A day in the Sri Lanka's highlands


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Asia » Sri Lanka » Central Province » Ella
August 4th 2018
Published: July 4th 2019
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We arrived in Ella! The trip was long and eventful, but we were finally here. We got off the train and joined the long line to leave the platform. This town was popular! Next we jumped in a tuk-tuk and were off to our guesthouse, right through the middle of town. First glimpse, so far, so good! Nice, small town with a bit of a hippy vibe... One street with shops, restaurants and bars, surrounded by dusty roads full of guesthouses.

As we got to our guesthouse we were greeted by our hosts. Very nice bunch of people, straight away you could tell that each of them had specific roles to play, dad hardly speaking any English just smiled and made everyone super welcome, mum - obviously the boss, making sure everything was working well and the teenage son - their IT expert and businessman responsible for the money coming in... Not that he really looked like a businessman, just a normal teenager but he got onto business straight away. I didn’t even have a chance to leave the bags in our room but I was already being questioned about our payment. Apparently Agoda never paid them. Would I cancel my booking and pay them cash instead? Hmmm... Sorry, but no... I could follow up with Agoda to see what happened there but to be honest it wasn’t up to me to chase that up... He got a bit grumpy after hearing that but we seemed to have come to some kind of a solution. Besides that it turned out they were missing quite a few payments from Agoda... Well, the more of a reason to contact Agoda rather than bothering customers I’d say. Anyway, I did my part, he would just need to take over from there... I thought this whole incident was a bit unnecessary, especially after a long journey, but he was very young and was just looking after his family, so no hard feelings in the end.

We left our bags and went searching for some food. The choice was plenty... Now to decide where to go. I’ve read a few reviews and had a few places in mind. So we checked out a few restaurants and they sure did look very cosy and had some nice menus, but no place to run around for the kids unfortunately... But soon our search was over. We noticed a large empty deck upstairs and I recalled I’ve read some good stories about this place too. 360 Ella it was then! It turned out to be a really good choice, so good in fact that would be back a couple of times more! Kids couldn’t be happier with their noodles, I couldn’t be happier with my curry and Grant just couldn’t drink his beer fast enough!

We timed our dinner pretty well that evening. It was still relatively quiet, not too busy at all which meant it wouldn’t bother anyone if our two little troublemakers ran screaming around the tables. 😉 And there was quite a lot of space for them to do just that. But the kids had different plans that evening, thankfully.... Once they spotted the table with dozen bean bags, they immediately turned it into their playground. And since there was barely anyone around, we could actually let them do that and even enjoy our drinks.

We had big plans for the following day, so were happy to start it with a breakfast in our guesthouse. Our friendly host, without speaking any word in English, offered to look after our kids so that mum and dad could finish their breakfast in peace. But our kids weren’t too keen on that plan and decided to hassle mum and dad instead. They did warm up to him after a while though, especially after he started showing them different plants and fruit around. With full bellies we were ready to explore Ella.

First on our list was Little Adam’s Peak. It was a short walk from the guesthouse, but not that short with two little kids, so to make our lives a bit easier we decided to tuk-tuk a part of the way. It turned out to be a good idea as Millie wasn’t too keen on walking at all, daddy’s shoulders seemed like a much better option for her. With Daniel attached to me for the day, off to the top of the peak we went. It was a really short walk. First we walked a bit through tea plantations and soon after were going up the steps to the top. This time Millie was keen on doing it herself. And she did, while huffing and puffing mum dragged on in the back… We made it though!

There were quite a few people on the top. What a fantastic view! One look at all those ledges and big drops around and I knew we weren’t going to stay there for too long with two little ones. Not to mention that seeing all these people getting as close to the edge as possible to make that dramatic shot, well that made me want to go back down quickly even more! Am I really that old to think that? Or am I just paranoid because of the kids? Either way, a very quick photo session and we were ready to head back. A lovely spot though and it was well worth the short climb.

On the way down we were passed by a few tea pickers who were very eager to pose for photos, for a price of course. A few tourists couldn’t resist the temptation and were happy to pay for this photo opportunity, while the others tried to sneak in a few photos without paying. I wanted to take a few photos too, but there was just too much commotion around it, so just walked on… Too bad as these lovely faces had quite a few stories to tell…

Was it lunch time yet? Maybe not quite, but the kids looked like they were ready for a nap already and I definitely wouldn’t say no to food, so back to Ella 360 we went. Good timing once again, we had the deck pretty much to ourselves. And the food didn’t disappoint for sure! Millie got her badly needed nap as well, so a very successful lunch break in the end.

There were so many places to see around, but with the eating and napping routines, we could only fit so much in a day. So after lunch we decided to check out the Nine Arch Bridge. We agreed on a price with one of the tuk-tuk drivers and soon were off to explore again. The walk down to the train tracks was quite tricky to say the least… A narrow trail through the bushes on a steep slope… It was hard enough to walk down with Daniel strapped to me, but it looked ten times more tricky for Grant with Millie hanging off his shoulders… We made it in one piece though!

