Ella, 10-13 August
Around midday on the tenth we arrive by train in the heart of the Tea Country. The local weather is influenced by both monsoons that are active on the island, making it cooler, wet and unpredictable like a Scottish summer – within 10 minutes we’re soaked to the bones, welcome to Ella – eat a big bag of dicks.
Described by the guides as a backpacker’s paradise, the tourism industry has completely taken over local life, but that does mean there’s decent coffee and something other than curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner to be had, so happy days!
Ella is the perfect place for hiking, but we’re not exactly in good shape we find, when, just to get to the hotel, there’s 500 concrete steps to scale. Quite literally a buzz kill after a night in town, let me tell you, and amazingly, some of the hotel staff run them up and down. Show offs.. Can’t argue with the views though.
Conquering Ella Rock
It’s Sunday and the day of rest, except for us as we are hiking up Ella Rock today. We begin on the train tracks, then cross a tea plantation and spot some monkeys on the way, before starting the 800 meter rocky climb to the top.
By then the power-walkers are already way ahead of us (seriously, why is everyone so fit) and we catch up with a Sri Lankan family from across generations: mom, dad carrying a newborn and grandma with a walking stick. We beat the latter to the top – suck it grandma!
Nine Arches Bridge
The next day we set out to visit the famous Bridge in the Sky, completed in 1921 for the Ceylon Government Railway. It’s one of the best examples of colonial-era construction in the country and current day favourite of instagrammers attempting to take their picture walking solitary on the bridge. Try though they might, today is the national holiday Id Ul-Alha, honouring Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael, and the bridge is jam-packed with Sri Lankan visitors. An excellent opportunity to show what you don’t see on the perfect Instagram snap.
We’re sat waiting for a train to pass by for over 2 hours. The buses may run like clockwork, but the trains play it a lot more loose. At this point we ourselves are becoming the attraction for Sri Lankan tourists who unsollicitly take our picture. Finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for:
With a bit of time to spare, we top off our Ella visit with a trip to the local waterfalls, a five tier beast best described as the local communal shower: a place to brush your teeth and give yourself a good scrub!
All in all, Ella has been good. We’re feeling fit, our calves are big enough to kick down a tree, and we’re getting up at 5am tomorrow to catch the train to our next destination Kandy!