Kandy & the hill country

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December 22nd 2018
Published: December 22nd 2018
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After exploring the North of Sri Lanka for a week with my friend Eddy, I went back to Roy's, the Fresco Lion Villa Hostel in Sigiriya. I just wanted to chill for a couple of days and wait until I'd meet some nice people who were also going South (from my last time here I knew that there were always nice people and that many of them went South after visiting Sigiriya ; almost nobody wanted to go North). Roy was surprised - and happy - to see me again and so was I ; it was good to be back there! :-)

And indeed, right the first night back, I met incredible people! :-D I met Daniella from Italy and her boyfriend Josh from Scotland, Arielle from France and Hannah from the UK. The first night I was really tired though, having bicycled across the ruins of Anuradhapura all morning long and then having had a 3h bus ride to Roy's place, and so I went to bed early.

It was only the next day I really got to know them. The weather was fantastic and so we all went to the small lake near the hostel and we spent a couple of hours there swimming and chatting and on the way back Roy showed me how to drive a tuk tuk. :-) In the afternoon, everyone had plans and went out, except for me, I stayed in the hostel chilling, just as I would do the next couple of days. :-)

That night, 5 people from Tasmania in Australia arrived. When I told them I had been traveling with someone from Tasmania in Kenya, Tom, it actually turned out that one of them is a good friend of his sister! Hahaha the world is sooo small!

The next days were quite chilled for me as well, talking to people, watching series, in the evening having delicious food and drinking a couple of beers. :-)

It turned out Hannah and Arielle were going South as well and they invited me to celebrate Christmas with them in Weligama and later New Year's Eve with them in Bangkok. For Christmas I didn't hesitate for a second, I was happy I found some nice people with whom I could celebrate Christmas! In what concerned NYE in Bangkok however, I wasn't so sure. I mean, they seemed like nice girls but I barely knew them, who knows if we were gonna get along well, so I waited with this decision ; I hadn't planned on going to Thailand anyway...

Later, Denise from the Netherlands and Romi from Australia came to Roy's place and since we all got along well and had the same itinerary - more or less anyway - they decided to join us on our way South. :-)

The morning before leaving to Kandy, they wanted to hike up the Pidurangula rock for sunrise and since I had loved it the last time I was there, I decided to join them. Unfortunately it was super cloudy and we couldn't see a thing... Still, we had a great time together! It was so much fun with these girls that I decided to join Arielle and Hannah for NYE and booked my flight ! ^_^

After our hike to Pidurangula and a sad goodbye to Roy, the 5 of us (Arielle, Denise, Hannah, Romi and I) took a bus to Kandy where we arrived around 2PM. We were starving, so our first stop there was in a restaurant. Only Arielle and Hannah had booked a hostel in Kandy but we weren't worried ; that place still had 13 beds free, so we took our time at lunch and only arrived around 4:30PM in the hostel. Well, it turned out that this had not been the wisest decision : now the hostel was completely full! °_° Who would have thought they would sell 13 beds in 2 hours!? So Denise, Romi and I went on the search of a new hostel... The first one we went to had very good reviews but when we arrived it was super small, it was an open space with no doors to the dorms and it smelled terribly like cigarettes! So we continued on our quest and finally found a nice hotel that had quite cheap dorms. Success! :-)

After a quick shower, we rejoined Arielle and Hannah at the main square and we visited the famous Temple of the tooth. As it's name says, it holds 1 of Buddha's teeth. It's a big and very beautiful temple and it was very impressive by night, enlightened! There was a huge queue of people wanting to see the tooth and we were amongst them. Of course it's a bit ridiculous because you can't see the tooth, only the golden case it is in... But hey, it was interesting and impressive how many people worship this tooth. ^_^

The next morning, we wanted to take the 8:30 train from Kandy to Ella. Now, that was not the best timing of course because a) it's holiday season and b) it's weekend. We went to the train station before Kandy to get a good seat in the train before it would get too crowded in Kandy but we weren't the only people thinking like this. When the train arrived, it was already completely crowded and only 3 of us made it in the train ; Romi and I couldn't get in! The train was going to Kandy and then coming back to our station, so we decided to just wait and let the others try to get a seat when hopefully many people would get out in Kandy. Unfortunately that was not the case and they couldn't even get a seat for themselves let alone reserve one for us ... We were already trying to find a solution before the train came back : take a taxi to Nuwara Eliya and get the train there or take the next train at 11AM? Then their train came back and we actually managed to get into a wagon of the 3rd class that was a bit less crowded (all tourists were in 2d class and only locals were in 3rd). It was all a huge mess, especially because the cell reception was really bad and we got messages from the others very late : we didn't know if they had stayed in the train or had gotten out thinking we couldn't get in and they didn't know if we had made it ! ^_^ Fortunately in the end all was good, all of us were on the same train to Ella! hahaha

The train was packed with people but in our wagon people changed all time since it was mostly locals who didn't go all the way to Ella like the tourists. So Romi managed to get a seat and sometimes she would let me have the seat, but mostly I was standing. Not because she didn't want to let me sit, no! Because the view was amazing and it was much better from the doors and the windows and I just didn't want to sit down ^_^

There I met Andree from Ukraine, a very nice guy, and we spent much of the 7 hours journey talking and taking pictures of the wonderful landscape. We also met a couple from the UK who were very nice and we would see them again the next night in the most famous bar in Ella.

