Part two of our Sri Lanka road trip began the morning we left Wasgamuwa National Park. If you missed part one of of road trip, read it here. After a peaceful morning in the park observing the wildlife, we knew we had a wild drive ahead of us. The 18-bend road, which should be called the 100-bend road, looked daunting on the map (see below). Luckily, Toro, our trusty tuk tuk from Tuk Tuk Rental, was on his A game and we didn't have any problems climbing the hills. We kept chugging along up and up as the views kept getting better and better. After a couple of hours, we had arrived at our destination about an hour east of Kandy.
where to stay The Pepper Cottage: Driving up to The Pepper Cottage was quite the trek. After enduring the 18-bend road, we didn't think twice about the hills headed up to our accommodation. We turned the corner to see steep hills lined with school children, dogs, and tuk tuks. Having no momentum, we were forced to go full throttle up these tiny back roads. Nothing short of a miracle later, we arrived at the cozy homestay. The owner Lucian was out front working in the garden and waving us down! Lucian immediately felt like an old friend as he gave us a tour of the small homestay. There are three rooms available to choose from, two bathrooms, a large living room, a kitchen, and surrounding gardens. Our favorite feature of the home was the gorgeous oversized wood dining table. The Pepper Cottage works closely with the surrounding villagers to ensure everyone is benefiting from tourism. That night for dinner, the next door neighbors made us a delicious vegetarian meal. This community effort not only supports the locals, but also gives Lucian a night off from cooking. Let me tell you -- Lucian is a hard worker! He was up at dawn working in the garden, cooking all of our meals, and constantly cleaning. If you're ever headed to Kandy, we definitely recommend this property for a couple of nights. This space truly feels like you're visiting a friend's house and catching up after quite some time. This homestay is ideal for anyone who loves simplistic living in nature.
what to do
Waterfall: During our time at The Pepper Cottage, Lucian took us on a day trip to a nearby waterfall. This waterfall seems like a local secret, so we don't know the name (or if it even has a name). If you stay at the homestay, make sure to have Lucian take you there. Don't forget the leech spray! We were constantly fighting these blood-sucking monsters off of our feet. Talk about gross! However, taking a dip and jumping off rocks into the waterfall made the battle worthwhile.
Hatale Tea Plantation (what not to do): After swimming in the waterfall, we continued up the hill in Toro and found ourselves in the middle of majestic tea fields. The shade of green of these fields is something indescribable! Lucian took us to this famous tea factory to do a tea tasting. After some convoluted process to buy tickets, we had the chance to taste four types of black tea. Daniel and I were expecting to enjoy a cup of tea after we selected our favorite. But, moments later, the employee took our aprons off and said, "okay, thank you. That's it." We spent nearly $10 to taste four teaspoons of tea! Such a rip-off. We don't recommend visiting this place but rather just a drive through the beautiful area.
where to stay The Theva Residency: After a couple of nights secluded in the small village of Wepathana, we headed west a bit more to the town of Kandy. Our first impression was the crazy amount of traffic! We hadn't seen traffic jams since leaving Colombo, so this was totally unexpected. We spent close to an hour sitting amongst cars, dogs, kids, aggressive buses, and cows swerving in and out of traffic. We were both smelling of exhaust and could visibly see the grime on our faces when we arrived at Theva Residency. One of the downsides of driving a tuk tuk is that you're exposed to all of the elements: good or bad. Theva Residency sits high on a hill directly above Kandy. The property is a bit confusing to find due to many meandering roads. However, we knew we arrived the second we saw their smiling faces bringing us welcome drinks. Theva features an impressive infinity pool, a restaurant with a diverse menu, a sauna, a steam room, and beautiful rooms. We loved our time here! Although we stayed downstairs, we recommend booking the upstairs jacuzzi room for the best views and amenities! Waking up to the sun rising above the nearby mountains is truly incredible.
what to do
Temple of the Tooth: If you wish to visit the Temple of The Tooth, make sure your spouse or traveling partner wears pants! Usually I am the one worrying about covering up at temples. I was dressed appropriately with a long skirt and covered shoulders, but when we tried to enter the temple, Daniel was turned away due to his shorts. We had to miss this site, but we hear it's a real gem. Instead, we spent the afternoon walking around the lake in the center of town. The city is doing a lot of construction, so the place was kind of a mess. While enjoying the stroll around the lake, we spent most of our time shooing off pesky tuk tuk drivers. It was a real kick telling them we drive our own tuk tuk! The men got this puzzled look on their faces and we walked off laughing. To be honest, we didn't love Kandy (except for The Theva Residency) and would've been content with skipping the town. It's filled with traffic and many tourists.
