The midday sun in Nuwara Eliya gave me a harsh welcome and the virtually sleepy town seemed to ask me why I was present there so early in the month of April. The massive crowds that are seen in this hill city- known as ‘Little England’ -were absent when I got there on April 13 (the day before New Year). But one could feel that the hill country town was slowly getting ready for the festive season ahead.
This is a town which gives visitors a warm welcome, but scrapes you when you spend. April is the month when Nuwara Eliya turns itself into one of the most expensive towns to live in. Nuwara Eliya has huge pulling power in terms of attracting tourists, both local and foreign. Two main attractions, which fill the pathways leading to them with tourists, are Gregory Lake and Victoria Park.
It’s known to all that service providers cater largely to foreign tourists because they are easier to please compared to locals. However, interestingly these foreign tourists showed a lukewarm interest to take these boat rides offered at Gregory Lake. This was possibly because the boats were going way too fast on the lake with the boatmen jerking their motor boats to provide the thrills and spills.
This way of riding boats just doesn’t suit the environment at Gregory Lake. These speeding boats also could be disturbing the many schools of fish that have made the lake their home. But the local tourists were seen busting their hard earned money to take these boat rides.
The blog post said that the food was too spicy and lacked nutrition. This is a little strange given that much vegetables grow in front of our own eyes in every nook and corner in Nuwara Eliya
From the day explorer Samuel Barker founded Nuwara Eliya in 1846, the town has prospered as a tourist attraction. Activities like fox and deer hunting and polo have now been replaced by pasttimes like horse racing, badminton tournaments and motor racing championships.
Competition from Ella
These activities once again largely cater to the interests of local tourists. Now Nuwara Eliya has competition from Ella which is offering opportunities for adventure games like kayaking and canoeing. Most tourists now avoid Nuwara Eliya and head to Ella after visiting Kandy, still easily one of the most frequented towns by foreigners throughout the year.
Victoria Park still remains as one of the main attractions in this popular tourist town. The park remains in prime condition and is termed as one of the best maintained parks in South Asia by ‘Lonely Planet’. The many varieties of roses at the park attract visitors despite the thorns! But a large number of visitors at the park fail to capture its beauty with the cameras in their mobile phones because they are engrossed in taking selfies. One can’t blame mobile phone users for doing so because this is a ‘me’ era; a period where the interest of the individual is placed above environment and national interest.
I didn’t get the taste of Nuwara Eliya food much because my stay was at a hired out cottage. But a few lines a foreign tourist penned in his blog post didn’t say much about what’s served at wayside eateries over here. The blog post said that the food was too spicy and lacked nutrition. This is a little strange given that much vegetables grow in front of our own eyes in every nook and corner in Nuwara Eliya. There is huge potential for a restaurateur who wishes to serve some veg burgers or pure vegetarian cuisine.
It was evident that the town was readying itself for the horse races which were scheduled for the latter part of April. This is a sporting event which attracts the elite folk in the island. The races not only entertain spectators, but also highlight the fact that there exists the Indian equals of Maharajas in Sri Lanka. These are the folks who come to the races in their Sunday best, driving their Mercedes Benzs or SUVs. A good number of them own horses and ponies that feature in these races. However an ex-jockey, who once featured in these races and now residing in Colombo, opined that the organizers of the races should ensure that there are at least 15 horses per race if horse racing is to get to the next level and provide more opportunities to local jockeys. He said that there are occasions when there are just three horses in some races which guarantees everyone to be a winner, but provides the least entertainment to those who invest on a ticket at the grandstand.
These activities once again largely cater to the interests of local tourists. Now Nuwara Eliya has competition from Ella which is offering opportunities for adventure games like kayaking and canoeing. Most tourists now avoid Nuwara Eliya and head to Ella after visiting Kandy
Nuwara Eliya has its ways of creating news. Recently a fully equipped District hospital was declared open to the public. In January this year the temperature dropped to 4.7 degrees celsius giving all indication that there could be ground frost. Then there was the news of a Swiss girl being abused at one of the tourist attractions in the area, Single Tree Mountain. As much as Nuwara Eliya can entertain you it can also surprise you in a negative way.
It was a little sad to leave Nuwara Eliya after breakfast the following day (New Year day). The sun was up very early and the warm environment was inviting me to walk and explore the surroundings a little more. But lack of time stood in my way. The drive was down to Kandy, a 94 km stretch on a winding down road. The several fresh vegetable stalls on the sideways on the road spoke abundantly of the nutrition available if one lived on the any one of these mountain towns. The group I was traveling with broke journey just after we got out of Nuwara Eliya. I took time off to soak up the freshness of the cool environment and concentrated on it more than on the food that was served on to my plate.
All went well till two scraggy and dusky kids came running towards us and stretched out their skinny hands. We promised them food, but they wanted money instead. We insisted that we would give them food and not money. At that moment there arrived another car and they started running in the direction it came from. Scenes like these spoil the beauty of this wonderful hill country. Kids of this age should be at school or at home studying. It’s their parents who should be irking a living.
The sun was now right above us and telling us to leave. We left the place thinking not about the next trip to the hills, but about the future of these ‘streets kids’.
There was a lot of enthusiasm to take boat rides at Gregory Lake in Nuwara Eliya