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plains. From this point the road sensibly descends, and at length debouches suddenly on the wide and open valley in which the village of Newera Ellia stands. There is nothing particularly fine in this part of the plains, but the scene, from the contrast which it presents to the generality of Oriental landscapes, strikes forcibly on the mind of him who, for the first time, beholds it, and leaves an impression which is not easily effaced from the tablet of memory. The thatched cottages-the chimneys with their respective columns of smoke wreathing upwards—and, above all, the keen blast which you encounter as you leave the cover of the woods and emerge on the open plain-all these are so entirely dissimilar from all one is accustomed to view and experience within the tropics, that the novelty is at first delightful and exhilarating.
This effect is much increased by the appearance of the flowers and plants proper to the colder climes. On every side may be seen splendid wild rhododendrons, which in this Alpine region seem to rival the best specimens of those nurtured in the valleys of other lands. The violet, the geranium, and the rose, all flourish in perfection in and around the plains. Nor are the less showy, but more valuable, plants of the vegetable kingdom in any degree unappreciated or neglected by the dwellers in these elevated plains, where the fruits and productions of Europe appear commingled with those of Asia. In addition to the vulgar luxuries of potatoes and cabbages, and other culinary articles, the strawberries and gooseberries, which grow in great abundance in the gardens of the European residents, deserve honourable mention.
The plains of Newera Ellia contain about seven square miles. A road circumscribes their entire extent, and forms the fashionable drive, which, there being no rival, is likely long to remain. The centre of the valley is occupied by rich grass land, through which a little river slowly meanders. Around are the houses of the European residents, few and far between, and looking sufficiently sombre and melancholy in their solitude. Newera Ellia is, in truth, a new creation, and still in a state of transition from the majesty of “ nature unadorned" to the less sublime, yet equally pleasing, charms that belong to cultivation. Some of its panegyrists consider it an embryo Paradise, and invalids, who have benefited by a temporary residence there, are natually apt to entertain grateful reminiscences of the scene of their convalescence. Nevertheless, it must be confessed that the merit of these plains rests rather on the climate of the favoured region wherein they are located, than on their claims to beauty. An European climate within the tropics is not, however, to be lightly esteemed, and, when weighed in the balance against the petty desagrémens of a tame landscape and a thick mist that, owing to their elevation and the attraction of the encircling mountains, constantly overhangs the plains, will assuredly not be found wanting.
Newera Ellia is to Ceylon what the Neilgherries and the lower ranges of the snow-capped Himalayas are to the presidencies of Madras and Calcutta. The elevation of Ootacamund, the chief station in the Neilgherries, above the level of the sea, nearly approximates to that of Newera Ellia. There can be little, if any, material difference between the climates of the two stations; but the Anglo-Cingalese have a great advantage over their continental neighbours in the near vicinity of Newera Ellia to the principal stations in the island. By the shortest routes from Madras to Ootacamund, the distance exceeds 350 miles. To invalids, the fatigues of such a journey over the burning sands of the Carnatic almost amount to an actual prohibition against undertaking it. From Newera Ellia to the capital of the island, the distance does not greatly exceed one hundred miles. Nor should the additional facilities of travelling in
Asial Journ N & Vor 25 No 127
Ceylon be forgotten, in drawing a comparison which, however indifferent to the strong and robust, is of the utmost importance in estimating the relative merits and advantages of the two invalid stations.
Being designed for the use of less ephemeral wayfarers than those who frequent the ordinary rest-houses on the roads, the accommodations of that at Newera Ellia are much superior to those generally found in these homes for the weary. There are about a dozen rooms, divided into three suites of apartments for the reception of different parties. The windows look out on the plains, and command a bird's-eye view of the principal houses, which are occupied by the commandant of the station, the government-agent, and the few military stationed at the place. Behind the house are the sources of the rivulet that wanders through the plains. In pursuing its headlong course down the sides of the neighbouring mountains, the constant attrition of the stream has worn several natural baths in its rocky bed, the intense frigidity of which operates like a charm on the relaxed nervous systems of the parboiled Colombites.
It was at one period intended to dam up this little river, and, by thus inundating the valley through which it flows, to form a small lake. A narrow gorge, through which the stream makes its egress from the plains, offers every facility for the proposed improvement. Should it be carried into effect, the station will attract as much attention on the score of beauty as it now most deservedly does on account of its salubrity. But, until that metamorphosis shall be accomplished, it will be somewhat difficult to discover loveliness of scenery in a broad flat valley, skirted by a few desolate-looking cottages which, without any claims to the character of ornamental, have a certain whitewashed aspect that completely banishes all idea of the picturesque.
From the summits of nearly all the heights that encircle the Newera Ellia plains, extensive and magnificent views may be obtained. These heights, when viewed from the valley they surround, do not redeem the otherwise tame features of the landscape. Their outline is, generally speaking, monotonous, and they rather resemble vast protuberances than majestic mountains. Pedrotallagalla, which attains an altitude of eight thousand feet above the sea, and rises immediately over the Newera Ellia rest-house, is particularly characterized by the absence of those undulations and lower features which so greatly add to the beauty of mountain-scenery. It has, however, obtained a reputation that rests on its loftiness rather than on its external grandeur. It is believed to be the highest elevation in Ceylon. Adam's Peak was long considered to be so, but late geodesical operations have set the question at rest by giving the palm to its rival.
