Sri Lanka 17: Horton Plains & World’s End

Long day, and I can only attribute half of it to activity.

Horton Plains exists 2000 metres above sea level, filled with waterfalls, grassland, flowers, ferns, small ponds and streams, and a whole lot of Fern Gully-type beauty.  To get there for ideal viewing, you’ve got to get there early.  Like, leave Nuwara Eliya before the sun rises type early.  Which, in this case, equated to a 5:30 pick-up.

Same tuk tuk driver as yesterday, by design, as he seems like the kind of guy who wants to make money but isn’t going to screw you over for it.  Our quasi-hotel manager was nice enough to get a couple of morning breakfast boxes ready for us, a simple egg sandwich, banana and bottle of water, so we wouldn’t be starving on the hike.  

So, temperature.  Being in the hills, Nuwara Eliya is cold in the morning.  And damp.  I was layered up, so was D, but it was still pretty biting.  Fortunately, the tuk tuk had some flaps on the sides, so the wind sheer wasn’t horrible, but definitely a chilly way to start the day.

It took about an hour to get to the park, and I did see the advantage of those who hired 4WD jeeps and vans vs tuk tuks on the way up, as the road gets considerably less paved the closer you get to the park.  Still, we made it in reasonable time and joined the line to get tickets.

The long line.

With one guy working it.

Here’s something you need to know about National Parks in Sri Lanka; they can’t decide on a fee.  What I mean by that is that, in most parks, you’d be charged a flat amount based on you, taxes included, and it would all be clearly indicated in some kind of pricing sheet.  To get in to Horton, we each had to pay our foreign tourist fee, plus our tuk tuk fee, plus a “tour group” fee (I guess because there were two of us?) plus a VAT.  So our entry to the national park ended up costing 57 CAD for the two of us, plus tuk tuk parking.  Which would be fine, but it would have been nice to know that before getting to the park and having fee after fee added.  Same thing happened in Minneriya, though that wasn’t as bad, since it was a per jeep fee with some taxes, vs everything else.

Still, happy to pay the money after waiting fifty minutes in the line.  Yup, the long line with one guy working it, who also had to calculate all the various fees per group of people.  Not the best system, especially when the line ends up making a letter S up the ramp.

Still, we got through it, drove to the trailhead, and were off!

Totally worth every minute and dollar.

You get a little bit worried as you go in, as the mist is still quite heavy (portions of Horton Plains are considered cloud forests), wondering if the chunk of cloud will part and you’ll actually get to see anything.  Well, it does, and you do.  Beautiful flowers, some of the greenest plains and hills you’ll ever see, the aforementioned ponds and rivers, and World’s End and it’s partner, Little World’s End.
Both are spectacular drop-offs overlooking a massive valley, though the latter also gives you prime views over some tea plantations and a distant lake.  It was crowded today – tourists, Sunday and a holiday long weekend – but still worth it and, though things bottleneck at the two World’s Ends and the beautiful Baker’s Falls, there are times where you are walking the trail alone with nature, in all its gorgeousness.

It’s about 10 km round trip for the walk, relatively easy if you’re in good shape and your joints are all holding up okay.  As the mist lifts, the temperature rises, so have a few layers ready before you head out.  Again, simply amazing.

By the time we were done, it was around 11:30, which meant we’d be getting in to Nuwara Eliya at around 12:30.  I had heard nothing but good things about an Indian restaurant called Grand Indian, so we asked our driver to drop us off there and, after shortchanging him 500 rupees (he came back to the restaurant to correct me, and I felt super bad, total mistake), we said goodbye with the promise of him maybe taking us to the train station tomorrow.  We were still figuring out times and such.

So, Grand Indian was packed.  Fine, they got us on a waiting list and it was maybe 20 minutes before we got in.  Then it was another 20 minutes before the manager noticed we didn’t even have menus, at which point he got somebody to give us menus.  At which point it was another 20 minutes before he came back, noticing nobody had taken our order.  At which point it was another 20 minutes for drinks…

There was a pattern here, if you didn’t know.

Granted, I got an ABC Stout in a 650 ml bottle, which I didn’t know was an 8.8% alcohol beer, so that dulled my edge a bit, but for a place that was touted by Lonely Planet for its “fast and efficient service”, they were being neither fast, nor efficient.  By the time lunch ended at a little past 3 pm, I was underwhelmed – service and food not that good.

Sad thing was, we spend more time at lunch than we did getting to Horton Plains and back.  Not good.

We wandered back towards our guest house before I got tired and caved for a tuk tuk, for a much more reasonable price than yesterday.  Now, nap time before dinner a little later.

Well, maybe with lunch finishing at 3, a lot later!

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