Over the summer, I spent a couple of weeks travelling around Sri Lanka as part of a Gadventures tour. It's an easy way to visit multiple different places within a country without the hassle of trying to work out local transport for yourself. However, local transport can often provide some of the most interesting experiences, and true to form, the train ride to the little town of Ella turned out to contain some of my absolute favourite moments of the whole trip. So here's the story from my travel journal.
We drove to Nuwara Eliya station, got second class train tickets (110 rupees each, around 50p) and headed to the platform. Our guide explained the procedure to us: the train is almost always busy having come from Colombo and is used a lot by locals to get between villages and by backpackers to get to Ella. So the trick is to barge on the train and grab all the seats we could in a mad stampede.
We tried and managed to get a seat for everyone... except me as I foolishly gave mine up in favour of looking in a different carriage. There were around ten carriages in total and I wandered through a couple half-heartedly just in case there were any left elsewhere.
And that's when I came across the best seat in the house! The doors to the train were open and I could perch in the doorway, legs hanging out, wind in my hair watching the scenery fly by.
It was magical. Most of the group stopped by at some point to admire the view and take hanging-out-the-door pictures, but I guarded my spot jealously from others. The views were magnificent and the green countryside rolled by, sometimes hidden as we drifted into the clouds, sometimes stretching out for miles below our outstretched feet and fingers. The train was busy, locals hopped on and off, people ran to board as the train lumbered out of stations and boys scurried up and down the carriages selling tea from flasks and assorted pastries. It was magical; being on that train felt like what travel is all about. It was exhilarating feeling the wind sting my cheeks into colour, and drawing my legs in sharpish whenever the train chugged into a rock cut tunnel.
The journey took a couple of hours all told and we heaved our bags off the train. We wandered through the bustling little backpacker town of Ella to our hotel. There were lots of coffee shops, restaurants, twinkly lights and souvenirs; Ella felt very different to other towns we had visited. We set out for dinner in the evening, landing at a spot which was heaving but screening yet another World Cup match. I scarfed down some more kothu rotti and poppadums, chasing it with a daquiri and was quite ready to hit the sheets that night.
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.