We landed in Colombo, to a welcome of heavy showers and dramatic lightening. We came to this paradise island to celebrate two second anniversaries: 2 years of being married, along with 2 years of having our US business running. A squared anniversary.
From Colombo, we galivanted across the country, exploring millennia+ old ruins, searched for leopards, lay on the beach, and tasted lots and lots of delicious tea overlooking steep mountain sides.
Day 1: Colombo - Polonurwa
After a meeting with a tea company in Colombo, we set out on our adventure across Sri Lanka. We drove up to the ancient city of Polonurwa in the northern province of Sri Lanka. On the way, our driver had us stop at the rock temple at Dambulla.
We were skeptical at first, but it turned out to be an UNESCO site, featuring 153 Buddha statues, and stunning frescoes.
Day 2: Polonuruwa
On our second day, we visited the second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms, Polonnaruwa. This city founded by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated invaders from India in 1070 AD to reunite the island once under a local leader.
The ruins contained many temples, both Buddhist and Hindu, as well as several large stupas. At its peak, the city possessed many Buddhist relics, most notably one of the Buddha's teeth. This gorgeous temple housed the tooth while it stayed in Polonuruwa.
But the most spectacular site was the Gal Vihara, a 12th century temple featuring four Buddha statues cut from living granite rock. The images consist of a large seated figure, another smaller seated figure inside an artificial cavern, a standing figure and a reclining figure. These are some of the best examples of ancient Sinhalese sculpting and carving arts.
Day 3: Sigiriya
We left Polonuruwa for Kandy, the old colonial town, in the heart of Sri Lanka. On the way, we stopped through Sigiriya, a 5th century fortress situated atop a massive rock column.
Day 4: Kandy
We reached Kandy, with another shower of rain, that brought the temperatures down. We were staying in a beautiful homestay, a few minutes away from the main city. The city of Kandy was a crowded town, reminding us a lot of India – with colonial buildings, tea shops, tea boutiques and great views of the surrounding mountains. We spent our time walking around the lakes and visiting tea boutiques to learn more about the teas of Sri Lanka, in the tea capital of the country! We also visited the Buddha's tooth relic in its current home.
Day 5: Nuwara Eliya
We drove through Nuwara Eliya, a mountainous region where the best high grown teas come from.
We stopped through tea estates, and tea factories to see how Sri Lankan factories run, and visited their tea rooms to taste some of their productions
We caught the train from a small town, Nanu Oya, on the way – to Ella. It was one the most charming train stations, and a spectacular train ride, with gorgeous waterfalls, beautiful country and lush green hills passing us by. We didn’t get seats on the train, so for 2.5 hours, we had the best views from the doorways – making friends with our fellow passengers, who were visiting from all over the world!
Day 6-7: Ella : the tea haven
We spent two days in Ella, visiting some of the most beautiful tea estates, tea factories and hiking through tea lands, to the little Adam’s peak – to experience some of the most breath-taking views. The steep mountain sides with tea kept us wondering as to how skilled and strong the Sri Lankan women must be!
Day 8: Ella to Yala
On our drive down to Yala National park, we were extremely fortunate to have been introduced to an organic tea producer in the region. We visited their tea estate, learned about their organic practices, got a chance to visit the small tea growers they work with. Having our own systems at Mana to compare with, made this an extremely fun and interesting visit. We hope to collaborate with them in the future!
Day 9: Yala national park
Unfortunately, luck was not on our side – we did see several heaps of buffalo bones and skulls, and beautiful pools of water that was the kingdom where the leopards roam – but alas no leopards! Not today.
Later in the day, we drove down the southern coast of Sri Lanka, to end at Hikkaduwa beach.
The Indian ocean was a beautiful hue of blue, and the mighty waves crashed on the beautiful sandy shores. This was a surfer’s paradise. John, while not a surfer – caught a few waves body surfing.
Day 9: Hikkaduwa – Colombo
After an early morning swim, and some more wave catching, we took the local train back to Colombo, to end our trip with some more tea meetings that we had lined up. We met with the organic tea growers we had visited in Ella in their head office, and exchanged our stories, goals and more. I think we will make for great partners, and we hope to bring our customers some fantastic organic Sri Lankan teas through them. Stay tuned for more!
Day 10: Colombo
We spent the day relaxing in the Barefoot garden café. A lovely store and café where we got some excellent Sri Lankan teas. We had another meeting in the afternoon to wrap up our Sri Lankan tea sourcing trip – and as we ended our meeting and called the cab to take us to the airport – the rain came down once again – to give us a farewell, the same way it welcomed us.