I felt a bit uneasy at first about walking with two small kids on the train tracks, but let’s be honest – the trains here weren’t exactly going with the speed of light or anywhere close to it, so I guess we were pretty safe. Millie seemed to have a lot of fun skipping on the tracks, not to mention how exciting it was to get her hands dirty as well… It was very humid so we were happy to see a coconut stand by the bridge. There was no doubt they placed their stand in a good spot – the pile of coconut shells right next to it was speaking for itself really! We asked if they knew about any trains coming soon, well… one was meant to turn up a while back but it hasn’t showed up just yet, so there was a chance we might see it… We didn’t really need to wait for too long as the moment we finished talking with the coconut sellers we heard the horn and before we knew it, the train was making its way through the bridge. So what’s so exciting about that, you’d wonder… Well… I guess it was just the general commotion – people running off the bridge, others rushing to get the first row seats on top of the bridge, more standing on the side with their cameras in hand and then the ones on board as well, hanging out of the doors and windows… everyone enjoying the same experience but from a totally different perspective! Train was cruising through the bridge very slowly, probably because of the amount of unpredictable tourists around, but also because it was going on the tracks substantially tilted! The appearance of the train sure did create quite a bit of an excitement amongst the gathered crowd but as soon as it appeared, next minute it was gone and all went back to normal. Now we had a chance to explore the tunnel a bit too. Millie had no fear of the darkness whatsoever and was the first one running through the tunnel.

We took some pictures, skipped on the tracks and it was time to head back. Funnily enough we bumped into two German girls I was sitting next to on the plane. I hoped they didn’t hold any grudges for keeping them awake on the plane – kids did behave pretty well during the flights but there sure were a few moments of whining and crying involved… 😉 It looked like they forgot all about it, or at least pretended to, and we just chatted for a moment about our journey and plans for Sri Lanka. They were heading to Arugam Bay next, while we were going south to Mirissa, so it looked like our paths were unlikely to cross again, still it was nice to bump into some familiar faces. Arugam Bay was one of the spots on my list too, but we most definitely wouldn’t be able to squeeze it in on this journey, so maybe next time… Not to mention that it was meant to be over 40C this time of year there, well… maybe not a bad decision to skip it then!

When we were walking up the hill to our tuk-tuk we had a chance to see another train crossing the bridge – how about that! Our tuk-tuk driver was slightly less impressed about that. I might even say he seemed a bit annoyed we took so much time that we were able to see two trains! I’m pretty sure we agreed on the price of the ride, but not so much about the time frame. He cheered up relatively quickly, so no hard feelings. We asked him to drop us off at the playground – I did my research, but his English wasn’t great and our sign language apparently was slightly confusing, so it took a bit of detouring before we found our destination. We even got a big smile from our driver when he saw the excited faces of our two little companions after we arrived at the playground. He just made their day! And ours too actually! I was having second thoughts whether to go to a playground or maybe to try to see another local ‘attraction’ instead, but after seeing these two banana smiles, I knew the right decision was made. A beer for dad with dinner and something sweet for mum and everybody would be fully satisfied. 😉

The playground was a total success, not to mention that the kids could finally stretch their legs a bit too – especially Daniel, since he was stuck like a joey most of the day in mummy’s pouch. Slides, seesaws, swings… they all kept us busy for a while… The kids probably could’ve spent there the whole evening and didn’t seem to show any signs of hunger, until we left and then of course needed to be fed immediately. Thankfully we knew exactly where to go, and let’s be honest nothing in Ella was far away. So we ended up on the bean bags in 360 Ella once again. I hoped that our next destination would have an eatery as good as this one as this place sure made our taste buds wanting for more.

Even though we only just started to getting to know Ella, sadly we had to leave already. I really liked this little town! It was a bit touristy, but it still had this nice, chilled vibe to it and so many things to do! I definitely would’ve loved to explore more, but there were still many more places to see. Originally we thought of going to Uduwala Park for a night to experience the morning safari, but we decided that all this moving from one place to another could’ve been a bit too much in such a short amount of time, so we decided to head to Mirissa and spend additional night there instead. Next destination: Mirissa!


Additional photos below
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4th July 2019
Nine Arch Bridge

Sri Lanka
Nice view of amazing architecture.
4th July 2019
Another family photo

How time flies
Great pic Anna. My oh my...great to see this latest family photo.
8th July 2019
Another family photo

How time flies
Thank you Dancing Dave :) I know! Time goes by way too fast...
4th July 2019
Slitghtly tilted train

Great train pic
I've posted this in TB's "Trains, trains & more trains" thread in the Photography Forum. Check it out.
8th July 2019
Slitghtly tilted train

Train pic
Thank you :) it was such a photogenic bridge that everything looked good around it!

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