The adventure begins with tea | Daily News

The adventure begins with tea

On the tea trail
On the tea trail

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”

“I love the smell of tea, the sound of boiling water, the whispy smoke swirling from the spout through the air, and then the whistling kettle signaling like a steam train that it’s time for tea. And so begins the age-old camaraderie of sitting around an open fire or at a plantation table exchanging stories. Here, over the clatter of teacups lively tales unfold and are shared from one generation to the next, passed down over sips of golden Ceylon tea, where age-old council and survival wisdom is imparted to both the young and old. It is these stories that I, as a writer of tales, collected to share with the world.

The more trails I walked in the hills, the more tales of the unexpected I uncovered. Some treks inspired pioneering feats and others spiritual wisdom that are in their own right World Heritage gems. So it was a joy and honour to go across the hill country of many religions and ideologies, which is like an ancient philosophers’ bible to life and the simplicity of how it is for us to all live in harmony with nature and human diversity.Writing about Sri Lanka’s six regions of tea resulted in many discoveries and brilliant storytellers such as the enigmatic Hemingway-like Herman Guneratne, who made me realise that there is a book in every tea aficionado, who went from rags to riches, which culminated in the creation of the world’s best Virgin White Tea, and The Suicide Club book and more recently God’s Secret Agent and the hidden world of curses.

Over two decades of exploring these geographically rich ancient time locked cultures, I realised, through the many friendships that I have made with the hill country people, that we all need to return to walking our way back to nature and rediscovering the joys of real life connectivity to the earth and all it grows in it. To discover more about how to go one of these mind glowingly beautiful trails check out Sri Lanka’s Tea Country Trail | Facebook, where regular posts cover what to pack and take with you. So go on ditch those high heels or squeaky-clean brogues and plan a trip later in the year to these beautiful trails, when safe travel will be possible again. As Nike puts it Just do it! and remember when packing that you are not a shire horse pulling a plough so don’t pack the kitchen sink as the more weight you carry the more pain, less gain you will have from this life changing experience. Just make sure you backpack is light, water proof and has an extra water proof cover for heavy downfalls as even the zips can leak on the best designed hiking packs. Your backpack is your daytime portable home, so get a good one with good padding and a proper belt with at least one holder for a reusable water bottle container on one side, which you can fill up along the way and a pocket for easy to reach items such as sun screen for the hottest part of the day, snack bars, plasters and a good torch. If you want more than phone quality images buy a camera bag that attaches at the bottom of the rucksack and can carry spare batteries as electricity is not always supplied and also lots of data memory cards as there’s nothing worse than running out of image space for your priceless memories along Sri Lanka’s Tea Country Trail. Keep what you wear each day simple and practical. One friend wanted a dress to wear in the evening that doubled as a fold up portable toilet privacy modesty tent. She was extremely imaginative as she bought a good quality durable black bin bag and cut a hole in it for her head to go through to use it as a rain mac, as a dress with groovy belt accessory in the evening and extra layer at night if it got cold.

Dresses aside, your feet are your best friends on hiking trails, so give them a treat by wearing top quality footwear, socks like smartsocks and using a special healing cream, like Crabtree & Evelyn’s gardeners, every evening and morning - blisters can ruin your day! As for other clothing, you will not regret getting lightweight quick drying trousers with zippers for converting them into shorts, available from most outdoor pursuit retailers or you can have a pair made in Colombo or Galle. Although the trail can sometimes be wet, misty and muddy it can also be sunny, hot and humid so make sure you have a fold up sun hat, high factor sun cream 20+, good quality sun glasses to cut out any harmful topical rays and rehydration salts for your water bottle. Also, a small bottle of iodine is worth carrying in a medical kit box for cleaning any stream water in the more remote areas - iodine is also good for immunity amongst other bodily benefits. If it gets too hot, make sure you have your swimming costumes so you can jump into one of the amazing waterfalls along the trail and include a small fold up travel towel. Cash is still king in the hills so make sure you have a waterproof money pouch and a few hidden pockets with zips. Belts now double as hidden money storage carriers and so be imaginative on how you stash your cash. Although kadés, Sri Lankas amazing village shops are dotted throughout the hills and sell everything you need to snack. However with so much being closed in the current climate do bring dry nuts as some places may not sadly reopen, fruits and something you know will pick you up when you are tired and hungry. Do a few test runs with your backpack around your garden as you will quickly see how comfy it is or not, and how much weight you can carry? Slip on slippers are also a good idea if they fold up and are lightweight, and a cotton sarong that can be a night wraparound, double as a towel, funky dress if it has a pretty pattern on it and sheet if you need an extra one.

As your phone will be one option as a guide through the hills make sure you have water cover for it and a solar powered battery pack for emergency recharging. However, my advice is booking a local guide as they will always reveal the many wonderful secret treasures of this historically fascinating and deeply spiritual spot.

So go on do something sustainable for your next holiday, and out of the love of the islands pioneering people, and go to the amazing hill country and discover the many trails and tales through the hills. A region famous for it stones that light up in the Indiana Jones film Temple of Doom and enjoy the diverse agro nature, which is as beautiful and rich as Yala National Park. After all, where in the world can you be sitting sipping a cup of tea and see the flash of a leopard’s tail as it vanishes into the tea bushes.

Just remember when you feel stressed reading the news pages about the latest developments island wide around the virus, that positivity is the key to a well balanced health system and “Where there’s tea, there is always Hope”.