[Travel Diary] Magical Haputale

Oh, Haputale!! I was not planning on going there at first but am so glad I ended up in this magical little town in the middle of Sri Lanka, as it’s quite possibly one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

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Pure bliss at Lipton’s Seat

After walking up (and down) the approximately 5000 stairs in the middle of the night to watch the beautiful sunrise from Adam’s Peak – the most sacred site for Sri Lankan Buddhists – with my new found friends, we decided against some much needed rest and continued our journey straigt away on the very same morning. (And I am more than thankful we did, as the train ride from Hatton to Haputale might just be my favourite Sri Lankan souvenir.)

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Beautiful memories from the train to Haputale

Luckily, Haputale is the perfect place to get some rest after an exhausting hike followed by a three hour train ride spent with about 10 people in a 2m² corridor. Why? Because except for some early morning hiking excursions, there is absolutely nothing to do there! And sometimes, that’s just the perfect way to spend a day.

The weather can get quite gloomy in the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea county, and I was more than happy to cuddle up in my sweater and to enjoy my book over a nice cup of tea. (Ok I actually made friends with a bunch of Australian ladies in the best age and we spent the whole after noon chatting and giggling and I also went to get a massage.) In the evening, my friends and I all went for the best dinner at a local Roti shop (Oh how I miss them!!!), where we indulged on some of the most flavourful food in the whole of Sri Lanka for about a Euro each.

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After a few beers on the terrace of our guesthouse, we all headed to bed at a reasonable time, as we were planning on getting an early morning wake up call once again! If somebody had told me before that I would get up in the middle of the night almost every day on my much deserved vacation, I would not have believed a single word of it!

But as Sri Lanka is so close to the equator, the sun sets quite early every night. And with a pretty much non existent nightlife, you just want to make sure to get the most out of your days. But once more, I was not disappointed to leave my cosy nest while it was still dark outside. Our tuktuk driver – a local surfer boy we met at the liquor store the night before – came to pick us up in order to drive us all the way up Haputale’s major tourist attraction.

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Haputale Sri Lanka30Marta
Can we all take a moment to laugh at my ridiculous rapper pose please!?

Must-Do in Haputale: Lipton’s Seat

I suppose you all have enjoyed a cup of Lipton’s tea (the one in the unmistakable yellow packaging) at some point in your life – but I bet you didn’t know that the global brand has its origins in Sri Lanka. Thomas Lipton started building his impressive tea company on this fertile island, and he chose no other place than the top of a hill in the surroundings of Haputale to build a platform from which he could enjoy the satisfying view ower his growing empire.

And he chose wisely, as it sure is a hell of a view. Watching the sun go up over this bright landscape left me in awe and I really have a hard time describing how stunning the view really was. Apparently you can even see the sea on very clear days. Just make sure to drive up there really early (like 5ish), as it might get misty in the morning and you won’t see a thing!
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Once the sun is out, you can get a cup of tea or two (of course!) and some fresh Roti (did I mention how much I miss those???) to finally wake up for real and to get ready for some exercise. Because while riding up the tuktuk all the way up is nice and stuff, you should definitely take the time for a walk back down! Our legs were still so so heavy from Adam’s Peak, it was worth the pain once more:

Those early hours of the day are when the teapickers of the surrounding villages get on their way to work and their warm way of greeting us made me love Sri Lanka (and tea) even more. The tea pickers – a job that requires delicate fingertips and is reserved exclusively for women – earn next to nothing for spending the whole day out on the fields and usually live in small huts with I don’t know how many people squeezing into one room. And yet, we were greeted with nothing but friendly smiles by the women we passed by.

Plus the view along the whole track is breathtaking and the walk down took us quite a while because we just couldn’t stop gazing and taking pictures. You can even walk in the fields – not just on the street!! And at the risk of repeating myself: This walk was just so, so awesome!!

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Learn all about tea in Haputale’s Lipton Tea Factory

Midway between Haputale and Lipton’s Seat you can visit the original Lipton Tea Factory – which today is still up and running. The art of producing tea has not changed much since the “modern” machines were first invented in the 19th century.

I already learnt quite a bit on how to produce tea in Kandy’s Cylon Tea Museum, so not much we heard on the guided tour throught the factory was new for me. However, it was still very interesting to see the actual machines at work and if you are in Haputale, you just can’t miss out on this place – no matter if you care for tea or not. Only down-point: We were pretty disappointed that we were not offered a cuppa at the end of the tour. I mean come on, you get tea everywhere in Sri Lanka safe the place that is actually at the origin of the local tea culture!?