It is usual to consider Pedrotallagalla one of the principal "lions" of the plains, and to quit them without climbing its rugged sides would, in the opinion of all good and true Anglo-Cingalese, imply a lamentable lack of energy. The mountain is, however, so frequently encanopied with thick mists, that the majority of those who "seek the bubble reputation" on its lofty brow return sadly disappointed. But as the view which it commands in clear weather is really sublime, few are deterred by the fate of such unfortunate adventurers. The ascent is, in many places, extremely steep, and, on the whole, rather trying to any but accomplished pedestrians. The mountainpath is frequently choked up with the luxuriant jungle that surrounds it, which, unless kept in check by the constant presence of the pruning-hook, would speedily obliterate all traces of it. Several peeps through the intervals of the jungle at the grand scenery of the surrounding country may be enjoyed
before you reach the highest point of the mountain, but when that is attained, the magnificent prospect, which is beheld in every direction, surpasses all description. Immediately at the base of the chain of heights which is crowned by Pedrotallagalla, the plains of Newera Ellia stretch away, as it were, beneath the feet of the spectator. The fine country of Ouva, which is considered the richest province in the island, is seen more in the distance; and behind, in the back-ground, towers Adam's Peak, which is visible in all its glory. In whatever direction the eye wanders, it feasts on the gorgeous handiwork of nature unassisted by art. Traces of the presence of mankind are no where distinguishable in the landscape that rewards the exertions of him who scales the steep and rugged sides of Pedrotallagalla. Mountains upon mountains, horrid crags, and impervious forests, appear to defy the power of man, and give a stern, magnificent, yet withal, a somewhat savage and awe-striking, aspect to the face of the country.
After gazing on this sublime scene for some time, and taking notes as to the bearings of some conspicuous heights, we commenced descending the mountain-side—an undertaking which is almost, if not quite, as fatiguing as the ascent. The celebrated definition, man is a cooking animal," was never more forcibly illustrated than on this occasion. The bitter keenness of the air on the summit of Pedrotallagalla is sensibly felt even by the acclimated dwellers in the plains of Newera Ellia, and produces an appetite which it usually is a matter of some difficulty to allay. "If we have writ our annals true," speculations on the character of the breakfast that awaited our return at the rest-house seemed to occupy the minds of the less sentimental of my compagnons de voyage more than those reflections on the "sublime and beautiful" which the scene we had just beheld was so well calculated to call forth.
The plains of Newera Ellia form but a small portion of the long and narrow table-land that extends, in a south-westerly direction, towards the Saffragan district, and is generally known by the name of the Maturatta country. No part of Ceylon is more secluded than this Alpine region, inhabited as it is by a race of mountaineers, whose hardy habits and capabilities of enduring intense cold distinguish, and in some degree separate, them from their fellow-countrymen of the plains. Upon the Maturatta district immense forests of valuable trees grow, and remain untouched save by the decaying fingers of time. At intervals, wide plains, of similar character to that of Newera Ellia, but of much greater extent, occur to interrupt the uniformities of the wooded landscape. The Horton plains, so called in honour of the late governor, Sir Robert Wilmot Horton, afford a magnificent specimen of the open and undulating vistas that are embosomed amid the solitude of the majestic and wide-spreading forests which adorn the table-land of Maturatta. They spread over a nearly circular space, the perimeter of which is about twenty-five miles, and being somewhat more elevated than the general level of the adjacent country, experience a proportionate degree of cold.
Some idea of the topographical ignorance of both Europeans and natives regarding this lofty and salubrious district may be formed from the fact of the existence of these beautiful plains being unknown until within the last five years. They were first seen by Lieuts. Fisher and Watson, of the 58th and Ceylon Rifle regiments, who discerned them from the summit of a distant hill. Having taken the bearings of the spot, they cut their way towards it, through the dense forests that intervened, and were at length rewarded by arriving at by far the most extensive and magnificent plains that have hitherto been discovered in Ceylon.
Elephants, the monarchs of Ceylon forests, are occasionally but rarely seen in the Maturatta province. They usually confine their wanderings to the flat country, or to tracts that are not greatly raised above the level of the sea. But the chetahs, or hunting tigers, though found in most parts of the island, seem to enjoy the keenness of the mountain air, and to flourish in a temperature that is shunned by the rest of the animal world. Their audacity reaches its acmé in this temperate region, the rustic inhabitants of which often suffer in purse, if not in person, from the effects of their constant depredations. In Ceylon, this animal seems to supply the place of the formidable Bengal tiger. That tyrant of the Indian jungles is not met with in this island; but chetahs, who may be termed tigers in miniature, are extremely numerous. They commonly measure four feet in extreme length, but seldom attain a greater height than eighteen or twenty inches. The most powerful dogs have no chance with a full-grown chetah, who frequently springs upon them from his concealed lair in the jungle, and immediately destroys them.
