Today is an early 5am wake up, with the anticipation of a 7 hour train journey and no reserved seats.
We get up, shower, pack our bags all before sunrise. Peter our driver this morning picks us up and advises we go to a station further out of Kandy, we’d heard that this can be a good way to get a seat, but also means it extends both the taxi journey and the train journey by an hour or so. We decide to put our faith in Peter and give it a go, at the very least it should be a quieter railway station, so should mean we can at least board the train
We arrived at Perendiya at around 7.20am, unfortunately there are no reserved tickets available, but we are able to purchase a second class unreserved ticket for around 230Lkr (less than £1)
As we sit on the platform, which looks rather like a British Victorian era station, we see more and more people and tourists arrive, which makes us doubt our chances. At around 8.40 our train arrives and the atmosphere is tense as we all wait to see where the doors stop. Unlucky for us we’re not really close to a door, but we manage to haul ourselves and bags up onto the carriage. Inside it’s packed full, just enough room to stand in the centre of the carriage, and with our bags still on we’re both thinking there’s no way we could survive 7 hours without a seat, or at least being able to take our backpacks off.
The train arrives into Kandy and a few locals get off, people push for these seats and whilst we weren’t lucky or forceful enough to get these, we can at least get enough room to remove our bags and stow them in the overhead storage racks, before the crush of many more tourists jump on the train at Kandy.
We end up standing for around 2 hours 45minutes, surprisingly the time moves quickly. Local food sellers are up and down the carriage constantly selling fruit, nuts and fried samosas and savoury donuts. We’re entertained by their constant calls, and the train climbs high up into the hill country.
With many rural village stops slowly the train empties of Sri Lankans and fills with tourists, we eventually secure one seat and manage to share it between three of us, uncomfortable and a bit sweaty but better than standing. After a few more hours Ryan managed to get brief seat by the window to get some great photos, before he kindly gave it up for a girl who’d been standing a while, what a gentleman. We noticed how this experience highlighted how selfish people were, we often offered our seat to others standing, but we didn’t see many other people do this.
After 7 nearly 8 hours our train arrives at our destination Ella. It initially reminded us of Vang Vieng in Laos in that it was very back-packer and western focussed, but still with a lot of charm.
We checked into our BnB, a place just a short walk from the center, and then we walked down the hill to the main street and found somewhere for dinner. Being the place it is, we were sceptical about finding good non-touristy food, but we found a little gem called ‘Matey Hut‘, a tiny place on the edge of town serving authentic food, and fair prices. Ryan went with the Kottu (mixture of stuff chopped up), and Lisa went for the mixed curries (the item in the background was a slow-cooked curried mango). This was the Sri Lankan comfort food we were looking for!
After dinner we wandered around town and then headed back for some much needed sleep after our early start all those miles away this morning.