which I shared with them.

I had a little chat with them in broken tamil (I really don't know that much!), sinhala, english and frantic hand and arm gestures... whatever happened to get the conversation flowing. Their ages ranged from six to twelve years old and one of them had an older sister (who was in the background carrying a toddler). They were a really precocious but friendly bunch of kids.

They were quite fun kids, although I had to put my foot down when they decided to nosey around trying to look into my car. They also tried the "money, money" tactic with me - asking for money, which saddened me. I guess there are tourists and visitors frequenting this part of Sri Lanka, so they try to profit from this. It's a real shame because it creates an unhealthy pattern in kids (i.e. begging), and creates/presents a not-so-great picture of Sri Lanka. Naturally, I didn't give them money, but shared some more of my biscuits. 

Back on the road again... I had two more kids run up to my car shouting "money, money, money" like a song. It would have made a good youtube video if I wanted to mess around. But, I decided against it (this time).

Before long I found myself entering Ambewela. I must admit the first store I saw was a vegetable shop which was very well-stocked with fresh vegetables and fruit. Impressive!

Driving around close to the New Zealand farm I could understand why they named this part of Sri Lanka... "Little New Zealand".

You can also see Kirigalpoththa, the second tallest mountain in Sri Lanka from this area. And Horton Plains is also not too far off, if you're keen for a visit.

I stopped at a shop for directions to Ambewela farm and enjoyed a cup of tea and some jaggery. The owner was a lovely fellow and very animated and helpful with directions. I couldn't resist taking a photo of him. And I also couldn't resist this sad looking stray dog who came to sit by me while I drank my tea.

It was quite easy to get to Ambewela farm as there are signs right by the railway crossing and main junction. 

The short drive is also quite scenic as you cross by the Ambewela Lake and Reservoir. I stopped off here for a few minutes to take more shots and stretch my legs. I was lucky to observe a monkey (or, as someone has kindly informed me, a Montane purple-faced langur a.k.a. bear monkey - thank you Kanishka wink) bathing or scratching around near the water.

There are plenty of photo opportunities. I loved the fresh air around these parts, as well as the quietness and solitude. Not many people were on the road the weekend I visited, so it was lovely to be with nature. It reminded me of home too, which is always nice!

I paid a short visit to Ambewela farm where you can tour the farm and see machine milking of the cows. It's probably a great deal of fun for people with kids rather than for someone like me.

Soon after that I found myself making the drive back down and around the bendy roads. I came across a makeshift altar of sorts near one of the rocky bends. 

I also noticed the change in lighting and shift in clouds when I came back to almost the same spot where I had taken a shot earlier. It had cleared a little as well (the mist or haze).

And I also caught a glimpse of a gorgeous waterfall, though I'm not exactly sure which one this one is. It might be Elgin Falls.


Yasela Sumanasinghe said...

Hi Eva

I also been here and it is a very interesting destination in SL.

Eva Stone said...

I agree with you Yasela!

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