Hiking in Ella

On Wednesday 4th July 2018 we left Arugam Bay for Ella. After breakfast we got a tuk tuk for 200LKR (£1) from our hostel to Pottuvil, the neighbouring town where the buses come and go to the rest of Sri Lanka. Our plan was to get three buses that would get us into Ella some time in the evening. As soon as we got out of our tuk tuk we were hounded by people wanting to get us in a private taxi to go directly to Ella. They quoted a range of prices which seemed to change every time they said it and we were firm in declining as all of them were extortionate compared to the bus. After around fifteen minutes, two other tourists had also been approached and we were able to get a taxi for 1,250LKR (£6) each. This was likely a bit more than the bus but we don’t think it would have been too much more and it did mean we’d be going straight to Ella instead of lots of changes and waiting for different buses. What was interesting was that they quoted us all different prices to see what they could get away with. We had already turned down so many offers that we got the price for 250LKR (£1.20) less than the two solo travellers and he wouldn’t let us have the chance to tell them our price when they asked! We had been told we would be in an air conditioned car which was true but it was a small Suzuki and all of us had large rucksacks so it was a surprise to be able to fit us all in! We ended up leaving Pottuvil at 11:15am and arrived into Ella at 2pm, a much more straight forward journey.

We were staying at a guesthouse called Forest Paddy Homestay. The hostel was a little walk from the main road up a steep hill and wasn’t the easiest to find because of lack of signs and an inaccurate location on Google maps but we eventually got there and arrived in our comfy family room surrounded my rice paddies and trees. The room had very comfy beds and a big thick duvet which we’d need as Ella gets cold at night as it’s higher in the mountains.That evening we went out for a walk around the village – which consisted of a couple of streets – and found some food. We went to a nice restaurant that had a special offer on for curry or kotthu for 350LKR (£1.66) so we got one each and both really enjoyed our food. This place also had a big screen for the World Cup (Sri Lanka had been excellent for watching the World Cup) so it would be there we’d be returning to watching one of the quarter final games later in our stay – it’s good to scope these places out early!The people who own our accommodation get up early and so we were woken up on and off from around 5:30am which wasn’t ideal. After a broken nights sleep we headed out to hike Little Adam’s Peak. This was a nice walk which took you through tea plantations and then up some stone steps to the top. Little Adam’s Peak is 1,141 metres tall and it takes around 45 minutes to walk from the road to the top.

The views from the top were really nice and the hill went into a ‘V’ shape so we walked up the right side where there was a clearing and a small shrine and then headed left across the ‘V’ to the second viewpoint on the hill. We found ourselves a spot at the second viewpoint, sat and took in the views. We purposefully didn’t have much planned so that we could spend as long as we wanted at the top. The view showed trees, hills and tea plantations for miles and the weather was great which meant it was clear enough to see far off into the distance.After spending an hour or so at the top we climbed back down Little Adam’s Peak and then carried along the road towards the Nine Arch Bridge. We walked through a woodland path which was very picturesque in itself and gave us a fantastic first view of the bridge. Construction of the bridge started in the 1920s and the entire structure is made of stone with nine arches (as the name would suggest). It’s rumoured that the bridge was originally going to be made of steel but then World War I started and so the steel was relocated for other uses resulting in the bridge being built in stone instead.There were quite a few people on the bridge when we arrived all getting pictures and waiting for a train to go past. This was all we had left in our plan for that day and so we took our time, sat on the bridge and ended up watching two trains go by. We also had a Coke at the Nine Arch Cafe which sits on the corner of the bridge next to the railway line. I don’t think either of us had expected a lot from the bridge but we were pleasantly surprised and it was really pretty around the bridge as well, helped by it being such beautiful weather so it wasn’t a hard place to sit and do nothing for a while.After we had spent quite a lot of time at the bridge we walked back along the tracks to the Ella train station to buy our train tickets for a couple of days time going to Kandy. It was cool to walk along the tracks and is a really common thing to do in Sri Lanka with the locals doing it all the time, you just have to get off the tracks when you hear the train coming. It’s really safe though because the trains don’t go very fast, aren’t regular and they sound their horns when they’re approaching so you know when to move out the way. At one point there were even a herd of cows being walked down the tracks and we could hear the train sounding it’s horn again and again trying to get them to move out of the way!Ella is so peaceful and beautiful that walking anywhere is a treat and so it was almost a bit sad when we finally reached the station and our walk was over. That night we went to a different restaurant in town and had some vegetable and cheese kotthu which was tasty. We had been told that it would be hard to find food in Sri Lanka and that it wasn’t very good because there wasn’t a big eating out culture in the country. We aren’t sure where people got this from as the food was great and we were getting to try a range of stuff and also finding it easy enough to find places to eat, although it definitely isn’t very common for locals as they can’t often afford to eat out. Maybe the people we had met had all been there loads earlier than us and maybe a restaurant scene had developed a bit more by the time we got there, who knows.

The next morning we headed for Ella Rock. This was a longer walk than the day before and we had originally planned not to do it as we hadn’t wanted to do anything too strenuous but we had the time so decided to do it. It was also meant to be hard to navigate as locals were purposefully telling people the wrong directions as well as covering up the signs so that you’d need to hire them as a guide to reach the top!We had managed to find a detailed ‘do it yourself’ guide that gave a step by step on where to go including pictures which meant we were able to get to the top of Ella Rock relatively simply and definitely didn’t need a guide (http://www.atlasandboots.com/ella-rock-how-to-hike-it-yourself/). It was also nice as the route started on the train tracks, the opposite way to Little Adam’s Peak, and then remained relatively easy until nearer the top when it got quite steep. The views at the top were definitely worth the climb and being so sweaty as they were stunning! We had another lucky day with the weather too (something we seemed to have pretty much the entire time we were in Sri Lanka) and could see for miles again. This time, to get an earlier start incase it clouded over in the afternoon, we had brought breakfast to have at the top which was great to find a spot and sit looking over lush green mountains as far as the eye could see whilst eating our breakfast – it was a good reward for our hike.We ended up spending most of the day up at the top Ella Rock and it was particularly nice to be able to take the days we had in Ella very chilled. It made it a lot more enjoyable than having to rush around everywhere to pack it all in and we probably wouldn’t have done Ella Rock at all had that been the case which would have been a great shame. We’re really glad we changed our mind in doing Ella Rock as the walk and views were really nice and not nearly as confusing or strenuous as we had expected!That evening we went back to the restaurant from our first night to watch a quarter final of the World Cup and then went to a bar later on to watch another quarter final. It had been nice going out in the evenings to watch the games, particularly as the time difference was a lot more favourable than when we were further east in Borneo. I don’t usually watch the football but enjoyed watching the World Cup games with Niall and by the time we were watching the quarter finals, I was quite into it!

We loved Ella. The scenery was stunning and the whole place had a really peaceful vibe to it as well as having friendly people living there (although all of Sri Lanka seems to be friendly). We had originally only planned on spending one day here but I’m glad we opted for the extra day. It’s probably one of our favourite destinations in Sri Lanka.

Next: the famous train ride to Kandy

Sending love x

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