The Bogawantalawa Valley, about twenty kilometers from a town named Hatton, is in Sri Lanka’s tea country. Some call it the golden valley of Ceylon tea, although green valley seems more appropriate. It’s a verdant mountainous area about four hours inland from Colombo. The surrounding hills are carpeted with bright green tea leaves. Tea plantations in the area are company towns – plantation owners provide everything for workers – housing, child daycare, schools, medical facilities, etc. – pretty much everything you ‘need’. I had the feeling that people born on a plantation stand a good chance of spending their life on a plantation. Plantation workers are are largely Tamil, originally from South India, and were brought to Sri Lanka by the British during their colonization of Sri Lanka.
I was in the area for two nights which was too short – there is plenty to do and see. I visited Sri Lanka during the western and southern monsoon season and there was plenty of rain in Bogawantalawa which put a damper on getting outside at times. A number of my photographs look blurry from the rain – there was one patch of blue sky for about fifteen minutes. Even with less than ideal weather, the place was great. And there were very few tourists around. I toured a working tea factory, the Norwood Estate, and saw the entire tea making process – from tea leaf plucking to delivering the leafs to the factory, and all the way through packaging. I would have loved to have had free run of the factory for a day or two. Unfortuantely, our guide kept an eye on me and kept us to his itinerary. The plantations operate 365 days per year.
Since my visit in July 2009, the New York Times discovered Sri Lanka, the Bogawantalawa Valley and the Norwood Tea Estate. Our guide, Andrew Taylor, even made the slide show. In a subsequent article, the NY Times went so far as to name Sri Lanka the number one place to visit in 2010. Fortunately, it’s much more difficult to reach Sri Lanka than south Florida.