Superlatives just trot off people’s tongues when they describe this place. I had seen many photographs of the area but such two-dimensional representations always fail to capture what we truly experience in the moment. I was keen to see if my expectations would be met. I was also eager to escape the noisy, bustling city for the peace and serenity of the countryside.
The journey from Columbo to Maskeliya was a great adventure in itself. Our convoy left Columbo as soon as Friday’s last lesson had finished at 8pm. Travel anywhere in Sri Lanka can be a tortuous process, so an evening start made a lot of sense. Our progress slowed significantly as we left the well-surfaced blacktop and hit the narrow, broken country lanes. Navigating the hilly hairpins was like negotiating a never-ending slalom course. To some, it became an exercise in gut control. To others, it added to the exhilaration.
The further we climbed, the cooler and more perfumed the air became. Off went the air-conditioning, and down came the windows. We were only gaining altitude, but it felt like we’d crossed continents, and landed in a new country. It truly was a breath of fresh air. The darkness of the night cloaked everything in secrecy. Only vague hints were offered as to what lay in store for us the following day. It felt like being a child again the night before Christmas.
Like the proud unveiling of a new masterpiece, the early morning sun cast aside the drapes to reveal the majesty that is Maskeliya. Sharp teeth-like, juts of rock stood defiantly upright, impaling the morning mist. Soft rolling hills playfully criss-crossed each other, gradually fading into multiple hues of grey. Terraced hillsides, occupied by vast armies of regimented, manicured tea bushes, surrounded the house at every turn. It was truly a spectacle to behold. A perfect marriage of utility and aesthetics.
I was keen to absorb as much of that beauty as I could, with both eye and camera. What made the whole exploration particularly exciting was the maze of possible routes that lay before me. I could choose to travel the length of the stone-topped terraces, move up and down through their ordered ranks, or simply catch one of the many trails that snaked around the hillsides. It was like playing with a three-dimensional game of ‘snakes and ladders’. Tremendous fun.
If you get the opportunity, I urge you to go. It’s the ultimate antidote to the city.