The highly anticipated travel day finally arrived. Most travel days you think to yourself, “I’m stuck in one seat for how long?!” or “Are we there yet?” so being excited to sit on a train for 8 hours was a new emotion. I’m still impressed Roy was able to convince me to do this.
This is part three in a series of posts about my trip to Sri Lanka.
I checked out of my hotel and walked to the train station and through crowds of people asking, “where do you go?” or “what’s your country?” or my favorite, “are you married?” These questions were their way of practicing English and making sure I was taken care of. I will say, Sri Lankan people never made me question my safety which was one of my biggest concerns with the issues arising when women travel solo (or in groups) in India.
I went up to the counter that told me the train was sold out and I firmly asked for a standing ticket to Ella. They printed a ticket and I sat near the platform to wait for the train.
Once aboard, I was able to grab a seat right at the doorway. BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE! I turned on my iPod and watched the scenery change around me. Of course I had to move every stop to let people on and off the train but it didn’t bother me at all. I just sat back down and took it all in.
Per usual, the pictures will not do the beauty of Sri Lanka justice. One minute on the left (my side of the train) we were speeding past a huge waterfall and on the right side you were overlooking a valley of tea plantations. A few minutes later the left side would be a cliff and a cricket field right at the edge and the right would be palm trees and a lake. You couldn’t fall asleep because there was too much to see and if you closed your eyes for a brief second, you missed something incredible. Napping was not an option and it didn’t even cross my mind (if you know me, you know this is a first).
The only weird part of my train ride was the guy who sat next to me in the tiny walkway – first of all… really? right next to me? He tried talking to me and I wasn’t having it. I’m a fairly intuitive person and something seemed weird. I wasn’t scared but I wasn’t interested. He would say something, then tap my leg to have me take my headphones off, I would nod and put them back on. In my defense, the train was loud so it was hard to hear him. Finally we got to a stop and he was leaving, not without a sweet….. gentle….. kiss on my thigh. I wish I caught a picture of my face when this happened. I tried to knee him but he was quick and then looked at me concerned that I was unhappy. YA THINK?!? Not happy at all. It was weird. Maybe it was a gesture he didn’t understand as being completely inappropriate. Or, maybe with the extensive research I did, I skipped every section saying thigh kissing is acceptable. Who knows but he left and I went back to enjoying my journey.
Once we stopped in Ella, I was greeted by a tuktuk driver asking if I needed a ride to a guesthouse. He took me to a great guesthouse and offered to show me around Ella before it got dark. We went straight down a windy road at full speed to the Ella Gap and the famous waterfall. It was beautiful!
We decided to hike all the way up right before the sunset. I recommend this hike and I do not recommend this hike in sandals or when it’s dark out. The view is incredible and the climb is worth every second spent at the top. Unfortunately, we were only there for about 3 minutes before the sun was gone. That’s okay though! He told me that the Adam’s Peak hike for sunrise is the reason everyone comes to Ella. Roy told me the same thing so I set up a morning hike with my tuktuk driver for the next day.
Next was dinner! More rice and curry! If you remember from my time in Kandy, all I wanted to do was eat with my hand. Well, my cultural dreams came true that night. I ate with my hand and felt like a local. It. Was. Awesome! Much more difficult than I anticipated.
I went to bed early that night because the Adam’s Peak hike was going to start at 4:30AM. I woke up at 4:00AM to walk outside and wait for my tuktuk. I waited until 4:45AM and my tuktuk man never showed up 🙁 I was really bummed but slept off the sadness until 9AM. I decided to head to the southern beaches because it was really cold in Ella and I didn’t pack for that. I don’t even own clothes that can handle anything below 75 degrees (which is very cold for me now). There are plenty of things to do in Ella to keep you busy for a week or more but I wasn’t prepared for any of those things. There’s always next time – there will be a next time!!!
I hopped on the public bus to make my way to Galle where I could transfer to Hikkaduwa. If you take Sri Lankan driving, add a huge bus, a windy road, and no AC, you have the next 7 hours of my trip. But the beach was calling my name.
Hikkaduwa is where my emotional attachment to Sri Lanka was solidified and for good reason.