According to many sources, this is considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. We couldn’t miss out on it. Tickets for first or second class with reserved seats had been sold out a month in advance. So, we had no choice but to travel in regular second or third class with the locals. The first class wasn’t our preference anyway because the windows were smaller, couldn’t be opened, and there was air conditioning. We wanted to experience the journey as the locals do. We checked out and took a tuk-tuk to the station in Kandy. The traffic was so congested that we were worried we wouldn’t make it in time to buy second-class tickets. With a little urging from us, the driver maneuvered through the traffic, and we arrived on time. We had the second-class tickets in hand.
Inez stepped outside the station to take a photo but quickly realized the camera wasn’t working. The battery and charger were still at our accommodation. Inez was upset and feeling discouraged. I called our accommodation, and the man found the battery and charger in our room. He told us he was leaving and would personally bring it to us. We had half an hour before the train departed and were already half an hour away from the station. Ten minutes later, the man arrived at the station on his scooter. That made things much easier. Phew! We walked towards the platform and waited for the train. We both went to the restroom. When we came out, we felt sick to our stomachs. I have never seen such filthy toilets in my life. Unbelievable!
When the train arrived, there was a lot of pushing and shoving to secure second-class seats. We didn’t participate and let the tourist crowd do their thing. We walked further toward the third class and found a spot to stand in the aisle. Now we were truly traveling among and like the locals. That had its own charm, although there were more tourists than locals. After standing for a few hours, we found a place to sit. Separate seats, but at least we could sit.
We tasted the local food, Wade Wade. It’s a fried mixture of spices, corn, and lentils. Quite tasty! On the train, you see a lot of nature and locals, and you’re overwhelmed by the smells of food and toilets. Not always pleasant, but still a unique experience. Inez found a spot near the door where she could sit, and I stood, enjoying the beautiful scenery and this fantastic train ride. We passed mountains, lush greenery, tea plantations, and many villages. With our legs and heads outside, we enjoyed the fresh air and the sun on our faces. The stunning nature blew us away. It left us speechless, and we both fully enjoyed this journey. When we arrived in Nuwara Eliya, it was noticeably colder as we were higher up in the mountains. We stayed there for one night.
The next day, we took the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. We arrived at the station on time. The train was on schedule, and there was pushing and shoving once again. We walked further towards the back and opted for the third class again. This time, we stood near the door and enjoyed the beautiful views. As we ascended higher into the mountains, it started to rain. The people sitting and standing in the doorway got quite wet. Some closed the doors, which resulted in less fresh air coming in. Occasionally when we looked outside, we saw misty mountaintops and breathtaking views.
After a while, a few seats became available, and we eagerly took them. We ate some nuts that we bought on the train. We shared the leftovers with a Sri Lankan boy who occasionally looked our way with an eager desire for the nuts. We gave up our spot to a woman with two children and continued standing until we arrived in Ella. The rain continued. On the platform, we put rain covers over our backpacks. A phone call to our hotel arranged free transportation from the station to our hotel. Later, we realized we should have gotten off at the previous station and walked just two minutes to our hotel. Oops!
We took an additional train from Ella to Hatton. The weather was better here. The train in the opposite direction was also much less crowded. This allowed us to sit together in the doorway and enjoy the views of good weather. Some vendors walked onto the tracks to sell vegetables to train passengers at one of the stations where we made a stop. It was an unprecedented spectacle.
X Ely & Inez