05.01.2012 - 06.01.2012
Sometimes it is the journey rather than the destination that matters and catching the slow train through the Sri Lankan hill country is testimony to this. Setting off early from Peradeniya ( Tip the train leaves from Peradinya and NOT Kandy, although you can catch a connecting train from Kandy to Peradeniya) I was lucky enough to nab a seat next to a Tamal family on the packed Badulla bound train.
Not 30 minutes into our trip the train screeched to a halt. An elderly woman had been struck by the train and was sprawled next to the tracks bleeding. After much commotion, the woman was bundled onto the train and we chugged slowly backwards to the last station where paramedics rushed out to take her to hospital. Not a great start to the trip.
After some time I managed to relax, soothed by the rhythmic music of the train and the rolling tea plantations. The 7 hour train journey is definitely worth the sore bum as it ambles through hills of tea plantations and jungles and skirts along sheer cliffs. There is something hypnotic about gazing out the window at a beautiful countryside, which changed in appearance and climate the higher up we wound.
The air became fresher and the mists and rains rolled in around Nuwara Eliya, making it an easy decision for me to stay on the train for Ella, a couple of hours down the line at slightly lower elevation.
Ella is a quaint little town, if not a bit artificial, as the one street is predominately occupied by guesthouses and Ayurveda centres ( herbal treatments, massages and steam baths). It is the surrounding countryside which is spectacular. Hiking up Little Adams Peak gives a great view over to the impressive Ella Rock and through Ella gap. As I sat on top of the peak to catch my breathe and gather my thoughts, I struck up conversation with a lovely Austrian woman, and as we chatted the mists started rolling in, in moments we were surrounded by clouds and then the rain started pouring down. Scrambling back down the path to the nearest cafe ( 30 minutes of scrambling mind you!)we passed a determined middle aged German couple, soldiering up to the top in spite of the bucketing rain.