What a difference sheer distance can make, when two locales, each over 6,000 feet high happen to be situated some 1500 miles apart! Intrigued? If so, read on.
I was born in an Indian hill station, Mussoorie, 6000-plus feet up in the North Indian foothills of the Himalayas (pictured above) and known for its natural beauty and waterfalls. Among them is my favorite, the Kempty Falls (the name probably derived from the English compound-word ‘camp-tea’!)
The Falls were developed as a tourist destination by a British officer namedJohn Mekinan, around 1835, and are situated on the hilly tracks of Uttarakhand 13 km from Mussoorie on the Chakrata Road: A stream of water running throughout the year starting from the southwest of village Banglow ki kandi moves northwest and falls from 4,500 ft. Splitting into five other cascades, the water falls a further 40 ft. The area around it is dominated by high mountain ranges at an altitude of 4500 feet.
Another favorite spot for me was Landour further up the hill from downtown Mussoorie as it is where St. Paul’s Church is situated and which I always visited over the years when holidaying in Dehra Dun with family members.
Not surprisingly I’ve always enjoyed the climate that enticing places like Mussoorie enjoy in the world – both close to home as well as those further afield, or more accurately in other countries. Mixed in with that climatic observation is the fact that in one of my earlier careers I was involved in the tea industry as the managing agency I worked for had as one of its many corporations the Assam Sawmills and Timber Co., which was the largest manufacturer of tea chests in the country. As a result, in my role as a senior company executive, I visited many tea gardens in Assam and West Bengal in the Northeast, and Nilgiri in southern India, during which time I learned of another important source of black tea: the neighboring island of Ceylon – now known as Sri Lanka.
Came a time when a person whom I first met in New Delhi at a diplomatic party intrigued me with fascinating stories about his homeland – both about its ancient history as well as its modern day developments. I speak of the late Sir Richard Aluwihare, who was Ceylon’s distinguished ambassador to India during my three-year managerial stint in the Indian capital. I got to know him and his family well and it came to pass that one day out of the blue he invited me to his family estate in Matale for a holiday during which time I would have an opportunity of visiting not only neighboring tea gardens including famed Nuwara Eliya as also well-known archaeological sites in the northeast. I accepted his kind invitation with alacrity, and not many months later I found myself in Colombo, the capital, en route to Matale and other destinations in the hinterland for a glorious fortnight’s respite away from the enervating heat of summer in my homeland.
Aluwihares at their home in Matale EstateAfter Matale, I went by bus to the uplands and via Kandy for a busy round of visiting tea gardens in the vicinity of Nuwara Eliya. I’m an avid golfing fan, although I do not play the game.
So in my itinerary I included the famed NE Golf Club dating back to 1889 and set in a part of the island known as “Little England.” The course is located at an altitude of 6,000 ft above sea level: It is an 18 hole, 6,070 yd, Par 70 layout.
The area is also not far from four water
falls. I managed to get to one of them, Devon Falls, before heading north to Anuradhapura for an unforgettable viewing of ancient sculptures – one of Lord Buddha in the ‘lotus’ posture, another of the divinity reclining – and a magnificent Stupa.
On the return trip I spent a couple of days in Columbo and met up with Mrs. D’Silva, the Aluwihare’s daughter, whom I snapped with my Leica camera in her drawing room.
She was an accomplished pianist trained at the Julliard School of Music in New York City. We therefore had a lot to talk about the idiosyncrasies of our favorite composers and specifically about the interpretation of their well-known piano pieces.
Afterword: Nuwara Eliya, which – from a climatic point of view – bears comparison with the lower heights of the Himalaya, has the peculiar advantage of possessing a spacious plain intersected by a running brook of pure water; whereas the convalescent hill stations of Missouri and Simla consist of abrupt ridges with scarcely a vestige of table land on which to build or plant.
References: Wikipedia, My Diary & Photo Albums
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