The train ride from Ella to Kandy was 6 hours. The late morning trains were already full when we purchased our tickets, so we went with the 6:30am train. We have that the stretch between Ella and Kandy is the most beautiful. Also, Charlie made a couple friends on the ride.
This was the first time this trip that we have showed up in a town without a place to stay. We finally decided to test our luck (in a place where most people speak English of course). After getting off the train and getting stuck by accident in a death trap bus station, we made it out to the main road and started scouting for places. We were pretty unsuccessful, but happened upon a Tourist Info Center, and viola, met Manju who took us to his friend’s homestay (for $8) and even picked us up the next morning to take us on a tour.
That night, after dinner, we went to a Kandy Dancers show at the local community center. There were about 10 different cultrual dances. It was really neat! After the dancing, everyone packed around the fire outside for some fire dancing and fire walking.
The next day, we had to make a 3pm train to Colombo, so we opted for a half day tour with Manju. First stop was a tea factory. Kandy is the heart of Sri Lankan tea production. In Sri Lanka, there are three types of tea plants: Camellia tea, silver tipped tea, and gold tipped tea. The Camellia tea leaves are used to make green (the younger leaves) and black tea (older tea leaves). Silver and gold tipped plants are a “clone” of the Camellia plant, and only the buds are used to make white tea. The leaves are harvested by hand once a week. The main difference in the processing of green tea versus black tea is that black tea is fermented. Tea processing includes such steps as air drying, rolling, separation, and final drying using a furnace.
Second stop was Susantha Spice and Herbal Garden. We got a really interesting tour from a practicing Aruveydic doctor, who told us about the different herbs and spices they grow and how they are used in treatments from headaches to diabetes.