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Amongst the misty peaks of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, lies the quaint little village of Nanuoya. It is based around a 27km long stream of the same name; originating from Pidurutalagala mountain and falling into Kotmale Oya, a tributary of the great Mahaweli. Consisting of just a few homes and businesses, a single temple, one vihara, and the only Tamil (Tamil being the major language here) school a mile away; Nanuoya is famed for being the railroad entrance to the city of Nuwara Eliya.
All trains on the Colombo – Badulla route stop at this major station which boasts many facilities such as repairs and multiple railway tracks. Built by the British in the late 19th century; the Nanuoya Railway Station was the terminus of the line at the time. It later became the junction where trains branched off to Udapussellawe, but the junction was closed down in 1948 and the tracks removed. Today the station is popular for being one of the major stops on the scenic ride to Ella; and for being the closest train station to Nuwara Eliya.
However, despite the popularity of Nanuoya; one of the little known facts of this village is its natural beauty and the hidden spots with original colonial era architecture. The village is a haven for those who love hiking.
Taking the main road out of the village towards the junction that leads to Hatton leads hikers underneath a pretty bridge and out into the countryside. Not far from the bridge are stairs cut into the cliff on the left that leads to the village’s tiny temple. It’s worth a look at for its picturesqueness.
Almost opposite the staircase on the cliff is a dilapidated old building. This building is almost a century old and was built in the early 1900s when Gandhi came to Sri Lanka. Named Gandhi Hall after him; this basic event hall served as a primary school for several decades before it was retired due to its urgent need for repairs. The front porch is now used by tea pluckers to weigh their pluckings at the end of the day.
Right next to Gandhi Hall runs a downward sloping lane. A perfect example of classic countryside avenues; the lane is filled with pretty colonial era houses and bungalows that were originally built as quarters for railway officers. They have attractive flowering trees and an aura of time. The homes are quite comfortable inside and are often sublet by the workers who occupy it currently. The avenue curves back towards the village and comes out on the opposite side of the railway station, near the tracks.
After coming out of the avenue mentioned above, walk towards your left until you find a little footpath. Following it will allow you to climb the cliff overlooking the station. This path leads to the rows of quarters given to general railway workers. These buildings too are quite old. The inner architecture is very basic and frugal; consisting of a bedroom, living room and kitchen combo arranged in a straight line. They also don’t have attached bathrooms and occupants have to use the common bathrooms located further on. While the living conditions in these are terrible; they’re a luxury when compared to that faced by the tea pluckers. The top of the cliff also provides great views of the entire station; along with incoming trains. So spending a few minutes here can provide some great aerial photographs.
This requires more of a hike. Walk down the main road until the temple mentioned in ‘Hidden Spot 1’. Continue hiking down the road without stopping. Once you turn the curve that is visible from Gandhi Hall; you will find yourself walking down through an idyllic fairytale-like setting. The road makes sweeping curves with the cliff on your left with a green carpet of tea leaves sloping down sharply on your right. Large trees line this slope; dropping their dried leaves onto the road to form cruncy carpet. This hike is best taken early in the morning when the mountains are wreathed in mist; and there is nigh on not a soul in sight. You can get some great photographs here. Take care of the blind junction though; which comes up suddenly on your left after a few twists. This junction has some traffic as the road that joins leads to Hatton.
Continue walking down the road. It will slope down sharply right after the junction and the cliff on your left will end. You will have great views of the rolling hills and fields of tea. You can walk a little distance amongst the tea trees along one of the footpaths, and try to find a few tea berries. Locals break them open and eat the somewhat watery insides to satisfy thirst. Once the road evens out you will come to an old unused cemetery. This haunted-looking place always has a dark pall hanging over it; even on the brightest of days when the sun is out in full force. The tombstones here are very old; some dating from the colonial era. You can check it out if you dare.
This is a somewhat more well-known spot, but should not be missed for its beauty. To reach the spot you need to walk over a mile up from the village towards Nuwara Eliya. The Nanu Oya Falls drop down 25 wide step-like rocks making attractive white froth. While only 60 meters tall; it is one of the most beautiful in the country.