S R I L A N K A 'S H O R T O N P L A I N S
Text by Anu Weerasuriya (May 1991)
Photography by Luxshman Nadaraja
WALK ALONE THROUGH THE SILENT plain of Horton to the end of the world. Stand 2,000 metres high, at the edge of the cold, frosted grassland and lower your eyes towards the next landmark - the tea plantations of Nagrac, some 900 metres below. Gaze onward beyond the waves of mountains, filigree waterfalls, hazy lakes and paddy fields to the pink salterns of Hambantota and the shimmering sea, in a horizonless sweep.
At Horton Plains the central mountain massif is shaved into a tabletop of rolling patna punctuated by rhododendron and bracketed by sporadic swathes of evergreen forest. Temperatures at night drop to 0C. Yet while the air and the water in the streams are bracing, the .sun is fiery. On a magnificent day the dawn is misty; noon is the time of blue skies and limitless vision; sunset is orange and burgundy; and twilight, a quiet, purple hour.
Breaking through the mist, the morning sun transforms elusive silhouettes into lichen-draped trees. A stray beam catches the velvet on an antler and soon the plains are alive with russet sambas moving into sheltered jungle copses. Vehicle headlamps at night pick out 70, 80, 200 sambas.