Saturday, 24 November 2018

Notes from a Travel Journal: Climbing Ella Rock

During my time in Sri Lanka during the summer, one of the things I enjoyed the most was hiking. I was surprised by how green and mountainous the country was, and it was lovely to get out and explore and go off in search of beautiful views.  My favourite hike was the morning we climbed Ella rock: a viewpoint over a little backpacker town. This is the story of that morning from my travel journal.

We had a tasty breakfast before setting off on our hike of the day: a walk up to Ella rock and back, for a total of 12km.

Ella rock can be seen towering over Ella and at the start of our trek, it seemed implausibly far away and high up. We set off on foot out of the town, and soon found ourselves on the railway tracks. They were overgrown and wobbly in places and we walked along them, stepping from sleeper to sleeper, nattering along the way as Ella rock loomed over us, closer and closer.

We eventually stepped off the tracks to scramble down a bank, through a disco shack cafe (playing Living on a Prayer so we had a quick sing), over a little river and then the climb began. We ascended through scrubby tea plants, saw otters and monkeys scarpering about, and marvelled at a fern which hugged all its leaves in tight, closing up if you stroked it. 

The path was rocky and uneven, but the irregular tree roots helped to provide steps and firmer footing. Eventually we came out at a lookout point and enjoyed wonderful views down the valley.

But the toughest part of the climb was ahead of us. We schlepped up through the trees, whose brown trunks soon turned white as the upper bark peeled off in huge strips, littering the forest floor. It really was a trek, requiring giant steps upwards and I had to pause for breath and consume a few iced gems for energy. Iced gems = food of hikers.

It was worth it though as the final climb yielded to a rocky outcrop and spectacular panoramas across the hills far below. We could see Little Adam’s Peak (a hike for the next day) and tiny chocolate box houses nestled here and there among tea terraces. It was a great climb; I felt a real sense of achievement and it was lovely to explore the viewpoints and snap a few pictures. 

The way back down was steep and rocky and we slithered and clung to trees as we picked our way over the terrain. We came across someone with a sprained ankle; fortunately one of our group was a nurse and she managed to bind it up with a bandage. We left behind a couple of the group and even our guide eventually, who struggled up and down daily, sometimes twice, in flip flops to support his family. 

More fool us - we went wrong somewhere but at least we found the railway tracks again and knew which way to wander. Eventually, we made it back to Ella, exhilarated, some 12km and 5 hours later. What a morning!

Belinda, Lorna and I popped out for a celebratory lunch and never have I attacked a panini (pretty good!) with such gusto. And the cup of tea I ordered was truly amazing. I actually couldn’t tell if it was any good or not, but it was a much-needed sharpener and worked wonders.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This blog post is part of my November travel series; I'm spending the month documenting some of the trips I've taken this year, sharing extracts from my travel journal and my photos. My aim is to do this for each day in November as a personal challenge, to get photos and words put together and record some of my favourite experiences from the year. As the weather turns chilly, it's a lovely feeling to curl up in doors and reminisce about travels past, and plot travels for the future.

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