2020 Apr 22
There isn’t a better time of the year to visit Sri Lanka’s own “Little England” than in April. With its cool climate and breath-taking landscapes, Nuwara Eliya is known to provide an exquisite experience for the whole family whether its chasing waterfalls, playing golf, riding horses, eating strawberries, or simply sipping tea.
But things are a little different this year. Due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak, Nuwara Eliya, much like the rest of the world has also come to a standstill. It’s busy yet homely streets have halted. No longer do you find people strolling along Lake Gregory late into the night, dining at the Grand Hotel or filling up the Labookellie tea estate for a hot cup of tea and a slice of chocolate cake. Take a look at this collection of ‘then and now’ pictures we put together to show you just how different things are in Nuwara Eliya this time around.
While mornings are slow and beautiful, the afternoons are usually sunny and cool – on any given day in April, the winding roads at the heart of Nuwara Eliya are bound to be heavy with traffic, come sundown. These bustling streets aligned with a variety of shop are always open for your daily essentials, be it for groceries or a cardigan to keep you warm on chilly days. While Nuwara Eliya is known for its cool climate, it’s home to some of the warmest people in Sri Lanka, with their kind smiles and helping hands. Streets are rarely empty as people will be stocking up on all kinds of things, from the freshest cuts of meat to booze or even bags of coal. Locals and tourists are seen wandering around town before they head over to their rest houses and hotels by dusk.
However, this year, things aren’t quite the same. The mornings continue to be as beautiful as ever, but the roads aren’t bound with heavy traffic and nor are the shops lining those roads filled with busy tourists, local and foreign.
Lake Gregory, constructed during the period of British Governor Sir William Gregory in 1873, happens to be one of the most iconic landmarks of Nuwara Eliya, and its banks happen to be the venue to one of town’s biggest events – the spring carnival (locally known as the Selalihini Wasanthaya)! With the season officially commencing on the 1st of April, every year crowds of thousands come into the city and almost everybody makes time in their schedule to visit the lake for the perfect adrenaline rush, with numerous games and outbound activities.
But this April is not the same. The banks that are otherwise filled with crowds of families and friends from across the country are empty. The water in the lake, otherwise busy with ripples caused by jet skis and joy boats, now lay calm and still.
Victoria Park is another famous attraction to those visiting Nuwara Eliya. Known for the bird-watching opportunities it presents and the flower shows in April, this park attracts hundreds, sometimes thousands, of visitors every season. At the far end of the park is a children’s playground (the miniature railway ride is a crowd favourite). But yet again, much like the rest of the city, the Victoria Park is also very different to what you might be used to seeing in April any other year.
Another prominent event, particularly among Colombo’s elite, is horse racing. The Nuwara Eliya Racecourse, having been the home to horse racing in Sri Lanka since the late 1800s, still bring in crowds of thousands to a number of races they host – one of its most prestigious races being the Governor’s Cup. The Racecourse might even hold more personal memories for some, as it was where some of us had our first horse riding experience.
But now, this landmark, which otherwise might have been hosting thousands, is now empty. And the historic races that have been happening for almost a century, are now put on hold. The Nuwara Eliya Road Race, another crowd favourite, happening at the race track at the Upper Lake road every year, has also seen the same fate as that of the horse races.
And who can forget the visits to the Ambewela Farms – with its rolling hills of luscious greenery, dotted with the purest breeds of cattle? Almost everyone coming into Nuwara Eliya makes a point of visiting this farm to get a glimpse of the beautiful landscapes and to try out fresh dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt.
On the way to the Ambewela Farms, you might also come across a number of strawberry farms, another Nuwara Eliya must-visit, and cafes offering fresh strawberries and other strawberry flavoured delicacies, from syrups, drinks and ice-creams to even pancakes.Yet, like everything else, these too have come to a standstill, with all outlets and cafes closed with no visitors.
While we might not be able to head over to Nuwara Eliya this April, and visit Lake Gregory or drive past roads adorned with beautiful English country houses, we can take this time to be thankful for our front-line workers who are fighting for a better tomorrow for all of us.