Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

We have been on the go and at last have a decent internet connection here in Nuwara Eliya. We at 6000 ft. elevation high in tea plantation area at the atmospheric St Andrew’s hotel a former club for home sick British tea barons. Some things have not changed since 1900—rooms have old coal fires places, elegant arch doorways, the floors are slightly off kilter, creaky stairways, billards room, terraced garden with wrought iron chairs and tables for sipping afternoon tea. Across the street barefoot sarong clad Tamil ladies with burlap bags on their backs hanging by a tump line over their foreheads pick tea leaves on the hillsides. Their grimy concrete hovels, gaily painted fushia, lime green and lavender, surround stately Queen Anne style architectural ghosts of the colonial past.
We went to a Hindu temple near by for the evening puja or blessing. This area is primarily Hindu because of all the Tamil tea pickers. The temple is supposed to be the legendary site where Rama’s wife Sita was held captive by the demon Ravana who kidnapped her from India. The heroic monkey god Hanuman flew to Sriilanka and rescued her. The puja was a lively affair with boys playing drums, cymbals and singing while a handsome young Brahman priest performed the rituals and prayers before colorful statues flanking the small room which held Hanuman swathed in ritual fabrics. Each devotee was blessed with a tikka mark before a flaming vessel and the priest placed Hanuman’s hat on their head briefly. Then the little band led a procession around the temple dancing and clapping with joyous exuberance. After we went on to a Buddhist temple for their puja which was rather a dull affair by comparison but interesting nonetheless.
We were feeling hungry after all this and were dropped off by UL, our Sri Lankan guide, in search of the best hopper and roti maker in town. Hoppers are a Sri Lankan crepe batter that is ladled into a five inch diameter “wok” and cooked on a stove. When it is golden around the edges the hopper chef pops it out and starts making a stack. You can eat these with a little chili salsa or have an egg hopper with a egg cooked on top of it. The roti maker put on a great show for my video camera showboating with all his best moves, whirling the dough around, spinning it, flipping and stretching it in time to Bhangra music blaring from a radio in this little hole in the wall eatery.
Tomorrow we are off to Dalhousie in preparation for our 7 km climb with Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims for sunrise on top of Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada.

Namaste! Aayu-bowan!

Louisa

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