Firstly, Happy New Year all!!
|Sunrise 1st January 2014 over the Knuckles mountain range Sri Lanka|
Secondly, an apology....I'm sorry I've been rubbish at bloging in 2013.
You see our precious small monkey gobbles up all my time and I'm so knackered when I do get any downtime *rarely* I just want to sit in a quiet, darkened room and rock myself back and fourth like a mental patient...certainly not think or write.
However, as precious small monkey approaches being 1 year old in March *eek! my 2014 resolution (along with a pledge to run a half Marathon...I regret this already!!!) is to blog more...so here goes.
GO TO SRI LANKA!
If you live in the UAE it's 4 hours and a curious 1 and a half (?!) hour time difference to Colombo and cheap as chips with Fly Dubai. In just 4 hours you can brush off the dry desert dust and be in the lush green paradise that is Sri Lanka.
We planned to go for New Year when we were craving a 'green fix', in September before we knew Dubai was aiming to stage the world record fire works display in our backyard doh!!...
|An hour or so drive from Kandy to the Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage|
Instead of 450,000 fireworks in stark contrast on NYE we looked out at the vast Knuckles mountain range and watched shooting stars - natures own fireworks and imo more speculator!
There we had the best Sri Lankan food of the trip, with some kind of caramelised aubergine, coconut carrot curry and spicy roast potatoes yum!
|Although it's better than dying or being poached in the wild, it still felt 'zoo' like and we witnessed some bad handling of the elephants:-(|
We spent the next morning exploring Kandy, which is the Sri Lanka I'd imagined.
A brightly coloured, bustling, colonial town full of Tuk-tuks and terrible pavements.
Full of wonderful sights and smells.
I witnessed a white haired, approx 80 year old lady simultaneously push a goat and a large wheel-barrow up a steep hill, amazing!
Buddhist monks walk around town carrying laptop bags.
Loved Kandy, I wish we could have spent a few more days there.
But we only had half a day there so just time to take in a few main sights - we visited to the Bhuddist Temple of the Tooth which smelt of fragrant jasmine and afterwards we pottered around the outside market munching on fresh mango.
For the rest of our 5 days we were to stay at Madukelle Tea plantation and Eco lodge, over an hour and white knuckle, bumpy mountain drive from Kandy.
Note: in Sri Lanka it takes you ages to get anywhere, not due to distance but due to the precarious roads and awful driving, our driver and guide was a lovely man named Sunny. Contact me if you plan to visit and I'll give you his number.
As we whizzed around the narrow single lane mountain roads a sheer 700 meter drop down, passing small villages and swerving lumber wagons, buses, skinny dogs who for some reason all like to sleep in the middle of the road (!) I wondered if any place would be worth this journey.
Then the asphalt stopped and the road actually got worse, even bumpier and windier...and just as I'm about to scream "let me out!!" there's an opening in the trees and I catch a glimpse of the Madukelle Tea plantation and well, I just stared, silent and wide eyed at the awesomeness and beauty.
Madukelle is by far the most stunning place I've ever stayed and I've stayed at a fair few amazing places.
A 25 acre working tea plantation supporting the local tea economy plus a dozen eco tents providing a tranquil escape for tourists.
|Breakfast 1000 meters above sea level|
It's a delightful space, with it's open fire and rustic decor, mismatched furniture and garden staircase down to a cliff side infinity pool, all make it simply breathtaking.
The eco tents/lodges adopted from the African game reserves not only disrupt the natural environment as little as possible but also give you stylish and functional accommodation and spectacular views, proper Glamping baby!!
You can come straight out of your lodge and do one of the many picturesque walks, 30 mins down to the water fall and watch villagers doing their washing or trek up the mountain, passing tea pickers with bales of tea piled high on their heads.
Or visit the local Tea factory and learn about the rarefied art of Tea production.......
As we wondered up the misty mountain one afternoon, beautiful pan piped music rolled down the mountain side from the neighbouring Tamil village...it was honestly like a movie scene!
|The dusky light creates a dreamscape as the Tamil music fills the valley|
Once back at the lodge and just time for a quick dip in the pool, afternoon tea on the veranda and I'm just about ready for a glass of red curled up by the fire, thank you very much..
We sat one evening on our little terrace having tea and our duty free Twix's whilst watching monkey's play in the tree next to us as bats flew overhead. Heaven.
Our own precious small monkey was quite a tourist attraction himself, attracting attention everywhere we went.
At the Tea factory the women downed tools and took it in turns holding him and whilst out walking people from the mountain remote villages would leave their chores and houses to come and stare at our little chubby Buddha.
The Sri Lanka people were all very warm and friendly, and precious small monkey was welcomed and made a fuss of everywhere we went.
What makes Madukelle really special is it's unique character - the small touches, it's organic gardens with roses and a homemade scarecrow, that are lovingly tended and grow much of the food consumed.
A foundation the lodge has set up to support the local school, a Christmas wish tree on which local children wrote their Christmas present wishes so that guests could donate and buy them, school bags and headphones were the big ticket items for Santa on the Madukelle mountain.
The quirkiness and friendliness of the staff, nothing is too much trouble - that said you don't always get what you've ordered but any mistakes are promptly corrected and it all adds to the charm of the place.
|Just some 'cushion porn' for me I loved these handmade cushions!!|
Why we loved it so much, and it's not just down to the astounding panoramic views - natural beauty nestled in the melty-emerald green mountains, or the exquisite designed lodge. No, what Madukelle is, is our life dream incarnate.... we'd love to own a place just like this one day.
|The best Nativity I saw all Christmas on the side of a remote Sri Lanka mountain who'd have guessed!|
We got to meet Madukelle's flamboyant French owner Philippe and I was a little in awe as he told us how he'd searched the globe for 2 years looking for the perfect spot and then spent a further 4 years in a labour of love to build the estate.
He explained in his husky French accent how he considered a vineyard or other crops at various gorgeous locations in the world. But it was...." Zee beauty of zee tea and zee warmth of zee Sri Lankan people" that had made him plump for Madukelle.
At this point, our first born babe in my arms, I asked Johan not to be offended if I divorced him immediately to run off with Philippe...interestingly Johan said he wouldn't be bothered at all if it meant he'd get free holidays at Madukelle...and in fact he was considering trying to run off with Philippe himself.....that is how gorgeous Madukelle is!!
I had also wanted to write about the trials and tribulations of doing this type of trip with a 9 month old baby...but that is a whole other post.
Needless to say we 'coped' and did have a great time... but the learning was - I think we'll wait a couple more years before we're quite so brave/naive/adventurous as to try it again!