Sri Lanka Day 7 – Ella

Easter Sunday.  7 years ago, I started living in Asia, so that’s when it started to mean nothing to me.  No more chocolate eggs.  I celebrated instead with a lovely pot of the finest Ceylon Tea on the balcony of my hotel room, overlooking the quiet village street and the soaring green cliffs in the distance.

I put on my walking shoes and got a map from Pradesh.  It was a crisp, clear day – perfect conditions for a good long walk.  I wanted to go to Ella Rock – a fair old walk.  Pradeshs’ hand drawn map was all I had to guide me.  I walked along railway tracks and passed local people who were also walking in the middle of the track.  I hadn’t walked along a railway track since my boyhood days of adventure, and I felt the same child-like burst of adventure adrenaline and excitement.  The views here, though, were slightly better than those around the tracks of Baliffe Bridge.  Huge green hills all around, and I could see the silver glimmer of a waterfall, like thousands of silver fish dropping down the mountain, and I could here the subdued rush even from afar.  I could see the tea fields all the way up the mountains, make out tiny wooden houses here and there, dwarfed by nature.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful views, even in Sapa.

On my journey, I met a Sri Lankan group of friends- 3 guys and a girl.  We joined each other, and they were good company – from Colombo.  We were all lost, confused as to how to make it the top of Ella Rock.  They managed to persuade a villager to act as a guide for us.  So we trekked to the top, a difficult climb, past wooden houses, through forests, and up the side of the mountain.  Unfortunately, as we neared the top, the mist came down, and the view had vanished.  It made for an atmospheric ascent, so I wasn’t too bothered.  It felt great to get to the top, like I’d really achieved something.

We went down after 10 minutes, and the mist decided to lift briefly for a great shot of the magical valley, with all the mountains in the far distance.  Magnificent.  Our barefooted guide climbed up a grapefruit tree near the bottom, and began tossing grapefruits to the beaming Sri Lankans.  Not a grapefruit man myself, but I took 2 out of politeness, and we parted ways.  The guide went back home, and the Sri Lankans went to wash in the river.  I strolled back to base along the railway tracks, feeling particularly content.  My Dad’s shoes however, which I was ‘borrowing’, were not feeling content with all the traipsing up and down mountains and along railway tracks at all.  The right shoe fell apart, piece by piece, in hilarious manner.  First the sole split and slowly peeled off, then the insole, until I was walking on my sock, with only the top of the shoe left, much to the amusement of locals passing me on the tracks.  Back at the Holiday Inn, I had a pot of tea on the balcony, and read a book.

In the evening, I joined Tomek and his friends, an older American woman named Janice who works for Mercy Cor, and 3 young British girls who volunteer for ‘Smile’, a small NGO.  They were an interesting group to talk to. Janice has lived in Iran and Afghanistan previously.  We had a few drinks at Ella Rock View, which provided said view from a lovely lawn with tables and chairs positioned in strategic vantage spots.  They asked me a lot of questions, and were very interested in what I do.  I’ve realised that only when you meet other travellers or expats can you tell your stories.  Some people back home don’t really understand the experiences, don’t want to, or just aren’t particularly interested.  Everyone I meet who lives abroad says the same, so it’s always nice to have deep (usually when alcohol is flowing like water) and interesting conversations with them, as you share common experiences.

And so we enjoyed drinks, and I joined them for a lovely dinner of Sear fish with garlic butter.  Very enjoyable, and a lovely evening.  Better still, they invited me to share their van the next morning to Hambantota, and this was perfect for me as I intended to go South anyway….

Author: Neil

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