Onward and Upward to Ella

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Having heard that the seven-hour train ride from Kandy to Ella was one of the most spectacular in the world we didn’t want to have the lottery of having to find a seat.  We discussed what the best option would be and decided to pay extra and book seats in advance on the ExpoRail carriage.

We got two Tuk Tuks from the Crystal Lake Resort guesthouse to Peradeniya station. Dad lead the way with the big bags with Mum, Kids and little bags not far behind.  The little station had a shady area where we could sit and wait for the train.  When it finally came in about 20 mins late we carried our backpacks to the ExpoRail coach where one of the staff members helped the kids up onto the carriage.  Our backpacks would have to stay out in the galley, an open sided area with a couple of benches towards the front of the carriage where you could go to feel the wind in your hair once the train was moving.

The train made its way slowly up into the hill country and we all took turns with a Japanese tour group to go out to the galley area of the train and admire the views.  When we reached Nuwara Eliya at around 5pm a lot of people got off the train.  Mum looked over to where her backpack was and it had disappeared!! She ran out to see where it was. Since only a handful of people were staying on the train they had assumed all the backpacks would be getting off too. She explained that we were staying on until Ella and retrieved her backpack from the station platform.

It was just us and a Sri Lankan couple left on the train as it rolled through the hills while the sun set.  At one point we were travelling above the clouds that had descended around the hills and it was magical to all sit outside as a family.

Around 7:25pm the train pulled into our destination, the small town of Ella.  With backpacks on our backs we left the station to see an old man holding a sign with the name of our guesthouse on it.  We had booked the Ella Tunnel Corner Inn as it was close to the station.  The man led the way with a torch (which somehow made its way to our daughters hands later on) for the short walk to the guesthouse.  No complaints this time from the kids carrying their backpacks.

The guesthouse had a seated area outside and as it was cool we had tea there while the kids watched Cartoon Network and stroked the resident kitten!

The following day we had breakfast at a nearby restaurant. The kids have been constantly freaked out by flies during our time here and it’s made eating out a bit harder than we had imagined.  Breakfast was no different today.  Walking through the small town we established where the grocery store was and spotted a few restaurants to try out that evening.  Then we took a Tuk out of town and up a steep hill to the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory.

The security guard directed us to the top of the factory building but as we went up it seemed very quiet! At the top a man greeted us and explained that since it was dry season the tea production happened at night when it was cooler.  Therefore, there was no work going on at the moment.  Despite this he proceeded to explain to us, the kids and later a lovely Austrian couple the process of making tea.  Explaining the key elements (quality, flavour, strength and colour) that they look for in tea he went on to show us the top three leaves that are carefully picked from the tea bush.  Then he explained the drying process used and the rolling process before taking us all downstairs to switch on some machines to show us how the process worked.  When all that was done we went back upstairs to sample some tea.  The kids gave it a go but with no milk or sugar they weren’t impressed.

That evening we went into town to the Dream Cafe for dinner.  It was a place we had spotted during the day and liked the look of. We were not disappointed. The kids were happy as we got them a pizza to share while we tucked into a lovely Sri Lankan chicken curry.  On the way home our daughter decided to high-five everyone she passed. Tuk Tuk drivers, shop owners and backpackers coming into town from the train station all got a high five and she put a smile on everyone’s face!

Little Adams Peak was the destination the next morning.  A 2km walk out of town and up the hill would lead us to the vantage point overlooking Kandy.  We had breakfast at the Dream Cafe before setting out a little later than we had hoped.  The little one was moaning most of the way even though it was a gradual climb but we got her through by promising cake if she made it to the top.  The final ascent was upstairs with some big drops off one side in places if you were to get your footing wrong!

It was at this point that both kids sprang into life and shot off up the stairs.  Dad and Mum trying their best to keep up in the heat.  As we turned the corner we saw that there were about twenty more steps to the top.  However, Dad came over all dizzy and faint from the climb in the heat and decided that sitting down was the best option rather than push on.  Mum and kids made it to the top and enjoyed the views over Ella and the hills.  We made our way back down to the Garden View Cafe where Mum and kids had lunch and Dad had a drink to re-hydrate.

The afternoon was spent relaxing at the guesthouse and arranging our onward transportation to Udawalawe before one last meal at the Dream Cafe (and more little high-fives) that evening.

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