The SpaceThere’s a colloquial phrase in Sinhala, “ahase maliga hadanda epaa” – don’t build castles in the sky. Nonetheless that’s what we’ve done. It’s been our pet project for the better part of a decade, with our Bungalow in the Clouds the result.
This spacious 5,000 square foot eco-home sits near the top of a small mountain in Uva Province on the eastern side of the central hill country, with spectacular views of the plains all the way to Kataragama and Hambantota. The house is built almost entirely from the stones and trees on our land, and recycled doors and windows from the demolition of an old shop in Homagama. The elevation is about 4,000 feet, making the climate outstanding. It’s warm (but rarely muggy) during the day, and cool enough at night to snuggle under a light quilt.
The ground floor is a work in progress. It has a finished bedroom with a queen bed, sofa bed, and balcony; a large bathroom with a rainwater shower (with excellent water pressure); and a large (not quite finished) hang out space. The main floor includes a spacious open concept living/dining/kitchen (with a fridge, dishwasher, stovetop, microwave, and toaster oven); an expansive master bedroom and bath with a rainwater shower; and a balcony that runs the length of the house. On the rooftop, you’ll find a third smaller bedroom with two double beds, along with a large hang out area with a pergola, hammocks, and copper fire pit. Sheets, blankets, towels, dishes, cookware, etc. are all on-site. Both showers have solar-powered hot water (but it's gravity fed, so the pressure is stronger downstairs). We also have wireless internet, though it’s not always “high speed.” You are welcome to raid whatever you find in the organic herb and vegetable gardens located in plant troughs on the main floor balcony and rooftop. Guest AccessWe rent out our home during the times that we’re away (the whole place is yours), and have an on-site manager, Malika, who will meet you and show you the ropes when you arrive. Her native tongue is Tamil, but she’s fluent in Sinhala and can speak a bit of English.
Malika’s also a fantastic chef, and would be available to prepare meals (no beef), cooked and sent up from her home. She can make basic Western food, but her local dishes – rice and curry, dhosa and sambar, for example – are to die for! If you’re interested, let us know and we can discuss further and coordinate. She can also arrange for someone to sweep/clean every couple of days if you wish. Meals and cleaning during your stay are offered FOR A FEE (prices are reasonable, and detailed in the house manual). Interaction with GuestsWe're available via email, text, and international phone when we're out of the country; also via local phone when we're in the country. Our manager Malika is available via phone and lives in the nearby tea estate village.
PLEASE NOTE: Malika is our manager and a wonderful host, but she is NOT there to offer maid service, full-time or otherwise. For her safety, she will not travel to/from the house after dusk, as the path she walks to the village can have snakes and even the occasional elephant. The NeighborhoodThis is a place to come primarily for quiet relaxation and to hang out with friends. I use it as a writing retreat and get lots of reading done. The rooftop is a great place for yoga or meditation. And the surrounds are a good place to hike. If you take a short climb up the path to the hilltop peak just above our house, there’s a set of large rocks that are superb for a picnic or sunset cocktails (there’s a thermos in the cupboard for just such occasions). One of our favorite things to do on clear nights is sit on our balcony and watch the moon rise over the adjoining mountain. And the rooftop star gazing is spectacular!
Folks in the tea estate village are always happy to interact with visitors. If you wander down, don’t be surprised if you’re invited into someone’s home for a cup of tea or cool drink. We also run a small Montessori pre-school in the village; if you’re interested in doing an arts and crafts project with the children, please let us know in advance and we can coordinate with the teacher – they’d be thrilled! If you’re really adventurous and want to try your hand at plucking tea, that also can be arranged in advance (though you’ll want to make a donation to the tea pluckers who take time out of their day to teach you). It’s the same if you’d like to go on a longer, guided hike (for example, to the adjoining mountain, Millennium Point, or the top of Diyaluma Falls). Someone from the village will be happy to take you, but you’ll want to arrange in advance and compensate them for their time. Getting AroundIf you’re driving, it’s not essential but we recommend coming in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. You must arrive before dusk. If you come by train (Haputale is the nearest station) or bus (to Koslanda), a tri-shaw (tuk-tuk) can be arranged – these can make it up to the house – but please note that they’ll only come during the day because of the small number of wild elephants who occasionally wander these parts.
With advance notice, we can provide our 4-wheel drive jeep (with a driver) on a per-kilometer basis (plus payment to the driver), including to bring you here from Colombo or elsewhere (in which case you don't need to arrive before dark, though it's still a good idea), or take you on short excursions (the tourist town of Ella is about 1.5 hours away, Uda Wallawe is 2 hours, and Arugam Bay is 3). Other Things to NoteOur home is close to heaven for us, but we recognize that it isn’t for everyone. So before booking, please consider some of the quirks of staying in a remote area. For starters, it’s just that: REMOTE! It’s 6 hours from Colombo, approximately 30 minutes drive to the nearest town (Koslanda), and 1.5 hours to either Bandarawela (via Haputale) or Ella (via Wellawaya). This means it’s best to stop for groceries and supplies on your way, as they’ll be inconvenient to get once you’re here. Our home sits atop a small tea estate, and the estate village is about 15 minutes down the hill by foot (through tea bush paths) or by vehicle (on a notoriously steep, windy tea estate road). There’s a small shop there with some basics like sugar, tea, eggs, and milk powder. If you do need food or supplies from Koslanda, they can be delivered with one day’s notice for a small additional fee.
Regarding the notoriously steep, windy tea estate roads, travel to our place may not be ideal if you're nervous about steep climbs on unpaved roads. This is why we recommend a 4-wheel drive vehicle (see "getting around"). We've had friends make it up here in their cars - and even tri-shaws can come - but it's definitely much easier with 4-wheel drive and a confident but careful driver. As one friend who's afraid of heights put it, "it's not for the faint of heart!"
Remote areas also mean critters (like field mice, insects, and more rarely, snakes); we don’t have much problem with them but it’s a reality of living with nature (and "much" may depend on your perspective - if the thought of this causes you anxiety, our home probably isn't for you).
It’s rare, but there are occasional power outages (at such times, we light candles and enjoy the stars). Our water supply is gravity fed from a spring on the mountain; every now and then the line is trampled by an elephant or wild boar and has to be repaired. When this happens, there's still hot water in the solar tank (accessible through the kitchen tap or two showers) but of course it's inconvenient for about a half a day. None of these things are likely to happen when you're here, but give it some thought and make sure you can take it in stride if they do! Also, our home isn’t built for kids, so if you bring small children they’ll require close supervision.
Malika's father's dog, Kalu, has adopted us. She's very friendly and laid back, but don't be surprised if she shows up and makes herself at home! Malika's dogs also sometimes follow her up to the house, but they usually head back home with her.
Typically the weather is dry from June through October, and again from February to mid-April. Monsoon season is November through January, with rain also during inter-monsoon from mid-April through May. During monsoon season it normally rains a few hours a day and it’s a bit chillier, but the view to the plains clears up in the late afternoon and is spectacular, and it’s a great time for nighttime star gazing. Monsoon season is also when the clouds roll into the house (thus Bungalow in the Clouds!).