We’re up in the hill country of Ella now after our first five hour Sri Lankan bus experience. Pretty similar to the Indian buses but with the added delights of cockroaches crawling over our feet every now and then.
We also had a lot of fun attempting to squeeze three of us and our bags into a little tuk tuk. One behind, one on the floor, the three of us squeezed in the middle and one on top. There’s nothing you can’t fit in a tuk tuk…
The scenery in Ella is very similar to the tea country in Ooty and Munnar in India, with rolling green plantations and steep mountains, but the town itself couldn’t be more different. Munnar and Ooty were both functioning market towns, but Ella is entirely overrun by tourists (mainly backpackers). It makes it an easy place to hang out for a few days and means there are lots of good quality restaurants and cafes, but it does mean it loses some of its natural charm.
While Annie’s here, the three of us are staying mostly in dorms and hostels. There seem to be far more options for backpacker accommodation in Sri Lanka and the hostels so far have been much better quality than in India (no more bucket showers!). The Village Hostel in Ella, however, was a bit of a strange experience. It took our tuk tuk driver several shouty phone calls to find the place which is a few kilometres out of town. Turns out it’s just a small two bedroom house which has somehow been adapted to squeeze in 14 people. The only indoor bathroom is located on the inside of someone’s private room, and, obviously, no one wanted the incredibly awkward experience of knocking on a stranger’s door in the middle of the night so there ended up being just one grotty outside bathroom for all of us.
It is in a lovely location, though, out in the middle of the tea plantations and it makes for a stunning (and hilly) walk into town. Even more special at night time when the fireflies come out.
We only had one full day in Ella so we set off bright and early to hike to Ella Rock with Sindu, a waiter we’d met the night before at a place which served the most amazing rice and curry.
Quite a hot and steep hike and none of us were feeling our best after a night sharing a room with 13 other people. Luckily, though, Sindu set such a fast pace that we virtually sprinted to the top and so the hard bit was over fast!
Stunning views over the valleys with the tea factories in the distance.
We tried to head to one of the tea factories in the afternoon but, stupidly, we’d forgotten it was Sunday so the factory was empty. We had a little walk around anyway and tried some tea but it wasn’t quite the same.
An early night before another 5.30am start for the scenic train to Hatton. Not particularly fun after being kept awake all night by some deafening snoring, but so worth it for the most beautiful train journey of our lives.
It feels pointless trying to describe the mountain railway experience when the photos do a much better job, so here’s our four hour journey from Ella to Hatton in pictures.
Such a beautiful journey, and if we’d known what was in store for us the next day we might have stayed on the train forever…