The mountain town of Ella is absolutely stunning. Set high up in the central mountain range of southern Sri Lanka, this busy little town offers some incredible views, excellent food and plenty of outdoor activities to keep most people pretty happy during their stay.
As I mentioned previously we spent the first couple of days in Ella exploring the two closest peaks to the town, Little Adam’s Peak – named after the much larger Adam’s Peak (which we will be conquering in a week or so), and Ella Rock.
Little Adam’s Peak was a casual stroll to be honest, so I am thankful that we decided to do this one on our first afternoon in Ella, after travelling for around 3 hours by bus from Tissa in the morning. There’s only 2 buses per day from Tissa, one at 06:30 and one at 07:00, so no lie in for me that day! The walk up Little Adam’s Peak took around an hour, but although it was pretty straight forward, it did not disappoint on the scenery and the views. The path meanders through pristine tea plantations up the side of the hill towards the peak, which gave us some awesome views of Ella Gap (the valley that is home to Ella), as well as up towards the looming figure of Ella Rock.
We took a decent nights rest in our comfy guesthouse called Moon Light Holiday Home, complete with views of Ella Rock from our room, before we packed some munch and took on the rock. The route up is an odd one, I’ve spent my whole life being warned off walking on train tracks – due to ‘certain death’ – however in Sri Lanka it is the done thing. Even the policemen ignore the “Walking On The Tracks Is Prohibited” signs and direct you from Ella station along the tracks to begin your ascent of Ella Rock. Fair enough – along the tracks it was. After about a mile and a half or so of walking the tracks, past the next station – Kithalella, we then had to take one of the ‘many’ tracks that lead to the mountain – there is not really that many, just lots of seemingly non-existent, barely visibly holes in the bushes. We got lost, however were saved by a Swiss guy called Diego and his girlfriend Lucy who had come a little bit more prepared – with a map, and we found the main path.
The walk up was amazing, going through lots of small tea farms and wiggling between the local houses, up the path towards the summit. The final 20 minutes was a bit of a bitch, up a steep, rocky pathway through the forest. When we finally reached the top of the mountain the views were well worth the sweat and over enthusiastic heartbeat!
Following one more day of just relaxing in Ella, after our strenuous efforts the day before, we caught the train from Ella to Kandy. We had booked our tickets for this train the day we arrived in Sri Lanka, as we new it was popular and it was dubbed as ‘one of the most beautiful and scenic train journeys in the world’. It didn’t disappoint. The views were breathtaking, and having the freedom to hang out the doors whilst going over bridges, through tunnels, tea plantations and through tight canyons was great. Also the trains ‘fast food’ service – dodgy looking guys with baskets of deep fried treats known simply (to me anyway as I had no idea what they were saying) as Waddy Waddy or Swaddy Swaddy – fuck knows – were cracking, topped off with a couple of chillies – absolute winner!
Kandy is a great city. As far as cities go, I generally think they are a bit shit in comparison to the many other places you can visit in a country, but Kandy is pretty damn good. As well as the overly hectic city centre, where the only place to buy a beer (without spending £3 a pint in one of the higher class western haunts) is to hit the very dodgy liquor shop in the basement behind the Food City supermarket – I only want beer, not crack! – Kandy also offers beautiful scenic areas, with Kandy Lake, and the Royal Forest Reserve just 5 mins from the centre.
Yesterday we escaped the city for the morning and ventured out to the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, which was about 1hr 30mins by train. This was a great opportunity to get up close to elephants (not get charged at like last time!). After observing the pesky little guys who work there wheedling (‘tip’) money out of everyone who wanted a picture or wanted to touch the elephants, our mission was to not have to pay for something that should definitely be free, after already paying £12.50 a ticket. To the annoyance of some of the mahout guys, we succeeded in befriending one particular elephant, which after sneakily feeding an apple core to, was more than happy to evade his mahout and come back to say hello! Well worth the trip and the inflated ticket price: 300 rupees for locals, 2500 rupees for foreigners!
Today is our last morning in Kandy before heading further north up to Dambulla and Sigiriya for a spot of history and temple hunting! Photos of Ella and the Elephants to come soon…