Travelling to Ella was a last-minute, spur of the moment decision for me, and definitely one of my best travel decisions while in Sri Lanka. I caught the 5.55am train on a Saturday morning, without having reserved a ticket for the train. I took a chance and luck was on my side; I managed to get a seat by the window in the unreserved, non AC carriages in second class. The train was absolutely jam-packed for the first three hours to Kandy, with some passengers standing crammed together all the way there, which made me incredibly thankful for my seat. Being a short person, I did not fancy the idea of standing squished between and underneath throes of sweaty armpits.
Luckily most of the mob got off in Kandy and the remaining 7 hours to Ella was not as crowded. I had previously read that the train ride between Kandy and Ella is one of the most beautiful in the world, and honestly, the reviews were spot on. The scenery was incredibly beautiful. So beautiful that I forgot that I was tired from the lack of sleep. Passengers, a mix of tourists and locals, all took turns to sit by the open doors, with feet and legs that dangled out and heads that stuck out of windows, enjoying the sights and breeze with air that got fresher the further we got from Colombo.
I made friends with the old lady sitting next to me who didn’t speak a word of English, and a couple of other locals that sat behind us. Everyone was so friendly and happy. Food sellers hopped on and off between stations, so there was no need for the extra food that I had brought with me.
A couple of hours outside of Ella, we were joined by a group of young musicians who played their drums and sang songs in Sinhala. This was one of many special moments on my journey.
When I arrived at the station, I grabbed a tuk-tuk to my accommodation, the Holiday Homes Guest House, and was greeted by an energetic, Dalmation puppy named Bennie. This was a good sign as I really love dogs and it made me feel at home. My room was spacious and clean with a really comfy and massive double bed, and it was just a short walk from the centre of Ella town.
I had booked for only two nights, so I had to make the most of my stay. On my first morning, after a much needed good night’s rest and rice and curry, I walked into town with no real plan in mind. I passed a small coffee shop named “Starbest” and got talked into buying “the best cup of coffee in Ella”, a coffee that I did not want, but his enthusiasm convinced me and the coffee really was delicious. The barista, who as it turns out, had worked many years for Starbucks, told me that I should visit the Ravana falls and that I should take a bathing costume with me when I go. While buying a fresh coconut at the bus stop, I was randomly offered a ride to the falls in a tuk-tuk for the same price as the bus. OK, I thought, why not, secretly hoping that he would not kidnap me nor charge me double when we get there. On the way to the falls, we passed a troupe of monkeys trying to save one of their friends who had been run over and was lying dead in the road, so we stopped to help. This whole scenario led to the tuk driver waving my transport fee and the ride was free of charge.
The falls were beautiful and I instantly regretted not having listened to the coffee shop guy about bringing a swimming costume. So, I jumped on the first bus out of there to grab my swimsuit from the guest house. But, instead of going back to the falls immediately, I decided to carry on walking towards the Nine Arches Bridge. The walk was longer than I expected and it was scorching. The bridge was beautiful though and I took a few lovely photos. I’m not sure why, but some of the locals asked me for photos with them. I obliged with laughs and they gave me the photos via Bluetooth. How I love technology!
By this stage I was hot, sweaty, tired and thirsty so I had two goals for the rest of the day: a fresh watermelon or avocado juice and then a swim in the falls. And that is exactly what I did, in that order. The dip in Ravana falls was incredible. I was laughing from happiness swimming with locals and foreigners. The list of special moments still growing at rocket speed. That night I had an amazing, authentic pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant called AK Ristoro because sometimes one needs a break from rice and curry! Which left me with one final decision, was I going to hike Ella Rock or Little Adams Peak? I settled on Little Adam’s peak and got an early night as I had planned a sunrise hike for the next morning.
The early bird did indeed catch the worm.
On my last day in beautiful Ella, I had set off alone at 4.30am to catch the sunrise. Safety rule no 1 of travelling solo, never do anything you wouldn’t do in your home country; I’m pretty sure that walking alone in the dark on a deserted road is one of these!! In my excitement I’d realised my error too late, but as I reached the starting point of the hike, cute, stray doggies emerged from nowhere (angels!) and accompanied me all the way to the top with wagging tails and tongues hanging out. I was the first person to reach, with my pack of new furry friends, and watched the dawn break over the hills and valleys in absolute peace and calm. A peace which was soon disrupted by the arrival of loud tourists. Still, the views were breath-taking, especially watching the first rays greet the day from the third peak of Little Adam’s Peak.
On top of the first peak of Little Adam’s peak there are two shrines to the Buddha. When the sun hit the golden statues at first light, it was a truly beautiful sight to behold against the blue and green backdrop of Ella Rock. (I’m coming back for you next time Ella Rock!)
The hike back down amongst the tea plantations was also beautiful. I enjoyed breathing in all the fresh air, not missing the humidity and pollution of Colombo. After a shower and breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to Ella. At the bus stop waiting for the bus to Arugam Bay, the second part of my mid-term adventure, I was approached by a driver who had a mini-van taking travellers to ‘A-Bay’ for the same price that the two busses and tuk-tuk would have cost me, but with 2 hours shaved off of the travel time. Yet another blessing from above!
Ella was truly a magical experience for me with many ‘wow’ moments. I definitely regret not spending more days there and I would recommend it as one of the highlights of Sri Lanka.💚