#7 - World's End
Updated: Mar 23, 2020
After four eventful nights in Tomorrowland it really was time to re-hit the road. Fortunately for me, this meant another hour spent hanging out of the door of the hill-country train, only this time heading towards the town of Haputale.
The town’s location on the southern tip of the mountain ridge really was magnificent, and it owes much of it status as CNN Travel’s 14th most overlooked place in Asia (I found a better stat somewhere I promise) to the stunning landscapes that encircle it: the northern side offers towering visuals of Horton’s Plains and the country’s highest peaks, while the views from the southern side reach over the mountains and into the lowlands beyond.
My chosen hostel – guidebook-suggested Sri Lak View – gave me a private ensuite, and for the night the solitude was much welcome. I was in Haputale for one purpose: to visit World’s End.
With the evening to spare, I took a sweeping walk round the bite-sized town before coming across Sunrise Restaurant. I asked the waiter if they offer sunsets as well, which indeed they did, and so I walked up to the rooftop eagerly anticipating a romantic dinner for one under the night sky. However, I miscalculated the effects of a 1579-metre altitude, not even lasting upstairs long enough to order before making my way back down to the main restaurant area. I then accidentally bought enough food for around four to five people, with my beef curry quite extraordinarily arriving in seven separate bowls. All I can say is I will severely miss Sri Lankan portion sizes.
And so it was on a full stomach at half five the next morning that I set off for the Plains. My original tuk tuk driver had decided to pull a no-show, presumably after I failed to pay him 500 rupees in advance, but luckily a second was ready and waiting virtually at my doorstep. The journey was of course largely uphill, the three-wheeler twisting and turning along mountain ridges as the engine panted away. We paused at several intervals to admire a sunrise fit for the Lion King, and after a long while the gradient had plateaued and the Plains were in sight.
It was as we drove through fields of frost-covered grass that I began regretting my decision to turn up in shorts, a t-shirt and a light fleece. At 2100 metres, the cold was biting. My tuk tuk driver dropped me off and gave me a three hour deadline for the 11km round trip, and with that I was off. The layers of colour were unlike anything else I had experienced in Sri Lanka so far, with the usual palette of dense greens replaced by a varied assortment of lighter browns. The Plains attracted a much older crowd than some of the more arduous Sri Lankan treks, and indeed much of the route was flat, allowing one to take in the full host of sights and sounds. After around 5km, a crowded platform broke out of the vegetation and World’s End emerged. I had arrived early enough to beat the fog and celebrated with a hearty breakfast of leftovers from my curry the night before. Of course, the views were amazing, with the sheer cliff-face opening up an expansive mountain panorama before me, apparently extending as far as the coast on a clear day. I spent so long dawdling in fact that the final few kilometres turned into a race to get back to avoid a reprimanding from the tuk tuk guy and most probably a hefty fine. I made it though, and by this stage the shorts had been fully vindicated as the temperatures had risen closer to the Sri Lankan average, making the freezing early morning seem like a world away.
Upon return to Sri Lak View I enjoyed a supremely relaxing breakfast in the sun, overlooking the lowlands that I was soon to be heading for, and within a few hours I was on my way down the mountains in a typically overcrowded bus. Next stop – Tissamaharama (Tissa for short).
This town in popular with tourists only as a convenient starting base for the country’s largest and most popular wildlife park: Yala national park. Having ticked a safari off my to-do-list however, I was only interested in a short morning visit to Kataragama, the second most popular pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka after Adam’s Peak. As the rest of the hostel set off on a leopard hunt at four in the morning, I woke up at a leisurely time and made the short journey up north. Upon arrival, the first thing I did was purchase my third pair of sunglasses (having snapped the second the previous day). The second thing I did was accidentally walk into a Buddhist temple in trainers, shorts and a flamboyant Mallorcan fedora. And then I treated myself to some popcorn. The lady served it in a big red basket from the town’s chocolate-coloured sacred river, and as I munched away she made gestures towards the swathes of fish with their mouths in the air. I knew I was meant to feed them, but I was hungry, so they could wait. As I enjoyed my make-shift breakfast, a monkey nearby grabbed a watermelon from a fruit stall and scarpered into the nearest tree. The shop’s owner was livid and immediately got his son to run out and fire at the monkey repeatedly with what looked like an airsoft rifle. Another one of those ‘only in Sri Lanka’ moments.
I nearly overslept on the return bus, but I made it back to Best Hostel Two in good time (the owner had two hostels in the area, I presume the other was called Best Hostel One). What awaited me next was a long stint in Sri lanka’s party capital: Mirissa; and more specifically, the talk of the nation amongst backpackers in the shape of Why Not Hostel. I had a feeling that the next few days were going to ramp up the ante quite considerably… and they sure did.