Around 4PM, we finally arrived to Ella and we went to our respective hostels. Hannah and Arielle were staying in the Hangover hostel, the most famous - and most expensive - hostel in Ella. Romi had booked a guesthouse close to their hostel - she prefers private rooms - and Denise and I, backpacking for a longer time - stayed in a cheaper hostel a bit outside of town. Our hostel was quite nice, very quiet and with a balcony looking out over the forest. Also, we had really good breakfast included. :-)

That first night, we all went to the hangover hostel for a cooking class - it was not about learning anything but just about getting good and cheap dinner and that it was! :-) During dinner we met some really nice people and afterwards we watched a Bollywood movie that was so bad it was good! ^_^

The next morning, we went hiking up the Ella Rock. The way was a bit confusing and quite hard, but the landscape was beautiful and we were having a very good time :-) On the way up we met a Japanese girl and a tour guide. He told us it was his day off and he was just going up because he owed some guy there money but somehow I didn't trust him. Why would he not just give him the money the next time he had a tour up there? It seemed weird to me and so I preferred not talking to him. My friends weren't worried in the beginning but when we lost him on the top and he ran down the mountain to follow us and catch up, showing us a shortcut back to the city, they started thinking that something was not quite normal. I might be too suspicious and not trusting enough, but to be fair, most guides are just not genuine, just offering their service for free... In the end we really wanted to get rid of him and I just looked at him with a death look and told him he should just go on and not wait for us ; he seemed to get the hint and finally left! Thank God!

Anyway, the hike had been great and the view from the top absolutely gorgeous! :-D

When we got down it was already quite late (2PM or so) and so we just went for a late lunch and then back to our hostels to have a shower. Later that evening we went to a bar to play some card games and have a beer before joining some other people from the Hangover hostel in the most famous bar in Ella, the Chill Bar. There we had another couple of drinks and we played some drinking games. It was such a financial nice night! We played truth or dare and Arielle played the role of ordering all people around, telling them what to do, even if they were not part of our group or playing the game! hahaha :-D

Finally, at 1PM, the bar tenders kicked us out so they could close up. Here in Sri Lanka there is not such a big party culture and bars close quite early.

The next morning, Arielle and I were supposed to hike up the mini Adam's peak to see the sunrise. I got up at 4:30AM but Arielle never came... So I just went there alone but of course I wasn't alone, there were lots of other people ! ^_^ The sky was very clear and full of stars and later there was a gorgeous sunrise! I loved every second up there and I met some nice people like Dave from the UK who walked back to Ella with me.

The others got up later and we all met back at the Hangover hostel before going to a small restaurant that had the best local food (kotthu and roti) and that was very cheap. Ella was a very touristic town and there were lots of very expensive restaurants with western food like burgers or pizza. We tried it but honestly it was just not good. What was good, was the cheap local food so I definitely preferred that. :-)

Later in the afternoon, we went to see the famous 9 arch bridge with Chris from Germany. We had bought some Christmas hats and decorations on the way and now put it all on for sone fantastic Christmas pictures. We had the best time and that afternoon it was definitely us the attraction and not the bridge! ^_^

The next morning, all my friends wanted to go to the Adam's peak for the sunrise and I told them I would go with them if the weather was nice. Well, it was quite good and so Denise woke me up and I went with them. Unfortunately it was much more cloudy that day and we only got to see half of the sunrise... It wasn't too bad though and since we had a great time - as always, I didn't regret getting up early again. :-) Later that morning we walked to one of the biggest tea factories in Sri Lanka (a very nice 1 hour walk) and Hannah and I did a tour there. It was very interesting there and I learned a lot about making black tea. There are 5 stages : 1) semi-drying the leaves with a ventilator, 2) robbing the leaves to small pieces and washing them, 3) drying them, 4) separating them in 7 categories (the smallest pieces have the most caffeine, the biggest the least), 5) separating the brown leaves from the black one (black is better quality and will be exported, brown is less good quality and stays in the country). I also learned that black, white and green tea is made from the same tea plant, just a different process, and that each worker has to bring in 20kg of tea per day to get his full salary. During the low season, machines only run 2-3 days a week but in monsoon season (February-May), they run constantly 7 days a week. It was very interesting and their tea was really good! :-)

Since everyone was pretty tired, we didn't do much for the rest of the day and we even went to bed pretty early.

Ella is a very small and highly touristic town full of restaurants, bars and tourists, but the hikes there are fantastic! We have had a great time there and it was actually a bit sad to leave... :-)

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