Cancelling the hike wasn’t really a bad thing after all! It offered us more hours of sleep which were needed and came in highly appreciated, and at the same time allowed us to have a chilled start of the day. Though it was gloomy with few drops of rain every now and again that morning, we decided to go for a walk around town after breakfast. We walked towards the downtown along Lake Gregory which came with a background of misty hills that were decorated by colored houses.
It was calm and quiet during those morning hours which made the walk relaxing and enjoyable. There is nothing much to see in Nuwara Eliya but the famous red brick post office is a must. There is a golf course close to the lake for those who play the game. And if you are up to some local food, cross the street from the fruit market to have an authentic local meal
(TIP: they close at 12 pm.)
That walk rounded up our short visit to Nuwara Eliya and marked the time to embark on that acclaimed train trip between Kandy and Ella, a trip that was cut shorter by us hopping in from Nuwara Eliya instead of Kandy. So we took our backpacks, my huge one included, and went to the train station with the help of a tuk tuk trying to catch a couple of second class tickets. We managed to get the tickets alright but surprise, surprise, the train was going to be delayed for few hours and there was nothing we can do about it but to comply. Honestly, after what happened to me while going to Scotland last summer, those hours of waiting were totally fine by me! A lesson I learned the hard way that no matter how well I plan my trip, it’s never under control! So I only need to cope and adjust to the new situation because who knows what the new happenings can bring 😉
The train station was nothing fancy! I have never seen wood being used that extensively in a train station, it has few scattered seats, a waiting room for foreigners (!!!), and a waiting room that said Gents with another that said Ladies and even those were categorized according to class! Impressively, they recycle. And strangely, the locals sat at the very end of the station away from us, foreigners.
Those waiting hours were so sociable, everyone was interactive, we talked about our lives while exchanging travel experience, it was simply great. One of the people Sara and I met during waiting was Susan, an Irish lady who was volunteering in Sri Lanka for a couple of months. She was on the later train so when ours came we said our good byes and left. I felt bad for not taking her number so we could have met in Ella later but it wasn’t such a big deal after all.
With second class tickets on that train trip, you will be lucky if you can find a seat and since we were running low on luck, we couldn’t find any of course!! Now when you stand, and probably you will, you have to claim your spot and hold on to it especially if that spot is by the never closed door which offers the best views. Now, talking about views, it ran all through the trip and the hills were covered in mist so you can imagine the disappointment. It was pretty still but I really hoped for some sun at the time. I stood by the door the whole trip, I couldn’t let go of it, and the scenery was that captivating even when it was covered in fog.
We reached Ella and the outside of the train station was full of tuk tuk drivers waiting for the train packed with tourists to arrive. It would have been such a rip off to take one to our accommodation so instead, we decided to walk our way through town to find it. And once we left the station and started towards the tiny town, I instantly fell in love with it. Ella was nothing like anything I have seen in Sri Lanka till that moment. It is a backpacker hub, so chilled and laid-back. It possesses this mellow relaxing atmosphere that promptly captures your senses, no wonder I adored it he most.
It took us a while to find our accommodation as most people didn’t know about the place when we asked them. And by the time we got to the place, my back was aching due to my humongous 15 kg backpack (another epic backpacking failure I guess)! Despite that irrelevant fact, the place was wonderful. It was a wooden cabin amid a small forest of trees with a nice terrace. I felt like living in a jungle with all the chirping, buzzing, and hissing I was hearing. And let me add that the location was just perfect.
We lay down our backpacks, got changed, and it was time to hit the town for dinner. That was when Susan crossed my mind as I wondered about her and the train she was waiting for. And while I was compiling that thought in my head, there she was sitting in that rotti hut. What a coincidence, right? That shows you how small and cozy Ella is. So, there we were, the three of us having dinner and enjoying the cool evening without previously set plans. Lovely! May I add that the food was delicious? It was. I had chicken rotti for dinner and chocolate rotti for deserts and both were yummy, I’m drawling at the moment 😀 After such a great evening, we wished ourselves sweet dreams and parted to our lodgings agreeing to meet in the morning to spend the day together. WOO HOO.