From Newera Ellia, the only roads leading to other stations are those to Kandy and Badulla. The latter place is about forty miles distant towards the south-east, and is situate in the province of Ouva, which, though less fortunate in its geographical position than the Saffragan district, is not inferior in natural advantages or in point of scenery to any other in the island. The road connecting Badulla with Newera Ellia is the only one by which this fine province is traversed. At the point where it begins to descend from the plains of Maturatta to the comparatively low district of Ouva, an extensive and beautiful view of that fine province is commanded. After entering within the limits of Ouva, the road soon degenerates into a narrow and occasionally dangerous pathway, now skirting the faces of precipitous cliffs, and again wandering along the bottom of deep and gloomy ravines.
Mid-way between Badulla and Newera Ellia, a wide and open tract of rich grass-land, named Wilson Plain, in compliment to Lieut. General Sir John Wilson, lately commanding the forces in Ceylon, extends its smooth velvet carpet over a softly undulating country. In the centre of the plain stands a bungalow, built by a hunting-club, which lived for a brief space amid these romantic scenes, and then expired for want of matériel whereon to practise the science of venerie. For it is a singular fact, that the Kandian provinces, apparently so well calculated for the increase and multiplying of abundance of game of all descriptions, are extremely destitute of every kind, always excepting the lordly elephant. Hares and snipe are tolerably numerous, but wild pigs, deer, and jungle-fowl, a bird bearing some resemblance to a pheasant, are seldom seen, and, by reason of the thick cover in which they are invariably found, still more rarely shot. Florikin and teal, which afford a constant resource to the Anglo-Indian sportsman, are quite unknown in Ceylon, and the only woodcock that, in the memory of man, ever appeared in the island, was shot by Lieut. Bligh, of H.M. 61st regt., and is now preserved in the Colombo Museum as an extraordinary curiosity. Elk, which usually lie in the most retired recesses of the forest, afforded the chief source of amusement to the members of the ephemeral Ceylon Hunting Club. They abound in and around the Wilson Plain, but their extreme timidity, which belies the ferocity of their appearance, renders it difficult to drive them out of the impervious thickets, to which they pertinaciously cling for protection against the arch-enemy of the beasts of the forest. It was, therefore, a rare event to bring them to bay in the open country, and the hounds that came up with them in the jungle usually began, continued, and ended the chace without the
aid or presence of the huntsmen, who, much to their mortification, were generally compelled to remain stationary at the edge of the forest, and listen to the music of the baying of the dogs erectis auribus.
After traversing the extensive Wilson Plain, the Badulla road again plunges into a succession of cliffs and chasms; but their character now becomes less stern, and gradually changes to the gently-rounded features and level plains of a champaign country. Badulla is by no means an uninteresting spot. The houses stand on the slope of a steep eminence, and command a pleasing prospect of hill and dale. Immediately behind the town, if a paltry hamlet merits that appellation, the mountain yclept Kammoonakooli lifts its majestic outline and gigantic mass towards heaven, and reaches an altitude of nearly seven thousand feet.
Badulla is garrisoned by a company of the Ceylon Rifles, and is the principal military station in the secluded district of which it is the capital. The country around is particularly fertile, and, being raised three thousand feet above the sea, is extremely well adapted for the culture of coffee, a large quantity of which is grown in its neighbourhood. The district around has always been famed for the multitude of elephants that in numerous herds wander over it and the adjacent province of Bintenne. They chiefly abound in the neighbourhood of Alipoot, the most advanced post in this direction, where there is a small military detachment. It is not unusual to see ten or twenty elephants, followed by their young, in the same herd. The crashing sound which so many gigantic brutes produce in forcing their way through the long tangled underwood and jungle is often distinctly heard at a considerable distance, in the silence of the night, when the elephants come forth from the cool retreats wherein they have avoided the noontide heats. The cry, or, as it is generally called, the trumpeting of the animal, which is very peculiar and shrill, serves as an accompaniment to the falling of the trees and the snapping of the branches that impede his progress or tempt his somewhat fastidious appetite. These nocturnal sounds cannot be better described than in the words of Southey :
Trampling his path through wood and brake,
On comes the elephant, to slake
thirst at noon, in yon pellucid springs. Lo! from his trunk upturned aloft he flings
The grateful shower; and now,
Plucking the broad-leaved bough
Of yonder plane, with waving motion slow,
After heavy rains, the track of these herds is easily detected by the impres→ sions of their feet on the soft clay. Some of the natives evince considerable sagacity in immediately detecting the least vestige of the foot-print of an elephant. From the most trifling marks, they can confidently state the number, and, what appears still more extraordinary, the size, of the elephants composing the herd. The secret of this last discovery consists in the anatomical fact, that twice the circumference of an elephant's foot is exactly equal
* The Curse of Kehama.