Both Liz and I were enjoying Nuwara Eliya so much we decided to stay one more night. In Negombo and Kandy, Liz had been unable to ship off her bag of clothes purchased in Nepal and I was anxious for her to get rid of the excess luggage before we had to travel again. Luckily, the Nuwara Eliya post office was open and the staff actually knew what they were doing. The only flaw in the plan was that they needed Liz’s bag to be in a box. Luckily, a local Sri Lankan guy who was hanging out at the post office was able to help us. He led us to a shoe store nearby where he procured a box from the shop owner and then took us to a store where we could buy packing tape. Given all of this free help from a total stranger, both Liz and I expected he’d want some sort of tip but just as we were discussing how much to give him, he disappeared. Another warm and caring Sri Lankan offering a random act of kindness to us foreigners! In the end, Liz shipped her 6.5kg box full of amazing clothing from Nepal back to Canada for only $60. A steal of a deal if I’ve ever seen one.
Both Liz and I were starving at this point so we ducked into a local place for breakfast. The shop keepers didn’t really speak english, so we just pointed to baked goods and other items we saw on the shelves and they kept piling our plates. We enjoyed coffee, several rotis (Mmm), muffins, yoghurt with honey, and a large bottle of water for 320 rials. That’s 320 rials for the two of us. A massive breakfast feast for less than US $1.50 each; a food lover’s dream!
After breakfast we walked to the bus station to try and find a bus that would take us to Pedro’s Tea factory for a ‘tea tour’. We wandered around the bus station for a long time and no one seemed to understand what we were talking about. Finally, a young guy who looked to be 13 years old, grabbed Liz and told us to come with him and he showed us to a bus. Perfect!!! After waiting for 10 minutes, the same young guy hopped in the driver’s seat, started it up, and started blasting gangster rap tunes while staring at Liz in the rear-view mirror. I recall looking at Liz with that puzzled ‘uh oh, where the hell are we being taken now?’ look. Neither of us thought we were actually on a bus that would go by Pedro’s, but we went along for the ride anyways, and after paying our 10 rials (yes, it was a 9 cent bus ride), we were cruising on twisty roads through the tea plantations. Pedro’s tea farm seemed to own most of the land in the area and we saw signs for Pedro’s everywhere we looked. Of course, we still had no idea where we were going. Feeling lost while seeing the 13 year old driver staring at Liz in the rear-view mirror while flying around blind corners at mach speeds was a little disconcerting, to say the least. Amazingly enough, the bus suddenly stopped and the kid driver hollared at us that it was time to get off the bus. As we got off on the side of the road we still had no idea where we were and saw no signs of Pedro’s tea factory. Thankfully, once the bus pulled away, we saw a gravel road across the street from us that led up to a rather large building. Neither of us had any idea what a tea factory actually looked like, but given our options, walking down that gravel road was our best bet.
Finally, after walking down the road a couple hundred meters, we saw a sign that said Pedro’s Tea Factory. Success! We passed through a security gate and then wandered around the complex. Unfortunately, there were no signs saying where to go so we almost walked into several of the wrong buildings before finally coming across the building where the tours start. Apparently, most people just spend the $10 for a tuk-tuk ride and get dropped off right at the entrance so there is no need for signs. Although we were proud we saved $9.82, the whole busy trip was an unnecessary adventure that luckily worked out in the end.
After paying the 100 rial admission, we were dressed up up in smocks and hats and a cute Sri Lankan girl led us through the facotry. We saw the weigh station, drying room, rolling room, bake room, cutting room, and packing room. The smells in the various rooms were incredible and it was interesting learning about how they sort, cut, and pull the humidity out of tea leaves. The tea factory sold tea wholesale in Colombo so there is no Pedro’s brand of tea available for retail sales, but it is very likely we’ve all sampled Pedro’s tea in the past as brands such as Tetley and Liptons purchase Pedro’s tea to then mix and bag it in their own factories. After the tour, we were poured a delicious cup of tea and Liz and I sat around for quite a while enjoying the beautiful scenery and modern tea tour building.
After our ‘tea time’ we decided to save 18 cents and walk the 5+ kilometers back to town. Oh yea, we were taking cheapness to a new level. Unfortunately, after the first kilometer or two, it started pouring rain and we were quickly soaked to the bone. As luck would have it, just as the intensity of the rain increased to tropical storm levels, a bus came flying around the corner and somehow saw us in time to slow down and allow us to jump on. As we stood in the packed bus, dripping water on previously dry locals, I decided that it probably would have been smart to just spend the 10 rials to take the bus back into town from the beginning!
By the time we were back at our guesthouse in Nuwara Eliya the weather had improved considerably and we were able to explore the Queen Victoria Park, right in Nuwara Eliya’s city center. The park covers 27 acres of land and was named to commemorate the 60th Jubilee Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1897. There is a small fee to enter the gardens, but it was well worth the price as the park was beautiful and clearly well maintained. There were signs everywhere advising us to ‘Behave Decently’ and even though that is a tall order for both Lizaster and myself, we were able to enjoy the park with relative sanctity. There is no point in describing the gardens much further as I don’t know the names of any of the plants or flowers, but I can say is that it was a really nice place to be and let the photos provide the rest of the explanation for me…
For dinner, we headed back to the Palladium Restaurant for more hilarious entertainment. The crowd wasn’t quite as reckless as the night before and the servers actually seemed happy to see us again. The perfect end to a great town.
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