Dhamayanthe - "Carrying 20 kilos of leaves everyday on their back, 8 hours a day."
Ella is a small town in the highlands of Sri Lanka and it’s surrounded by thousands of acres of tea plantations. Because Ella is in the middle of the mountains, the weather is much cooler and the environment is calmer than other cities in Sri Lanka. It’s most known for its trekking paths and ayurvedic massages.
One of the high points of this stop is the train ride to get there. Depending on where you’re coming from, it can take up to seven hours and it takes you through the most beautiful sceneries. The rails pass through mountains right between endless tea plantations, filled with local women picking the leaves, dressed in their typical, colourful sarongs.
After the train ride, we were naturally very curious about the tea production process. That’s how we met Dhamayanthe.
1. What is your name, where do you come from and what do you for living?
Hello, my name is Dhamayanthe, I’m twenty-five years old and I’m from Ella. I work in the Newburgh Green tea factory where we work with 20 acres of land and 300 workers that pick tea leaves year-round, carrying 20 kilos of leaves everyday on their back, 8 hours a day. We produce green tea for the UK and for India for brands such as Lipton and Finlays. And I work at the office to help managing and, when necessary, I also work as a tourist guide for the factory visitors.
2. What advice would you give to someone like us that just arrived to here?
I would advice any foreigner to stay in Sri Lanka as long as possible because people usually come for a very short period of time and it’s not enough. Sri Lanka is very beautiful and it has many things to see and visit.
3. What would you say is your favourite food?
I really like hoppers, which are like rice flour pancakes. I especially like my mother’s hoppers. I am a vegetarian so I like them without chicken. You can find many restaurants here in Ella that serve them, you should definitely try them!
4. What's your favourite place here?
Sigirya is my favourite place in Sri Lanka. Although I haven’t been there I have seen many pictures and it looks very beautiful. Here in Ella my favourite place is Rawana, the waterfall.
5. What would be the perfect Sunday afternoon plan?
I always read the newspaper and I love reading novels. My favourite one is Chathurya by Edward Mallawarachchi, and also novels from some English authors.
6.What do you usually do for fun?
Travelling. I have family in Trincomalee and I really like the beach and the water.
7. Are you happy?
Yes I am very happy in Ella. I like the weather here because it is not so hot, the cold is much nicer.
8. What would you like to ask our next host?
How big is your family and are you close to each other? (read answer here)
Tips & Recommendations
Walk to the Little Adam's Peak for the sunset. It's about a 40-minute walk away from the town's centre and the view is worth it.
Hike up to Ella's Rock, this includes a walk through the train rails and then a trekking pass some tea plantations and then a steep hike up the mountain. This will take you about four hours. Taking a guide is optional, but you can very well do this on your one despite the locals telling you otherwise (and sometimes tricking you to think you are going the wrong way). Here's a map we found on Tripadvisor that explains exactly how to get there.
Look for a hotel with a mountain view, for example Green Hill is nice. There are many hotels on the main street, but these although a bit farther are worth the view (5-10 minutes walk to the centre)