A Google search for "Sri Lanka" will most definiltey return at least one result for the must do, "Epic" train ride from Ella to Kandy (or vice versa). I read countless blogs which equated this to the highlight of their trip, a once in a lifetime ride, and breathtaking views, all in all it was something to not be missed during my visit to Sri Lanka. After a few days in Ella I was due to leave, meeting an old friend in Kandy my time in the sleepy yet enchanting town was coming to an end. Due to some of those blogs I read and a fellow traveler I talked to, I decided to book my train ticket ahead of time. This was another learning experience, neither was it necessary or beneficial to pay the extra price and be prepared, but you live and learn. The price difference was small so I decided to book a first class ticket, but that was a mistake.
On my first day in the city, while taking a walk to explore the town, I passed “One Love Cafe” which looked like a cool place with friendly owners, urging me to stop in for a drink. I told them I’d come back, which I’m sure they hear all the time based on the “Sure, you said that yesterday” response I got. I laughed and explained that I had just arrived an hour before so I had not in fact already used that line, and I really did mean it when I said I’d come back. Wanting to follow through on my promise I paid them a visit on my second day, after my hike to Adam’s peak and a failed afternoon nap.
After the three buses and five hours it took to get there, as soon as I arrived in Ella I knew that it was a place I was going to enjoy. The air was cool and crisp, the hills were beautiful and it seemed I wouldn’t be hassled by tuk tuks every step of the way. I had pre-booked my first nights accommodation at Silent Night Guesthouse, conveniently near the bus stop, but I kind of regretted doing so. Most cities are overflowing with accommodation, from classy hotels to dodgy hostels and loads of friendly home-stays, I definitely should have waiting and struck a deal on arrival. My first afternoon in the city was slow, taking a walk to orient myself, enjoying a veggie burger after one too many rice and curry meals and taking a nice warm shower, something you actually need in Ella as the temperatures drop, especially at night.
My plans for Sri Lanka were pretty flexible when I arrived, my itinerary was an open slate in fact, I didn’t even have a flight out booked yet. Everyone I met asked me what I was going to do and where I’d be going, but I wasn’t quite sure. The one thing I did know though is that I’d be visiting Ella, a city I heard a lot about and after seeing various pictures, knew that I’d have to visit. After a facing Colombo, walking the walls of Galle Fort and almost getting stuck in Mirissa it was time for me to head north.
To be quite honest I have no idea where my desire to travel to this country originated, but it festered and grew for nearly 3 years. In a sense it's a cleaner, safer, smaller India and having always had that country on my radar it seemed like the perfect test drive.