Train to Nuwara Eliya
We were excited, at last, to have tickets for the much publicised rail journey which winds it way up through mountains & tea country, rivers & amazing waterfalls. The line was apparently built by the British in 1864 to transport tea from the highlands to Colombo.
We set off from Kandy (Peradeniya station near the Botanical Gardens) in brilliant sunshine but by half way, we were lost in clouds, then finally heavy rain. Children waved at every opportunity at the train, as it wound its way through villages en route.
The train stops at a station called Nanu Oya which is a 10 min bus or tuk tuk ride from Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is commonly know as `Little England` & you will pass landmarks such as: Edinburgh, Birmingham, Windsor & Liverpool on the way from the station (the tuk tuk drivers are very proud of these & will point them out).
The town is quite large compared to Ella (see further down), but doesn’t seem as popular with tourists. Being 1868 meters (6128 feet) above sea level it is very wet & gets cold at night. Apparently, the average annual temperature varies between 11-20 C° and the recorded lowest temperature is 0.4 C° (source Wikipedia).
Our lodgings were extremely damp unfortunately (including the bedding) & we never seemed to feel warm despite a duvet & blanket on the bed. On our last day we moved to another place which was much drier.
Things to do
Definitely worth a visit. Due to the climate, the park is filled with flowers reminiscent of an English garden in summer, rather than Asia: roses, sweet peas, sunflowers, dahlias, gladioli & meadow flowers. There is also a tea hut, where you can sit at tables on the grass in the shade (how very English).
The Grand Hotel
An old colonial hotel which takes pride in its heritage (we were told the Queen has stayed here & there is a painting of the Queen Mother & King George proudly displayed in the lobby).
The hotel has log fires which are lit in the evening, an old bar (which has a ceiling still darkened by 150 years of smoking) and it is opposite the town`s golf course.
As it was a very wet day, we treated ourselves to High Tea at the hotel for 850 rupees (£4.25 pp) & once the fires were lit, we ended up having a beer (£3.00 bottle!) in the snug (far better than going back to our damp lodgings).
Train to Ella
Delayed by a day (the inevitable stomach bug) we set off for Ella on the section of rail reputed to be one of the best rail journeys in the World. Colin was insistent we went 1st class as we were still feeling fragile & luckily this time, it had an old observation car at the back serving as 1st class.
Unlike the first leg, the sun shone for almost all of the journey.
We were not disappointed, the journey is truly breath taking!
The observation car however, was disappointing. The seats, with the panoramic window, overlooking the rear were taken by a group of Koreans who took up most of the view with their many bags & belongings piled high. They quickly got bored of the scenery & amused themselves with taking numerous selfies. Our seats were unfortunately squashed between two windows & you had to strain to see out of either.
Having read several blogs saying the best views were to be had hanging out the doors (which are left open) with the locals, I set off for 3rd class & a vacant doorway.
I was soon joined by Colin & for the bulk of the journey & we dangled our feet over the edge with wide grins plastered on our faces. We reached Ella covered in filth, but having had one of the best experiences ever!
I can honestly say at this point, that our first week of experiences with people & places (topped with stomach bugs) didn’t really endear us to Sri Lanka; Ella & the journey here has changed that!
Ella is a beautiful small sleepy town on the southern edge of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. The many tourists who come here do not detract from the town’s charm. Most come for the train journey, or to hike to Ella`s Rock, Ella Gap, Little Adam`s Peak or Rawana Ella Falls.
It’s situated in the middle of beautiful countryside, with small vegetable plots in the valleys, tea plantations on the hill slopes and forests on the tops. The weather (due to the lower altitude of 1,041 m (3,415 ft) above sea level) means warm sunny mornings with rain in afternoons (altitude source: Wikipedia).
Ella is strangely, also the only place so far we have been able to buy a range of real Sri Lankan food (from Hoppers & Rotis to Kottu Roti).
We love it so much, we have added on extra days 🙂 Details of our Homestay here: Bloom Rose
Next week: … Hopefully we`ll get to Uda Walawe National Park & the Born Free Foundation in search of elephants; then head to the coast.