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Haputale is a clear favourite of mine and if you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, I strongly suggest to make a stop there. Marta and I even enjoyed it so much, that I decided to stay one extra night in order to go for this little hike again the next day. This whole experience was pure bliss and I loved every second of it.

[Travel Preparations] South America, I’m Yours!

While I enjoy hanging out in Austria in the summer, I feel how my feet are getting more itchy every day. A clear indicator that it’s time to hit the road again. So yesterday, I finally booked the flights for my next adventure. I will leave for Buenos Aires in 5 weeks. From there, I have about three months to make it up to Cuba, as I will fly out of Havana right in time for Christmas.

Argentina has been my number one dream destination for I don’t know how many years and I CAN’T WAIT for my trip to start. As for Cuba, I figured it’s probably best to go there asap, before it will be invaded by US mass tourism. And for everything that is going to happen in between: Todo es posible, nada es seguro. 34 days till takeoff!

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Image source: Flickr

[Soundtrack of my Life] Lana del Rey – Ride

Do you know that feeling of mellow summer evenings that are picture perfect thanks to the sun setting beautifully over the sound of the sea – but still you can’t help but feeling a little blue?

A couple weeks ago, I set out for a roadtrip with my (sometimes very difficult) grandmother. I drove all the way from Austria to Croatia via Bosnia to visit some family.

I was exhausted from another fight with my grandmother and a bit hungover from too much wine from the night before. And there it was: Watching the quiet sea from our private patio, I suddenly had a heavy heart. Luckily I have the whole “Born to Die – Paradise” album by the queen of Summertime Sadness – Lana del Rey – on my phone and could just enjoy my melancholic sadness for a few hours, until the world looked brighter again. The perfect soundtrack for some emo girl road trippin’.

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,
I drive fast, I am alone at midnight.
Been tryin’ hard not to get into trouble,
But I, I’ve got a war in my mind.

I just ride.

 

[Travel Diary] Adam’s Peak

After spending two quiet nights in for some much needed detox- and alone-time in the horrible city of Kandy, it was time to pack up my bags again for an adventure I was very much looking forward to: Hiking up Adam’s Peak.

Sunrise over Adam's Peak
Sunrise over Adam’s Peak

The hike up this holy site was one the few things I knew I absolutely wanted to do when in Sri Lanka – besides surfing and taking a cooking class. What makes this walk so special is that you have to do it in the nighttime, in order to watch the beautiful sunrise from the top.

It turned out there was no need to be worried about hiking up – and down – the approximately 5000 “stairs” that lead the way to one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites on my own: While I was waiting for my train in Kandy, another solo traveller asked me to watch her backpack for a few minutes. It turned out she was going to Adam’s Peak as well, and so Marta and I (and a sweet couple from CZ) ended up not only hiking up the Peak together, but also travelled on to Haputale together.

Jan and I waiting for the train - still optimistic about getting a seat
Jan and I waiting for the train – still optimistic about getting a seat…
Good times on the train
Good times on the train
Oh those Sri Lankan train rides <3
Oh those Sri Lankan train rides <3

We stayed in the Green House guesthouse in Dalhousie, which I fully recommend to anybody who is keen on walking up the peak. The guesthouse is located a mere 30 second walk from the starting point of the hike and there really is no better location to stay in the whole town.

The rooms and bathrooms are super basic, so don’t expect anything even slightly fancy. But it really doesn’t matter, as you are only here for a few hours anyway. However, the whole place is really cosy, providing plenty of out- and indoor seating opportunities – perfect for getting some rest over tea and a good book while enjoying the fresh air and the hilly scenery.

Exploring Dalhousie
Exploring Dalhousie

But the best part of this guesthouse was without a doubt the food. Oh! My! God! The Food! I don’t remember what exactly was served for dinner, but – as always in Sri Lanka – it was some sort of rice and curry, with plenty of small dishes to share. All the guests had dinner together and it was such a nice evening spent at the guesthouse; exchanging travel stories with fellow travelers while indulging on this delicious meal.

We sadly had to call it a night quite early though, as we had to get up in the very early hours of the next “morning”. Be prepared to set your alarm clock at about 2 or 2:30am. For a less painful start to your day, I recommended you sleep in your hiking clothes and prepare your backpack well before going to bed. This way, you just have to brush your teeth, put on your shoes and you’re good to go.

Oh and how you will be going. Walking up the 5000 steep “stairs” all the way up to the peak might not be the most adventures hike in the world, but it still is no walk in the park. Especially if you – like me – are clearly not an early-morning person.

