Growing up in the up country capital, Zin used to gaze at the beautiful Hanthana Range from her classroom. 6th stand, when her dada took her hand and walked to her new school, one of island’s finest, her life was scheduled to be a doctor. Unlike her two cousin sisters, she didn’t. While growing up in the desert in Mid East with 24/7 artificial air coolants, Nathan was expected to become a tech geek. He traveled across many seas, to be a tech geek, to be a cricketer. He neither became a tech geek nor a cricketer. Throughout our twentysome years of life, we competed. We ran in a rat race. Faster, faster and faster, only to be greater than others. To score more runs in cricket and score hundreds in math every test. Tired, knackered and beaten by our own lives, we searched for a place, a place where the life is simpler, calmer and the joy is much more real. (Also Read: About us).
We push into the 6am train, jam packed with those who are heading home, some like us searching for a home. We stand by the train door, only to be pushed a little inside. One group of millennials push us back. Two railway stations later, they are kicked into the next compartment by an old uncle who label them ‘selfish.’ Half an hour later, one lady loses her bag. After 30 minutes of whining about her water bottle and the lunch packet, she finds it lying on the floor. (Also read: Why Train is the Best Way to Travel). At Kandy, we get off the train. We sip chai and gobble up chicken sausage sandwiches we made for breakfast. One hour later, we find ourselves in a bus to Nuwara Eliya.
Along the way are beautiful nothingness. Trees of pink flowers and some violets we couldn’t name. Streets lined up with pine trees and tea plantations.where the world’s finest chai is born. Nathan gazes at the mountains miles and miles away. He, to Zin, reminds of a child who found his dream, only after chasing it for so long. As the bus passes by a small cottage near a fall with little water, he turns to Zin, smiles and goofs around. He talks and talks about his dream house: a little cottage in the middle of nowhere. With Zin.
As the clock ticks 1.15, we arrive in Nuwara Eliya. Sun greets us as if he’s lost his power by the cold breeze that embraces us a little tighter. We catch a tuk to the Gregory Lake. 200 meters away from the road in a small ground with grass so green, a group of kids play island’s finest sport. At Gregory Lake, we buy pol roti mixed with fresh veggies and lunu miris. As we busily devour grilled sausages and casava chips in one bite, and sip two cups of chai, skies turn into a little gray. With clouds so big as they remind us of castles where angels live. As we walk along the lake, a group of twentysomes scream riding a speedboat as if it was the first time they ever lived. Not survived.
We arrive at our hosts’. A girl only eight years old greets us and smiles. “Nathan reminds of a country, Nathan, like Netherlands,” she walks us to our room. A room with a bed so spacious, linens so clean and a blanket so cozy. We are in their house, a house of a big warm welcoming family. A few minutes later, we chat with them downstairs, sipping chai aunty made us, the big mama of the family. Sajju, the eight year old tells us many riddles. She wants to be a doctor one day. Not because she wants money. She wants to help her family and take care of them when they get sick.
Our room opens up to endless tea plantations where the sun smiles through Eucalyptus trees. We are in a tea estate facing another named Edinburg. As the sun sets for another day, Nanu Oya gets a little cold. We snuggles up in the cozy blanket in soothing natural cold. The smell of the Earth mixed with fresh cold air, laden in oxygen reminds us of Chingiz Aitmatiov in his Russian classics.
The next morning, aunty greets us with a plate of freshly made string hoppers and a pot of dhal curry. The smell of home-cooked dhal curry floats in the air as we quickly devour the food, ditch our city manners and lick our fingers and plates. Aunty brings us another plate full of string hoppers as if she was able to read our minds. She smiles as we quickly dig into our plates once again. Breakfast is limitless, with freshly brewed hot chai from the mountains. Rule here is to never leave home hungry.
We stayed here two nights. Three days. Sipping chai, listening to life stories, making unplanned friendships and goofing around with a little girl. Sajju is named the chatterbox by her elder sister who’s doing arts for her A levels. Life in the mountains is simpler. People here work harder, to live, to eat and to send their kids to school. Mountains are where unplanned friendships happen. It’s where you realise simple joys of life as you taste the sweetest strawberries. You walk through fields of cabbage and half-ripen tomatoes with an orange-red tinge, past aunties in beautiful sarees who pluck tea leaves to send their kids to school.
We think we found a place where our hearts beat slower. Where it’s serene, peaceful and calmer. Mountains, after all, are our happy place.