Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tea Country

Dave mounts steps to the Manor House at Haputale, photo by Mary M Payne

  Adam's peak of Sri Lanka is a much taller mountain than the one we propose to climb today.  Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka ascribe it to where Adam, the first ancestor set foot when he was expelled from the Garden of Eden.  The legends purport that Sri Lanka was the original Eden and in the Muslim tradition Adam was 30 ft. tall so I suppose his foot print on the mountain makes it plausible to some.   But unseasonable rain during the night puts paid to our idea of climbing even "little Adam's peak" today. 

Adam's Peak in the distance, Sri Lanka, photo by Mary m Payne

 Instead we divert to take a walk through a tea plantation where we can at least see the two Adam's peaks in the distance.  

Little Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, photo by Mary M Payne

Ian, Dee and Pamela take a trail through a tea plantation, Sri Lanka
On our way through the estate we encounter a woman gathering sticks for firewood,  a boy and his bicycle wheel toy.... exuberantly pushing it everywhere;  and a snake charmer and a guy with his monkey.   Of course.   Why not? 

Sri Lankan woman gathering sticks for firewood.  photo by Mary M Payne

Ingenious toy of Sri Lankan boy,  photo by Mary M Payne

Fellow with pet monkey,  photo by Dave Puckett

Snake charmer,  photo by Dave Puckett

Our next stop is to meet up with a local guide and learn all about tea in Sri Lanka.  

Plantation tea pickers , Sri Lanka  photo by Mary M Payne

Tea picker measures height of bushes with bamboo pole,  photo by Mary M Payne

Our local guide for the tea planation

Interesting facts arise from the local guide.   For example all the large trees on the estate have numbers on them so they can keep track of them lest they be stolen in the night to use for fuel.   

But more important is the state of the workers we are seeing...Here is what I have tried to corroborate online.  ( I have put only the main body of the text from Wikipedia)

  "Directly and indirectly, over one million Sri Lankans are employed in the tea industry. A large proportion of the workforce is young women and the minimum working age is twelve. As tea plantations grew in Sri Lanka and demanded extensive labour, finding an abundant workforce was a problem for planters. Sinhalese people were reluctant to work in the plantations so Indian Tamils were brought to Sri Lanka at the beginning of the coffee plantations.  Immigration of Indian Tamils steadily increased and by 1855 there were 55,000 new immigrants. By the end of the coffee era there were some 100,000 in Sri Lanka. 

Girls typically follow their mothers, grandmothers and older sisters on the plantations, and the women are expected to perform most of the domestic duties. They live in housing known as "lines", a number of linearly attached houses with one or two rooms. This housing system and the environmental sanitation conditions are generally poor for laborers in the plantation sector. There are typically 6 to 12 or 24 line rooms in one line barrack. Rooms for laborers are often without windows and there is little or no ventilation. As many as 6 to 11 members may often live in one room together.

The tea plantation is structured in a social hierarchy and the women, who often consist of 75%–85% of the work force in the industry, are at the lowest social strata and are powerless. Wages are typically particularly low. In Nuwara Eliya, women were once paid as little as 7 rupees per kilogram, the equivalent of 4 pence, or 7 cents, they have to collect minimum of 16 kg of tea leaves every day and many must complete 16 km a day. So they minimum average daily pay is 112 rupees(60p). " Wikipedia

These are sobering facts and we realize that we are seeing the "poorest of the poor" of this country while visiting the tea industry workers. 


  1. Bruce Bethany commented on your link.

    Everyone should read Michael Ondaatje's lovely memoir Running in the Family. It's about growing up in Ceylon, now named Sri Lanka. He also wrote The Engish Patient.

    Bruce B.

  2. Thanks, Mary, Great blog.


  3. I can also recommend "The Jam Fruit Tree" the first of a trilogy by Carl Mueller, truly a masterpiece, so moving and takes us back in time..


  4. Mary, I have been reading your blog. It is rather amazing; what a rich environment for pictures.
    But you have a natural talent for it. On your first post, after the trip, the last photo of "Fisherman's
    children at Dutch Bay" is mesmerizing. The observer is drawn into their eyes.
    I am still studying the rest of the blog. Looks like you had a great trip.