Luckily, you can buy delicious tea (after all, you are in the middle of tea county!) along the way, which makes the walking so much more bearable. And once you get to the top – after about three hours of walking – in order to watch the beautiful sunrise, you know that the pain was very much worth it!

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Early morning tea time - one hour into the hike
Early morning tea time – one hour into the hike

While the hike can be a bit crazy – after all, the way is quite narrow and can be very crowded, especially once you get closer to the top – the atmosphere on top is very quiet and peaceful. Take a moment to consciously watch the picture perfect sunrise, which draws light on the surrounding tea plantations and lakes in a very Lord-of-the-Rings-esque kind of way.

It was up there that I realised how in our busy everyday lives, we watch sunrises far too little. That is, unless we are walking out of the club all wasted on a Sunday morning, starving for a kebab and figuring out how to find a taxi to bring us home…

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I told you Adam’s Peak looks like Lord of the Rings, doesn’t it?
Sunrise over Adam's Peak
THIS makes you forget your fatigue in the blink of an eye
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Adam’s Peak can get quite crowdy
Sunrise over Adam's Peak
Sunrise over Adam’s Peak

Watching the planet getting back to life after a long night of darkness is one of the most perfect things to do, and Sri Lanka is without a doubt one of the best places for doing so. I am so thankful I chose Sri Lanka for this solo adventure of mine, as its beauty clearly helped me to find joy again in the small things of life.

Sunrise over Adam's Peak
Take a moment to consciously watch the sun rising behind the hills

But enough with all the sentimental talk. After all, you have to walk back down all those 5000 stairs as well! And while walking down is far less spectacular, let me just assure you that your calf muscles will be burning! By about 8am, we were back in the guesthouse and all felt so sore but so good! Not only is walking such a good way to clear your head. Also, when was the last time you got so much exercise before even having breakfast?

After all the hiking, I would have been ready to eat pretty much anything. But of course, eating a really mouthwatering breakfast after all these early morning activities makes the whole experience even more rewarding. Luckily, we were more than spoiled upon getting back to the guesthouse, with fresh tea and fruit and pancakes and several other mouthwatering servings that I can’t remember. (Sorry, but I was so hungry and couldn’t be bothered about writing down the names of all the yummy dishes).

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get any well deserved rest after this early morning workout. Since – besides walking up and down Adam’s Peak – there is really nothing to do in the town of Dalhousie, we all decided to hit the road again the very same morning after breakfast and a quick shower.

And thank God we did, because the magical train ride from Hatton to Haputale turned out to be my favourite Sri Lankan souvenir

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Tips for hiking Adam’s Peak

Accommodation:

Green House, Dalhousie. (The guesthouse is quite big and showing up without reservation shouldn’t be a problem. In case it’s fully booked, there are plenty of other guesthouses in Dalhousie)

How to get there:

Trains go regularly to Hatton from Colombo and Kandy as well as Ella – if you’re coming from the other side. Make sure to secure a spot next to a door or window, as you will drive by some of Sri Lanka’s most picturesque sceneries. A bus will be waiting for you outside the train station to drive you up to the town of Dalhousie. Attention, the road is very curvy, so you might want to make sure to spot a seat in the front of the bus and to avoid heavy foods just before…

What to bring:

Long trousers and a sweater, as it can be pretty chilly on top of the peak in the middle of the night. Also, a walking stick is very helpful, as your legs will probably be super sore on your way back down..

There is no need for crazy fancy hiking equipment and lots of food supplies: The locals walk up in flip flops, so hiking in regular trainers will do the deal for you. And you can buy water, foods and tea every few meters, so no need to carry more than one or two liters of water.

Keep in mind that you are on a place of pilgrimage, so please be respectful and avoid shorts and tight shirts as a girl – even if temperatures rise fast once the sun is out.

Adam’s Peak for solo female travelers:

There is no need to hire a guide to walk up with you (as recommended by some guides to solo female travellers). The guesthouses are packed with backpackers all sharing the same goal: Getting up in the middle of the night for some very-early-morning hiking. Everybody is leaving the guesthouses at about the same time, and you will surely find somebody to start walking with, as in fact you will only have to walk on a badly lit, deserted way for the first thirty minutes or so. Also, it is impossible to get lost, as there is only one way up!

When to go:

DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT WALKING UP ON A SATURDAY OR SUNDAY NIGHT!!!! This is when lots of locals go on the pilgrimage as well, and hiking up might take six hours due to the massive crowds.

