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Published: November 6th 2016
We were expecting to be woken by other travellers getting up to go on the trek to Hortons Plains, and whilst we heard some movement, it wasn't the expected stampede. What did wake us however was the staff stood under our window nattering from 7.00 onwards, which when you are on a lazy morning isn't what you want to hear.
When we did get up, and go for breakfast, we were the only guests down there, and it was a set menu. To be fair they actually tried more than most with juice, toast, coffee that was drinkable, and the offer of poached eggs. Russ's toenail flakes weren't upto much, and we had opted for the cheese and meat platter - this consisted of 6 slices of processed cheese, and the meat plate was thick slices of German salami and what resembyled Bernard Matthews sandwich chicken. The poached eggs were however done perfectly, and the basket of cakes and breads would have fed 4 not 2. We went back to the room and decided to head back out into town before our 11.30am pick up.
On our walk into town, we head some firecrackers going off,
and thought we could see flags and people so went to have a look. There was a prosession of people heading up the road, mostly women and children and the odd monk, all dressed in white carrying flags and singing. At the front there was a Buddha being carried in glass case. When we quizzed Indy later, he thought it was Sunday School and perhaps a visiting monk had come.
We walked back to the hotel, and packed up and went downstairs to wait for Indy. There were 2 other couples waiting for collection and we suspected we were all heading for the same place - the train to Ella. On the way to the station, Indy suggested that we pick up a snack for lunch as we would be on the train for approx 2 1/2 hours. We headed to The Grand Hotel coffee shop and selected a savoury snack and 2 cakes that looked yummy. We had decided not to upgrade our tickets to 1st class, instead remaining in 2nd class. We arrived at the station with over 45 minutes to spare before the train was due, if it was on time. We waited patiently on the
platform, and slightly ominously it started to fill up with students. They mostly seemed to be from the same University and quickly gathered in the centre of the platform and began drumming and singing. Also it was notable that there were lots wearing santa hats, a selection of fleece hats and some very impressive woolly ones - maybe they were expecting arctic conditions or it was a Sri Lanken fashion statement! They got more and more animated, and even took to linking arms on the platform edge and "busting some moves"! It certainly helped pass the time waiting for the train to arrive. As the time approached for the train to come, it being slightly late as is normal for Sri Lanka, we moved a little down the platform and the students stayed in what was 3rd class. The train drew in, and no one got off really, meaning that there was nowhere for us to sit.
For first hour of the journey we stood clutching the hand rails as the train shuddered and juddered through the points, bearing in mind these are the original tracks from when the British built the railways. There should have been spectacular views
of farmland, ravines, gorges and waterfalls along the way. Unfortunately and for the same reason we didn't do the walk, the cloud prevented most of the views. This meant there was little to concentrate on, just passengers shuffling down the carriage and only the brave ventured to the bathrooms!
In 3rd class we could hear the students still singing and playing drums, and every time we went through a tunnel they whooped and screamed. The only other break in the journey came from the sellers that pedalled various snacks - biscuits, pop, tea, peanuts and pastries. It was impossible for us to eat anything we had bought standing up as at each station we stopped at more and more people got on, especially backpackers.
I got a lucky break when a very lovely lady invited me to share the seats her and her children were sat on, and budged her son up so I could perch on the end. Even more so, we couldn't eat the snacks we had bought as we felt it was the wrong thing to do. Her youngest son slept on her and the other son slept with his head in the baby bag
until he woke and got bored and headed to find his father further down the train. She was lovely , and told me she had 3 sons, and later son no.3 appeared to check on mum. With less than an hour of the journey remaining, Russ got a seat and spent it talking to Eric a retired backpacker of 63 years old, who travelled with 6 pairs and shorts and 6 t-shirts.
At Ella, it seems everyone was getting off, and we literally claimed down from the train and walked to the road to meet Indy with the car. On the way to the hotel, we went through Ella, and saw that it is definitely a backpacking place - lots of bars and hostels rather than hotels. Indy said that this is because there are lots of walks that you can do where it is free entry to the National Parks. Our hotel was out of Ella, and is on the hillside looking towards tomorrows destination Little Adams Peak.
We arrange to eat in the hotel tonight, and see Indy for drinks. and in fact had to choose our meal beforehand. Indy greeted us with a bottle of
Arrack - made from distilled natural coconut sap, very much like whisky and 34% proof. Dinner was good and we exchanged stories and photos with Indy before making Our way back tot the room and sitting on the veranda to do the blog, swatting bugs as we went.
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