The train from Kandy to Ella was absolutely stunning. Sitting in the doorway means you get an uninterrupted view of the scenery. It took about 6 hours to get to Ella, but again the time passes so quickly when you have great company and great views.
The train takes you through the hill country which is an area popular for growing tea. You can see the locals working in their tea plantations.
The first impressions of Ella are good. It is a tiny town compared to Kandy and Colombo and a lot more chilled out. It is mainly for backpackers so there are a lot of hostels, guesthouses and places to eat.
I was staying in a guesthouse called Samadhi Inn Guesthouse. It is about 500m out of the main area of Ella but I would recommend staying there. The owners are so lovely and will give you a lot of tips on what to do whilst you are there. Nothing is too much trouble for them and they welcome you with a cup of tea. I don’t drink tea but thought this was probably the best place to have my first ever cup.
I met two girls from Austria and we headed out to walk up Little Adam’s Peak. It is a nice gentle walk, taking about 40 minutes to reach the summit. The path is clear but there are some bits where you could go one of two ways, so just ask somebody nearby. Just before the summit it gets extremely steep and you are challenged with more than 300 steps! This part was pretty exhausting but when you reach the summit and are greeted by a magnificent view of the surrounding hills you forget just how hard it was. From the top you are looking over the town of Ella and surrounding areas.
That night we ate in a restaurant called Down Town Rotti House on the main street. I had been recommended by a friend from home to try some devilled chicken and when I saw it on the menu I decided to go for it. I didn’t know what to expect as ‘devilled’ makes me think of fire and that the food would be extremely spicy. In fact it was actually really quite mild, but with a great flavour. We sat on the rooftop terrace enjoying a couple of beers before heading back.
I woke early the next morning to climb Little Adam’s Peak again to watch the sunrise. Although I was on my own, there were other people around. I reached the summit and sat and waited for the beautiful sunrise to happen. Unfortunately there was not much action but the view was still incredible. I would recommend hiking earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to try and avoid the unforgiving midday heat.
Breakfast at the guesthouse is optional and costs 350 rupees (approx £1.80). For this small price you get toast, butter, jam, rotti, omelette (surprise chilli – beware!), fresh fruit and tea.
Nine Arch Bridge is further out of Ella and takes about 40 minutes to walk to. The path is not so easy and feels a lot more wild and overgrown. On arrival at the bridge I was told a train would soon be approaching. I have become a big fan of the trains since being in Sri Lanka so I found this very exciting and decided to hang around to watch it pass.
I headed back to town and explored the town a little bit. There are some nicer shops here and it has such a lovely chilled out vibe.
That night I ate in Ella Flower Garden. I ordered vegetable kotthu which is rice, vegetables and rotti all cut up and cooked together. My food arrived and unfortunately there was a power cut so I couldn’t really see what I was eating but it tasted great!
The one thing I found surprising in Ella is how cold it gets at night. When I say cold, I was wearing trousers and a tshirt and I had goosebumps. So still a lot warmer than a Scottish summer! Ella is over 1,000m above sea level so I should have expected it really.
The next morning I headed back to the train station and booked my ticket for Colombo. This train would take approximately nine hours and the ticket only cost me 350 rupees. I was lucky to get a window seat to enjoy the view once more. If you can, try to sit on both sides of the train as the view from each side is totally different but both amazing in their own way.
Top tip- if you are travelling on a budget, do not book train tickets in advance. Turn up to the station one hour before the train leaves and pick up an unreserved ticket. Unreserved means you are not guaranteed a seat but most times I have had no trouble. And as I said earlier, sitting in the doorway is actually a lot of fun. Just be prepared for a scrabble to get on the train as soon as it stops moving!
Next stop Mount Lavinia.