6 Reasons Why Watermelon Is Awesome

Summer is clearly my favourite season for many reasons. As soon as the sun is out, I feel the urge to spend as much time outdoors as possible – drinking rosé wine by the water, tanning and swimming by the Danube, taking my bike wherever I go… And of course: Eating as much watermelon as I possibly can!

<3 Watermelon <3

It makes for my favourite summer salad

Throw together diced watermelon, feta, a few leaves of mint or basil, some freshly ground pepper and a splash of balsamic and you have the most delicious summer salad. It’s my favourite standalone meal in summer but is also a super side for BBQ. So fresh, so clean! Add some arugula for even more freshness.

It’s fashionable

I brought back a watermelon printed shirt from Bangkok and recently bought some matching trainers. I love whimsical details like this to add a splash of colour to my otherwise almost all-black wardrobe. One of my friends even recommended I get a watermelon tattoo – but I am not so sure whether this is such a good idea…

In love with my new Watermelon Keds <3
In love with my new Watermelon Keds <3

It’s bikini body friendly

While most people claim to lose weight in summer, I am always sure to gain a few pounds, with all the yummy froyos and gelato that I just HAVE to eat. But at least my addiction to watermelon is diet friendly, as it only contains about 30 calories per 100 gram.

It gets the party started

This drink is probably as old as the world, but this trick just never gets boring. Plus it is so easy to make that even mixology dummies like myself can fix it up: Hole out, vodka in, leave to soak, get drunk. Voilà.

Missing my daily watermelon juice in Asia
Missing my daily watermelon juice in Asia

It’s pink

How many pink foods do you know that are not absolutely fabolous? From raspberries to cotton candy: Pink food rules!

It’s juicy and yummy and perfect

As the name suggests, watermelon is full of water and makes for the perfect thirst killer on warm summer days. Nom nom nom nom ok I have to go now and slice up some juicy sweet melon bye!!!

Pink Watermelon

Links I Like #10

Public pools, awesome hostels, Vampire Weekend, picturesque Paris, impressive borders and a little interview with myself: My favourite webpicks of the week.

Links I like10

Fellow traveller Alice from Teacake Travels asked me to do a little interview for her weekly feature Wander Woman Wednesdays. we talked about traveling – surprise, surprise – advice for other solo travelers and lots of other stuff. I think it turned out really well and invite you to check it out: Wander Woman Wednesdays: One Old Gypsy.

Borders are stupid and annoying and cause wars, but I admit that they can look quite good on picture: Physically Depicting Borders Between Countries Around The World.

Paris when it sizzles, Breathless, Amélie, Midnight in Paris – don’t we all agree that Paris looks just fantastic on film and makes you want to pack your bags immediately? From apartments abandoned in WWII to vintage theaters, artsy lofts or the catacombs: Here’s a Catalog of Secret Paris Filming Locations used by French Industry Scouts.

And speaking of packing your bags and leaving: Here are 19 Incredible Hostels Around The World. The ultimate proof that Hostels don’t always need to be old and smelly dormitories with moldy showers..

For no apparent reason, I just remembered that Vampire Weekend is one of the coolest bands alive and that their lead singer is brilliant and hilarious – at least on his Twitter account. You should check it out and me saying this means a lot, as I usually hate Twitter. On the same note: Ezra Koenig is very cute and I want him to be my boyfriend. <3

I usually associate public pools with the heavy smell of chlorine, sun screen, old french fries and children’s pee. Nevertheless, I got myself a season ticket for my local pool, as swimming is still one of my favourite cheap and easy workouts. And these pictures by photographer Stephan Zirwes proof that if you get rid of all the annoying people that tend to hang out there, pools can also be quite aesthetically pleasing:  (via DRLIMA)

[Soundtrack of my Life] Kid Cudi – All Summer

My favourite season is in full swing and I have plenty of cool things planned for the weeks ahead: Horseback riding for the first time in more than a decade in the Austrian countryside, visiting distant family in Bosnia for the first time in 17 years and taking my motorbike license – just to name a few. Hell yes!

Of course, every summer needs its soundtrack. However, I haven’t stumbled upon a really fantastic summer song this year so far. Luckily, this summery tune from 2010, featuring Best Coast and beloved Vampire Weekend, never fails to get me in the perfect mood – even on long winter nights.

Vintage Alps

I have to admit that I discovered the joys of the fresh alpine air only in recent years. As a kid, visiting my great aunt who lives in the middle of the alps for our annual skiing holiday was my nightmare come true. But now, I am actually very much looking forward to visiting her and going on small hikes this summer. And this collection of private vintage photos make me want to pack my backpack and hit the road straight away.

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Credits: All photos via Vintage Alps: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,