Sunday, 15 January 2017

Bella Ella! Packed Trains, mountain views, homestay and...dogs?

We woke up early, had some coffee and pegged it down to the station with our stuff for 7.30am. Upon realising the que was already large and the ticket office was already open we lined up with not much hope. However we managed to secure 2nd class standing, and it was THE actual holiday today so we knew it was going to be a rammed journey. It was a good 7hrs to Ella through mountains and tea plantations so it was going to be a looooong day!

We took our stance on the platform and when the train came, which was 45mins late, we pounced on those open doors - it was already packed to the brims and our platform was also packed so it was literally a stamped and fight of the fittest to get on that damn train! But we managed to squeeze our way on and get our backpacks off before it left the station, but it was literally like being a sardine, or a cattle off to the slaughter house. It was SO busy! Even the locals were saying they had never seen the trains this packed. We also noticed out the window that our 'friends' from last night hadn't made it on! Suckers.

We were in for a very uncomfortable 7hrs. They say travel can often test your limits, perserverence, and patience. Well this was definitely one of those moments! Not only was it packed but we also had food sellers trying to go through the carriages and ticket controllers - like what the actual? Often it was like 7hrs of standing in yoga positions, one legged, crouching, contorted, bending over seats and people! But it was a pretty good atmosphere, a lot of the locals had seats and many of them gave them up for us foreigners who had been standing a while, even if it was just 30mins it was a relief to our bodies. We were saved by amazing Samosas though!

Upon arriving at around 4pm we had booked a beautiful quiet homestay and they picked us up at the station - yay! We then just took the afternoon to chill on our beautiful balcony in the jungle with a view of Ella Rock, and walk down to the town centre for dinner. We had booked breakfast and the following nights dinner at our homestay as we had heard from reviews how good it was. We were starving so found a localish place amongst all the tourist traps and had traditional rice and curry and then went for sweet rotti deserts.

The next day we decided to do a whole day of walking. Whether it was our decision to or the fact we wandered further than we should of we aren't sure lol. We awoke and had a wonderful breakfast delivered to our balcony, fresh fruit, toast, omelette, coconut rotti's and our favourite coconut pancakes!! Plus tea and coffee and fresh fruit juice. Yum! We then gave our laundry to a local family down the way to do, even though it was more expensive than the commercial places but we wanted to give it to a local family to spread our cash evenly.

Then our first destination was a hike to 9 arches bridge, a famous train bridge constructed by the British with, you guessed it, 9 arches. It took us a while to find - typical Sri Lankan maps! But we were helped by smiling villagers and I had left my trainors on the train, don't ask how, so was hiking in flip flops an getting down to the bridge was pretty hefty. We then decided to walk back the way most people came, without realising it was a walk through tiny villages that was a good 5km from town. We did meet a beautiful young girl who wanted to practise her English, and chatted to us for ages, she was very chatty but also very lovely. And lots of smiling villagers who pointed us in the right direction. But we did ignore some sound advice of a 'shortcut' into town thinking it was dodgy, but actually the way we decided to take took us even further away from town - the shortcut actually was a good shortcut - doh! I looked on google maps and found we were a good 45mins away from Ella! By then we had been walking for around 4-5hrs so we decided to try and hail down a tuk tuk, but typical, when you are away from touristy areas, the moment you need a tuk tuk to hassle you, there's none, or they are all taken by locals! So we hitched a ride in a tuk tuk with a local woman.

We decided as we were in town to head back to the place we ate in yesterday and have lunch - another Kottu! Then we headed out of town again and went on a hike to 'Little Adams Peak' a small mountain overlooking all the tea plantations and Ella, plus looking out to Ella Rock. It was stunning if a little dizzy with the height of it!

We then went back and chilled before our homestay cooked us the most delicious meal ever! Traditional sri Lankan curry which was over 7 curry dishes with rice and poppadoms!

We were wanting to head to Arugam Bay tomorrow but wanted to stop by a tea plantation before leaving, which meant we would miss all the bus connection (it would take 6-7 hrs with two connections, and if you know Sri Lankan local buses, there are no tourist buses, there are no coaches that stop for toilet breaks. These are local local, no toilet stops, loud music, crazy driving, packed to the brim and you have to flag them down on the side of the road and as you climbed the stairs with your backpack on they take off!) So we decided for £25 each, we would take a direct taxi - shame I know but we would have plenty of time for more buses! So we booked with our homestay owners husband for 1pm the next day.

That night we had a horrendous sleep because a local woman who was up for the night with the owners had brought her on-heat pet dog up and chained her to a post, however she kept getting loose and getting herself trapped, so all we could keep hearing was her whimpering and then to make matters worse there were 3 male dogs on her tail trying to hump her, so she was constantly trying to defend herself while chained up. Plus one of the males was obviously rabies ridden as he was just acting bat-shit crazy. So Tashya spent a good half an hour trying free this poor dog so she could defend herself better. While having 3 hostile male dogs around us, but she was super protective and dove to our defense if ever one tried to get too close. We managed to eventually free her and just hoped she didn't go missing otherwise we would have to lie to our homestay owners that we had nothing to do with her getting free of her chains. We went to great lengths to make it look like she'd managed to free herself lol. And eventually we managed to sleep.

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