Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Nuwara Eliya and Ella - the hill country

We started from Kaduruwela at 7am to Kandy by a private bus (LKR 200, 5hrs) going through Habarana-Dambulla-Matale. This was stopping at every 2km and was crowded most of time. You can get down at Dambulla and ride an air-con bus to Kandy. The commercial capital of Sri Lanka didn't impress us much so we didn't stay at Kandy. The next bus from Kandy to Nuawara Eliya (LKR230, 3hrs) was faster air-con bus going through Peradeniya-Pussellawa. Train takes a different route. We met Ravindu who works at Commercial Bank owns Toyota Prius for rent. Kandy to Bandaranaike airport LKR 6000. You can rent this car without drive for LKR8000 per day.

Accommodation at NuwaraEliya is the highest in entire Sri Lanka, thanks for its importance as a tourist location. At an elevation of 1989m, the erstwhile colonial remnants are well maintained at this hill station. Victoria Park Inn, behind Victoria Park offers basic rooms(LKR 2500, Tel: 222 2321, 0776607108) is the cheapest deal we could find. They can arrange mountain bikes for LKR1500 per day and runs tours to Next door New Tour Inn (LKR4000, heater LKR800 extra. Tel 52 2234897, 522223182) is a better option. Ambal's veg restaurant in the main town is the best option fo vegetarian local food.

Walking around the town, you can visit the colonial-era post office, Victoria park. Gregory park on the way to Nanu-Oya railway station is a major attraction. The super-slow goods train to Ella leaves from Nanu-Oya at 9:25am (4hrs, LKR110), just hop on and grab a seat. This train delivers diesel to the tea-factories on the way. Enjoying the misty mountains, tea-estates and drizzle, we reached Ella at 1:45pm.

Ella is tourism on steroids; 100 local families and 500 tourists. At walkable distance from the railway station, you can find guest houses and restaurants on both sides of the road. Dollar-friendly prices and menus, difficult to find a small restaurant. A juice costs LKR 350. We stayed at Soorya Guest Inn (dbl LKR2000, Tel 077 03515662, 0094 572228906)for four nights. Owner Dasith Warnasooriya and manager Gamini were really helpful.

Ella Rock is a must-do walk at Ella and there are many trails leading to this nice place. The easiest is to walk along the railway track towards a tiny railway station Killadella crossing a black bridge. Then turn left to a tea plantation and cross a small stream to walk up the hill. On the way you will find a tea-shop selling tender coconuts and tea. Two policemen were whiling away there, supposedly on Ella Rock Duty. One of them started asking questions non-stop. Name, Country, Marital-Status, Salary, Children and so on…he had a train of unrelenting questions. I am not sure why the policemen are so damned irritating and questions me like an accused. You will get a nice cup of hot tea on the top of the hill though a tad expensive at LKR100. Gawking at the scenic view of Ella, we spent 30min over there before walking to another view point looking over Ravana waterfalls.

Little Adam's Peak is a short walk from the main road and you get a panoramic view the hills and road to Badulla. Ask anyone on Passanda road for the direction and they will guide you, at least pointing their hands on the right direction. There is a deviation near the flower garden. One way might take a little less than 1hr from Ella Gap Hotel. You can visit Nine Arch Bridge on your way back which is a British engineering marvel. We didn't walk on the track to return to Ella Railway station, which many locals do and recommend. Walking on the railway track is illegal and there will be warning signs not to venture into this. 

Another intimidating police guy was present near the nine-arch bridge who wanted to know our name, marital status, job, salary, age and what-not. I raised my voice why does he want to know all these and displayed my passport to avoid further questioning! Maybe he is not convinced that I am not a local guy, thanks to my Kerala looks and features which are close to Sinhalese.