Ambulawawa Biodiversity Complex: If we had to choose one unique not-to-miss attraction to see in Sri Lanka, this would be it. Ambulawawa Temple is located about an hour outside of Kandy, but we were able to visit on our way to Nuwara Eliya. This place is wild! The road up to the complex was rough with recent rockslides blocking the road, potholes, and many tight turns. Once safely at the top, we were shocked at the unusual white Dr. Seuss-like temple in front of us. Sitting 3,567 feet above sea level, this religious site houses worshiping places for all four major religions in Sri Lanka. As we climbed the narrow circular staircase headed straight to the sky, the tower quickly got narrower and narrower. Before we knew it, we were wedged in this staircase, barely able to fit one shoe on each step. As the fog rolled in, we were transported to some sort of fantasy setting. We couldn't see a thing within a matter of minutes. The fog was so thick! It was a bit unsettling, especially as the rain started coming down, but definitely a worthwhile experience. As we ran towards Toro for cover, we knew the drive down would be quite the adventure. At one point, I had to hop out of the tuk tuk, barefoot and all, and move some large rocks so that we could continue down the mountain. The road had quickly become a stream with water rolling down.
where to stay
Lily Bank Cottage: This was a nice little homestay with two rooms. The owner is a kind humble man who cooks incredible Sri Lankan food. We showed up in our tuk tuk soaking wet and cold after being stuck in multiple downpours. He immediately brought us hot tea and started a fire in our fireplace. If you're looking for something quaint, this is the place.
When we left Lily Bank, we had another crazy tuk tuk driving experience. The homestay sits on a cliffside at the bottom of a steep hill. Toro takes 30 minutes or so to warm up before running smoothly, but we had no other choice except to drive up the mountain. We made it about halfway up the hill (in the pouring rain), when Toro ran out of steam. As Toro started rolling backwards, I panicked! Daniel pulled the emergency break as we wavered back and forth about how to proceed. Not wanting to be stuck at the bottom of the hill, I hopped out barefoot (again) and pushed Toro up as Daniel steered. There's never a dull moment!
what to do
Wander: We recommend spending a few hours wandering around Nuwara Eliya town. The town used to be called Little England in the 19th century. British colonialists enjoyed partaking in their pastimes like cricket, polo, and and hunting. There is some unique Colonial architecture to see! We loved visiting Victoria Park, the famous post office, and The Grand Hotel.
what to do Little Adam's Peak: Our last morning in Ella, we planned to hike Little Adam's Peak but were discouraged by the massive rainstorm the night before. The weather forecast had us convinced that we'd have to skip the hike. However, we woke up and were pleasantly surprised to see the sun! I immediately told Daniel, "let's go!" After a short twenty minute hike up some stairs, we had arrived at the mountaintop. Since we woke up early and began the hike before seven o'clock, we were amongst the few people on the peak. We recommend hiking this gem early in the morning, as the light hitting the adjacent mountain is truly breathtaking. After our hike, we stopped at 98 Acres Resort & Spa for a fresh juice. The juice and views were lovely, but the staff was far from friendly to us.
9 Arches Bridge: In our opinion, a trip to Sri Lanka is incomplete if you don't visit 9 Arches Bridge. This masterpiece is built with cement, brick, and stone without the use of steel. It's been rumored that the bridge was commissioned just as the Great War between the European empires was beginning, and all of the steel purchased for the project was relocated to the battlefront. The locals decided to proceed with the project anyway and eliminate the steel. We mistakenly parked Toro near the temple and had to hike down the mountain in the deep, slick mud. The red mud nearly caused about 50 falls down the mountain, but somehow we made it to the tracks alive and well. A word of advice: if it's been raining, have your driver take you the back route directly to the tracks! Without researching the train schedule ahead of time, we couldn't believe our luck when a local told us a train was coming in ten minutes. The curvature of the bridge, the fog rolling in, and the train blowing its horn while passing was a magical moment.
The third and final chapter of our road trip will be coming soon. Stay tuned!
For the love & adventure,