Ella, Sri Lanka

Without even having been in Ella for more than 12 hours Scott was already looking for reasons to stay an extra night. He told me that it may be his favorite town in Asia thus far. Our accommodation definitely helped sell that point. We got in super late the first night so all we could really see was our room lit up on the second story of a bamboo cabana. The place boasted amazing views, but all we could see was pitch black that night. We wandered into town for a quick bite to eat (remember the only way into town is down the railroad tracks so this in itself is a bit adventurous). Scott found a place right where the tracks drop you into town called Maty’s which had all types of Asian cuisine and with a 4.7 on Google reviews we were sold.

Monkey outside our air bnb
Drone view of our cabana
Inside our air bnb

The dinner was fantastic and the sever was so kind. Instead of trying to take all our money he even told us the portions were large and suggested we downscale our order, thank goodness because we were bursting after the meal. We ate tempura veggies, roti with pumpkin curry (Sri Lanka is #1 for roti thus far), and black pepper chicken and rice. It filled the gaping hole in our stomachs after nine hours of travel with just snacks. Scott even made a little pup friend who laid on his lap most of dinner. We quick stepped it back to the Air Bnb on the train tracks in the dark because I feared the potential leopard encounter (of course that is highly unlikely) but your imagination gets the best of you at night in an unfamiliar place.

Scott’s dinner friend
Breakfast on our patio
Drone view of the train tracks
Pumpkin Curry from Maty’s

In the morning Scott was sold on the place, before I could even get out of bed, he was negotiating another night at this place with the manager (cutting our time in Tangalle one night short, but that’s okay). The manager gave us a deal because it is slow season, so we decided to do some planning with our extended time in Ella. I forgot to mention the view that sold Scott. When we woke up and walked out to our patio it over looks the valley of tea plantations, surrounding mountains, trains running through the rain forest, Ella rock, and a massive waterfall just a few thousand meters in the distance. Monkeys bounced from tree to tree in search of jackfruit around our cabana and they even made a few guest appearances on our breakfast table. The only downside of the place is the bugs, they are EVERYWHERE. But, with that I got to see my first ever firefly, totally captivated.

Drone view from our air bnb
A local train
Daily commute

Scott took advantage of the scenery and worked on his camera skills with both the Cannon and the drone most of the morning. He had me wander along the tracks as his “subject” for some videos, I even got a close encounter with an oncoming train. He ended his film session with crashing the drone for the first time into a tree. Luckily, I saw where it had crashed, and he was able to finagle his way into the mountain side to retrieve the drone.

Nine Arches
Fighting a plant at nine arches

After that morning adventure we decided to head into town to find a tuk-tuk to take us to some touristy places we had heard about from our host. We were able to negotiate with the driver to take us to Nine Arches, Little Adam’s peak, and back to town (waiting at each place for us) for just 1200 Sri Lankan with tip, which equates to $7 USD.

Scott’s friend Neemesh
Taking a stretch break

He dropped us first at Nine Arches, well almost. We had to walk down a sketchy path and through the forest to get there, but it was worth it. A top the massive arches is a bridge where the train goes across a few times per day. We snapped some pictures and waited, hoping to catch an iconic picture of the train going by. While we were waiting, we met two women from London who seemed to be well traveled. We talked with them about our travels and theirs and they told us a train was due to cross any minute. After waiting twenty minutes we decided to be on our way, we didn’t want our driver to leave without us. On our way back Scott made a friend, Neemesh, a little local boy selling massive lemons. We had no use for a lemon, so Scott just gave him some money and asked for a picture and we were on our way.

View from Little Adam’s peak
Little Adam’s peak
Tuk-tuks waiting outside the station
Mango seller and his daughter at Little Adam’s peak

The next spot our driver took us was Little Adam’s peak. Another tourist trap, but something you have to see. The peak is on the property of a massive resort called 98 acres. There was a zipline, infinity pools, gyms, tennis courts, the whole shebang. We later looked up the price for the resort… $500 USD a night, in Sri Lanka?! We were pretty happy with our beautiful $20 a night cabana after seeing those prices. We hiked up to the top of the peak, met a few pups, Scott got a mango from a man and his daughter at the top, and took some pictures. The following day we were going to hike Ella rock, which we could see from little Adam’s peak, it looked a lot more challenging.

View of Ella Rock from Little Adam’s Peak
Traditional Sri Lankan curries from Chill bar

Our driver dropped us into town, and we walked around to find a lunch spot. On the way we got some snacks for the next day’s hike and a quick roti (not good this time). We decided on lunch at the Chill Bar because it had great reviews and happened to be playing the semi-final rugby game of England vs All Blacks. The food was bit overpriced, but delicious. Scott got traditional chicken curry, and I got a ginger carrot soup. He’s been fighting a bit of a cold, so we also got some lemon honey ginger tea to hopefully kick the cold.

View from our patio
Dinner from Maty’s
Dinner from Maty’s

The rest of the day we hung out in our bungalow, enjoyed some pizza and a smaller meal from our favorite place, Maty’s. We splurged on a fried banana dessert and then headed back to our air bnb for an early bedtime before hiking Ella rock the next day.

Half-way up Ella Rock
Tea plantation on Ella Rock hike

After being coaxed out of bed (I am not a morning person) we headed up to Ella rock. The thing about Ella rock is it is a tourist attraction. Our host gave us specific instructions on getting there as it can be very confusing. Many locals will offer to be guides for the hike in order to make some money (you do not need a guide). Because of the monetary gain, the path is intentionally tricky at the beginning, a lot of the paths have had brush pulled over it to hide an easier trail. We wandered through the beginning on the tracks and then followed a bridge and went up a steep hill (all instructions from the host) then Scott found some of the trails on the app AllTrails and we were able to get ourselves the rest of the way.

Ella Rock hike
On top of Ella Rock
Ella Rock Viewpoint

The hike is not very hard at the start, just confusing. You wind around some tea plantations until you get to a steep uphill. The uphill is UP HILL, straight up and through a little bit of stream. At different points of the climb there are locals selling water and snacks (Scott forgot his wallet of course). Once we were at the top a picnic area had been set up and the viewpoint adorned a flag. With just our luck a pup joined us for some pictures and then we headed down the steep path back to our air bnb along the railroad tracks. We found an easier way down and marked it on Google for future reference. In total, with a stop at the top the hike took us about 2.5 hours, we were told it takes anywhere from 3-4 so I guess it just depends on your pace, the route, and your leg length!

Top of Ella Rock
Before the train tracks back to air bnb

We got back and ate a huge breakfast our host prepared and then took a nap. A nap a day keeps the doctor away is what I like to say. Scott thinks it messes up our sleep schedule (it probably does) but he still naps anyways.

Family harvesting wood from the top of Ella Rock

Our evening was slow, much like the pace of life in Sri Lanka, we prepared for a busy day to follow. Scott had arranged with our tuk-tuk driver (who also had a car) to take us to Yala National Park early in the morning for a safari. We booked the safari with a separate company and our driver said he would wait for us to finish and then take us to our next destination, Tangalle. A lot of driving, but it’ll be nice to have a driver and hopefully we’ll finally get to see some elephants!

***Pictures of the Kandy to Ella train ride I forgot in the last post***

Heading to the next train station from our broken down train
Walking alongside our train to get to the next station to jump on another train?
Scott told me to look happier

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