After our beautiful train ride we stayed for three nights just outside the mountain town of Haputale, 1500m above sea level. The guesthouse was called White Monkey – Dia’s Rest and the description in Lonely Planet sounded great. The location is definitely impressive; the house is perched partway down what would be described as a cliff in England, with spectacular views over the valleys, drops and mountains.
Our arrival was hectic in an exciting Sri Lankan way, we were trying to digest the incredible scenery while walking down steep stone steps with our backpacks on, We got to the bottom to be greeted with a big smile and some kind of hello from grandma, who has one tooth, then some of the younger siblings arrived home from school and beckoned us into their house, saying that our room was not yet ready. The scene inside was crazy, there were members of the family- Muslim Tamils – of all ages were greeting a Dutch girl who they obviously knew very well (turns out she’d visited the year before, fallen down a waterfall and broken her leg, the family had looked after her and the whole process induced her as an honorary member.) Another English girl was sat on the sofa and we stumbled in with our backpacks. We weren’t forgotten at all though, they ushered us to the sofas straight away, made us tea and suggested we play cards until the room was ready. Their English was amazing and the atmosphere was great, they make you feel as if they have known you a long time! We played Uno.
Our room was the lowest down the cliff, in what was apparently the original cottage, which gave us privacy, peace and arguably the best view! We didn’t get into it until after dark in the end, so the view was saved for the morning… And it was worth it. We set the alarm for sunrise and it didn’t disappoint. It’s hard to describe really. Look at the photos. Monkeys sat outside our window too, one even licked the window but we didn’t manage to get a photo. Dammit.
Meals were another crazy affair. You went back up to the family’s house and all the guests dined together, so the group changed each time and the dynamic with it. The quality of the food did not change. It was insanely good. Highlights were a jackfruit curry (sambol) on the second night and a breakfast of rotis folded in half with a thin omelette and sweet onion coconut sambol inside.
The next morning over the amazing rotis, the Dutch girl Marion, said she was going back to the Diyaluma Falls where she’d broken her leg. Sri Lankan doctors had told her she’d never walk again so she promised that if she did she would come back, see the family and face the fall – not literally! A French couple and an Australian guy also wanted to go, so there was quite a varied group along with Viraj, who is a bit of a joker, the 19 year old son of the family who would be our guide, his uncle who was the driver, and Oliver – a German fella who’s been living in Sri Lanka for 15 years.
We didn’t really know what we had signed up for but the description of the waterfall sounded great. It was 700m down from our position in Haputale so took around an hour to drive in a mini bus on pretty bumpy roads. The geography in and around Haputale is pretty special, the city sights on a mountain ridge with around 1000m drops straight down on each side. The drivers in the part of the world are amazing, they do have unnerving habit of leaning into a bend next to a drop though. You have to trust them as they are very cautious and are experts on mountain roads.
When we arrived at the ‘Nature Resort’ it was a 20 minute hike through grass as tall as us and crazy drops in the midday heat. For some reason this is not as nerve wracking as facing it in a vehicle, maybe because you know where you’re feet are going. For this reason though, we had the waterfall and it’s many pools to ourselves. We all went with Marion to see the place where she fell, and it was pretty hairy… If she had fallen forward maybe another metre there was a further 20 metre drop!
After spending a few hours exploring different parts of the streams and pools, and sunbathing on the rocks, we hiked down to where the water makes its main fall off a cliff. The view across the countryside was absolutely mental. Most of the others sat right on the edge, with their legs dangling over a 100 metre drop. We didn’t! Marion’s story was enough to make us keep away. Then it was a trek back up the mountain, by which time sugar and water levels were running pretty low, so the van was a very welcome sight. The final stop was at bottom of the waterfall, to have a sugary cup of tea and look up at where we had just been… Pretty satisfying. Drowsy and dehydrated almost all of us slept all the way back through the winding roads. As we pulled back up to the guesthouse Viraj declared his undying love for Shane Ward and started playing us his back catalogue, about 3 songs. It was a strange experience to wake up to.
The next day we stuck to our guns, despite various offers for lots of other tours, and relaxed. The view from our terrace was enough to keep us entertained for the morning. We went into Haputale town for lunch and Pete got his first haircut of the trip, which cost £1.50 and we walked the 3km back along the windy mountain road, loving being amongst so much tea and watching the mists roll around the hills.