We met the following morning at the tourist information desk which acts as the starting point to Little Adam’s Peak. And yes there is a tourist information desk in downtown Ella, they may not speak that much of the English language but they will surely help you in the best way they can. The highlights of Ella are basically Little Adam’s Peak, Ella Rock, The Nine Arches Bridge, and Ravana Falls which can be squeezed all in one day if you are tight on time provided that you have an early start. We did start early but couldn’t get all the locations covered as that day turned out to be the rainiest but merely enjoyable.
(TIP: a couple of national parks are around 2+ hours’ drive from Ella so if you have more time in town you might want to consider one.)
We took it off with Little Adam’s Peak being the shortest hike and we were greeted with foggy landscape. AGAIN! The views from the top were covered by fog, I could have pretended this was some tough summit and I might have gotten away with it 😀 The hike wasn’t tough at all, it was nothing compared to what I experienced doing the Adams’ Peak itself a day later. Besides the rain, it was windy that one might have been blown off the cliff if an umbrella was used. So if you are there and it’s windy, be careful with that umbrella.
After a tad of disappointment, yeah I was disappointed a little I admit, we descended and went on our way to the Nine Arches Bridge which is close to Little Adam’s, 3 km I think! It was quite difficult to find it from the peak as there was no clear path to follow but we asked around and people were kind enough to guide us. The area has a couple of fancy spas for those who are into a little of scenic pampering. We walked the railway once we found it keeping an ear out for any coming trains. It was still raining by the time we reached the bridge and I was literally soaking wet except for my feet thanks to the waterproof LOWA hiking shoes. I think the amount of rain those shoes experienced in that trip was enough to wear off some of the waterproofing 😦
We heard noises that resembled a helicopter while we were still following the rail in the direction of the bridge; we looked up and couldn’t see anything. Apparently, that noise was the sound an approaching train makes. Luckily the train arrived after we have reached the bridge; unluckily we were at the wrong side of the bridge so we only witnessed the rear of the train as it passed us by. Nonetheless, the bridge is just beautiful, those brick arches with the marks of rain and humidity adding to its eld are things to be seen.
To get back to town, we walked the rail again on the opposite direction and that took us to the town’s train station. Since it was unceasingly rainy and cloudy still, we decided to skip Ella Rock and check the waterfalls instead to wrap up the afternoon. Ella Rock takes around 4 to 5 hours in total, the views I heard are amazing but with the weather we were having that day, it might have been another disappointment. We were told that Ravana Falls are overrated by a fellow tourist while doing Little Adam’s but honestly, it’s not. I found it to be beautiful and didn’t regret checking it out. So if you have the time pay it a visit and instead of walking, which is quite a long one from town, just take the bus. It will drop you off in front of the waterfalls and you can always take a bus from the opposite direction to head back to town.
It was still early in the afternoon by the time we were back to town and with plenty of time till dinner, we agreed to have a little rest prior to meeting up later for a night out altogether before we go our separate ways the following morning as Sara and I were headed to Sri Pada and Susan was going south to Mirissa. And though I was really hungry, I couldn’t have been any happier with us meeting later because it meant I would finally be able to have some dry clothes on. I was all wet, head to ankles, and was longing for the feeling of being dry. I was ok with the rain, humidity, being constantly wet and a little cold. I coped just fine I guess but I seriously wanted the rain to give us a break. I hoped for a dry night for a change and some time to allow my rain jacket to dry out.
We had a recommendation for dinner from a friend who has been to Ella a couple of days before we arrived and that was where we spent the night. The place is called Chill and it’s one of the hot spots in town, it was really crowded but we were super lucky to have found a table right away. For dinner, Sara and I ordered lamprais, a very popular Sri Lankan dish. It consists of curries, a deep fried boiled egg, and rice all wrapped inside a banana leaf. YUMMY! That was super delicious, we devoured the whole thing. Another item on my list of Sri Lankan foods to try was curd, or buffalo curd as they call it, which is a dairy product and considered a dessert. Susan and I ordered one, it came with palm honey and though the texture and taste were quite unusual to me, I found it tasty.
That night was one of the most enjoyable ones I had on that trip, we all had a blast. When I think of it now, it was basically thanks to the unplanned events of a delayed train that allowed us to meet a fellow traveler and spend time with her. I guess not all random unplanned incidents that take place during a trip are bad after all; we just need to embrace all that comes along. Another lesson that keeps on establishing itself, there is ALWAYS a silver lining 🙂
So what’s up next? Get to know what comes after Ella in part 4 of my trip to Sri Lanka 🙂