A Visit to Loolecondera Estate
Located in the Kandy district, a couple of hours from Kandy town, will get you to the tea plantation that first grew tea – Loolecondera or Loolekandura as it is now known. The estate is managed by the state and was the home of James Taylor, the Scottish tea planter who first experimented with growing tea when the coffee blight hit the plantations of Ceylon. He succeeded in 1867 and grew the first few acres of tea as an experiment that worked and saved the British from the coffee blight. Taylor is considered the father of Ceylon tea. Upon entering the estate there is a statue of Taylor with an explanation of his work on the side.
The access into the estate is through a horrid road and so normal cars cannot really go up there. Only 4 wheel drive vehicles and surprisingly, tuk tuks. So we tuk tuked to Taylor’s statue and then walked inside. Through the winding road we came to the place where James Taylor’s cabin originally was – there is only a furnace of sorts remaining, I am assuming the original structure was wood. The tea plants he first planted are there (apparently) and the area is cordoned off. There is an ode to James Taylor penned by someone which is mounted on a board and hung.
One of the key features of Loolekandura is Kondagala rock. A massive protruding slab that is located within the estate, a few hundred metres hike from where Taylor’s cabin was located. It is a simple enough climb though the last bit is a tad precarious. The view from the top is lovely but gets marred from time to time with the constant blowing mist, like wisps of cloud swirling and travelling over the rock. The rock is slanted and you can comfortably walk almost to the tip though we did not venture that far as the slant gets more steep as you proceed to one end. So we hung out on top for a bit and then decided to head back down.
We proceeded to where James Taylor’s well was located. A beautifully serene spot with a few ferns dipping into the icy cool water and little black tadpoles darting around. The well was bordered by a circular paved stone walkway. The entire place was just surreal.
We then went on back in the tuk tuk to James Taylor’s seat. What a view! That view was a panoramic vista of the Victoria reservoir, Hunnasgiriya, Knuckles and Thoppigala amongst others. To anyone who has visited Lipton’s seat – that view is a joke compared to this. You must go here. It was really beautiful and well worth the visit.
We finally departed at sunset, glad that we had made the effort to visit. Wish there was more promotion of the tea story and more history given to visitors.