Loolkandura and the tale of James Taylor
by Tharushan Fernando
In the beautiful mountainous terrain lies a realm of history and mystique. The rolling verdant fields of tea tell a story of the past, of industry and the impact that one man had on an entire nation.
Around 23km from W15 Hanthana, the road winds through small towns, forests and past sprawling tea estates etched onto the side of the mountains, and you arrive at the Loolconder Tea Factory.
The adventure begins with a bit of knowledge, where you can learn about the process of producing one of the most sought-after commodities throughout history and even in the modern world. Take in the history of "planting," the way of life of the earliest colonial settlers, the manufacturing process, and how flavours are developed to appeal to different palates. If you time it right, you can see the big bulky machines from the colonial past operating with vigour and factory workers attending to a number of tasks throughout the factory floors.
Once you have been briefed with regard to the manufacturing process, take part in tea tasting, where you can learn how the master tea sommeliers get about selecting and commenting on the final product.
Field No.7 and the legend of James Taylor
Take the trails through the 1200-acre estate, where you can see tea-pluckers working their way through the waits high tea plants, picking at the tips and collecting the leaves that would eventually become the beverage that rejuvenates many throughout the world. While the bright green fields stand as a testament to the industry, there lies an unassuming field where the country tea industry was born.
A 17-year-old Scotsman arrives in British Ceylon in 1852 to work at the Loolconder Estate, which was growing coffee at that time. The coffee industry was still prospering in Ceylon, but within a few years, coffee plantations were decimated by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, popularly known as coffee leaf rust and between 1869 and 1985, the disease spread from Sri Lanka to practically every coffee-growing region in the world.
It was around this time that Taylor visits India to learn about growing tea. Upon his return, Taylor planted a 21-acre plot of tea on Loolecondera in 1867 – Field No 7 and the rest as they say, is history.
Once you manage to take in the sights and the history, you fall back to the trail, which leads you further towards the forest, where you will come upon the ruins of James Taylor's log cabin. The old fireplace and a well-kept garden speak a thousand words, and for a moment, you can imagine Mr Taylor doing some daily task or wandering about his domain.
Once you've digested the remarkable history, a trail is tucked away to the side with rock that depicts an arrow pointing towards the mountain and the words Kondagala.
The trail becomes more challenging as it runs deeper into the mountain and the forest cover becomes thicker. Trekking under the towering trees and climbing over rocks and a number of ledges, you finally come across a large rock face and what seems like the end. However, the beauty of the mountains never disappoints.
Once you climb through a crevice on the side of the rock face, you come to the top and then greeted by the most stunning view. The top of the rock is between two valleys on either side, where you can almost touch the clouds. The view itself is a combination of mountains, forests and small settlements scattered across the landscape.
After taking in the brilliant and captivating sight, sit down and indulge in a cup of a warm beverage of your choice to warm both the body and soul while the cool winds keep you company.
Then descend down the mountain using the same trail, but after working your way out of the forest, the next stop is lunch at the famous James Taylor's seat. The seat, as the name suggests, was where James Taylor himself would sit and observe the realm whose landscape he would eventually change. A stunning spot with a vast and elegant view is the perfect place to rest those wary legs and indulge in a local meal. Rice and curry wrapped in a banana leaf is the ideal way to regain all your energy while tasting the fiery spirit of the island's local cuisine.
The total trek is around 10km, with 4 km through the estate, and another 1 km to the top of the Kondagala rock.
W15 Hanthana provides everything you need for this amazing adventure which includes the presence of our in-house naturalist and a butler, who will give you everything you need to take on the trails of Loolkanda. From setting up a picnic with a stunning view to carrying all the essentials and providing you with much-needed insights and making sure you spot the vibrant wildlife that you would miss otherwise, the W15 team will ensure that your journey to the top and the entire experience is one that is both thrilling and luxurious.
Tharushan FernandoContent Creator
Former journalist, copywriter, concept developer and digital media professional. Has been in the field of professional writing for over 10 years, with experience in a variety of industries, including advertising, content writing and news. He is currently working as the content writer for Steradian Capital Investments and W15 Collection.
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