Ella is, by far, my favourite place in Sri Lanka. I am completely in love with the place. From the cooler climate that my pale white skin welcomed with open arms after the heat of Kandy to the mountainous landscape that my eyes refused to get bored of seeing. It is a haven of tea plantations and dense forests with the odd waterfall trickling through.
The plan was to take the train to Ella from Kandy, the train journey mentioned in my bucket list post (here) and the train journey that is widely acclaimed to be one of the best in the world however Sri Lanka Railway drivers had other ideas and decided that the 12th October 2017 was the perfect day to strike… brilliant. One of the main things I wanted to do whilst in Sri Lanka ruined. A quick decision later, our guest house host was driving us towards the bus station where we found a mass of other travellers with the same problem, all trying to cram on any bus that would take them in that direction.
Two hectic bus rides later we were greeted with an Avocado Lassi, which at first I wasn’t keen on trying due to my extreme dislike for the green mush but alas, being British, I didn’t want to offend anyone so I sat there and sipped it politely as George guzzled his down. He later finished mine in the room as I felt too awkward to leave it in the reception area – classic me.
Anyway, whilst the mush was contemplated over, we found out that construction was currently taking place on site to extend the hotel we were staying at, Ella Flower Garden Resort, due its popularity (we were later told that the hotel was fully booked for 9 months straight, thank god I booked so far in advance!) so we were being upgraded… from a basic budget room… to our own private bloody chalet with three-sided views of Ella Rock and the surrounding hills. I nearly cried. Completely taken aback by this luxury room and the landscape beyond. My happiness was later diminished by the wing shedding monster moths that noticed our lights on and planned their attack. At that point we spotted the thick floor to ceiling curtains that we were supposed to close at dusk…
We stayed longer in Ella than we planned to originally, partly due to the torrential downpours we experienced the first few days (cue many outbursts of Umbrella by Rihanna… Ella Ella Ella EY EY EY – you get the picture) but also because for the first time during our Sri Lanka trip we felt relaxed. The power of many cups of Ceylon’s finest tea and peaceful nights asleep in the mountains.
The rain finally cleared and we headed out to tick off some other bucket list items after the train journey being harshly crossed out in thick black ink.
Nine Arches Bridge
Following a morning downpour we headed out in search of The Nine Arches Bridge. The journey started out very promising with our hotel directing us up a small winding road however we soon reached a cross roads, with signs pointing in every direction to the bridge. We chose up. Up as the bridge was high and well, every other direction seemed to slope back down the hill we’d just climbed. I still don’t know whether this was the right path to take but it most probably was the wrong one after what we experienced. We reached what appeared to be the end of the path and were met by two locals. Through cackles we were being asked for money and pointed in all sorts of directions. Not ideal.
We continued to walk until we found a more reliable guide, an old lady with a baby attached to her hip. She took us back down the hill through red clay ankle deep trenches until we reached a point where the bridge was visible so she could leave us and climb back up the hill. Something both George and I felt very guilty about especially after she slipped, with the baby still on her hip, and crashed down to the ground. 100 LKR, approximately 50p, was all we were able to give her but she seemed pleased that we could help plus the money soon stopped the poor baby from crying. Such a little gold digger.
We eventually got to the bridge, wiped the sweat and clay off us and just as I was about to climb onto the side for my picture to be taken, a little scream erupted from George’s mouth… he had found a leech on him. So gross but oh so hilarious to my leechless self.
The bridge was exactly what I expected and more. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, as there was very little space to move out of the way of the tracks, we didn’t see a train pass over but sitting atop the side of the bridge with our legs dangling over the edge was thrilling enough.
Little Adam’s Peak
After our hikes up Pidurangala and Sigiriya (which you can read about here!), we decided to opt out of doing any more strenuous hikes including Adam’s Peak in Nuwara Eliya after being told by a group of German doctors as they stormed ahead of us up Pidurangala, that it was much more difficult. So we settled for Adam’s Peak’s little brother – Little Adam’s Peak which gets its name due to the similar shape of the mountain.
The hike was relatively easy with a clear path the majority of the way, which makes it very popular for tourists and locals alike. The path takes you through masses of tea plants which filled the air with a tea bag like aroma after a short burst of rain. We reached the top after around 45 minutes and as we explored the 360 views, I was swiftly asked to have my photograph taken with a local child. At this point my tan was pretty much non-existent so I can only assume it’s because I was probably the whitest person they’d ever seen. Not that I mind, at least the child was young enough that I knew I wouldn’t be ridiculed on social media, unlike the selfie that we were asked to pose for in Kandy with a teenage boy… I’d love to know what hashtag that picture ended up under!
We spent a decent amount of time up Little Adam’s Peak despite the lack of significance compared to it’s big brother (Adam’s Peak is believed to be the spot where Adam first set foot on Earth after being cast out of heaven) as the views were just phenomenal!
Other Bits & Bobs
As mentioned above, we spent a lot longer in Ella than we first planned to due to the good vibes we got from the place! We spent a lot of our time in Cafe Chill, which if you are planning on visiting Ella, I would 100% recommend. It’s difficult to miss, as the main street in Ella is quite small but Cafe Chill is easily identifiable because it is the busiest place there. And rightly so. The beer is cheap. The food is good and it was the first place we visited that embraced the backpacker vibe.
Whilst in Ella we also visited a tea factory because, well, the whole town is surrounded by them and we’d drank so much of the stuff, we wanted to find out how it went from the little green stemmed plants that we walked past every day to the tea bag that we pop in our mugs after your mum shouts “Can you put the kettle on please love?”
We weren’t allowed to take pictures whilst in the tea factory for reasons unexplained however the whole process was pretty fascinating to see as apart from perhaps one modern machine which separated the tea leaves by colour (me and George are still trying to understand how this works – any scientists reading this please do let us know!), the whole process using very simple machinery which makes sense really knowing how long these tea factories have been operating for! The tour was over relatively quickly and we were ushered out of the plantation gates without even a sniff of any gift shop but it was definitely worth the visit! There are much bigger and more established tea factories in and around Ella however by the time we’d decided it was what we wanted to do, we missed our opportunity to visit them but if you are ever in Ella, there is plenty of information available for you to find out which factory is best for you to visit and at what time.
So there we have it, despite not being able to take the train and the downpours equivalent of those back in Manchester, Ella was brilliant and it will forever be a very special place that I hold very closely in my heart. I’d love to visit again but as with the majority of Sri Lanka, there was signs of new development everywhere and I’m afraid I may never see the sleepy, quaint, perfect little town in mountains in the same way ever again.