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Apr 12 2016

Discovering Ella

Discovering EllaAfter spending a bit of time in Nuwara Eliya, it was time to move on.  I had heard so much about Ella that I was eager to see what all the hype was about.  From what I had read, it was originally a little hippy town that attracted travellers.

The Journey to Ella

I went to the bus station in Nuwara Eliya to get a direct bus because I had been reliably informed, or so I thought, that there was a direct bus from Nuwara Eliya to Ella.  Wrong!  There isn’t a direct bus, or not one that I could find.  If there is, maybe it’s once a day, or maybe the fact that it was Christmas Day was the problem.  Who knows!  When I arrived at the bus station, there was no one to ask, so I just asked the conductors of the nearest buses to me, and I was directed to buses towards the back of the station.  Eventually, after asking a few people, I was told that I could get on a bus and change at Bandura.  I really didn’t want to waste the little bit of time I had, so I made a quick decision and got on the bus, hoping it would get me to where I wanted to go.A Street in Sri LankaOn the journey, we passed more tea plantations, and arrived at a small town called Weligama.  I was waiting for the bus to continue on its journey, but I was told that it was stopping there, and I had to get off.  I was directed to another bus.  This one was going to Ella, I was told.  Great!  ‘Well, if I have to take two buses, so be it’, I thought.  The thing is, it didn’t go direct to Ella; it terminated at Bandurella.  By this time, I wasn’t happy.  I felt the conductors were just lying to me every time.  The thing is, I hadn’t once asked, ‘Is this a direct bus to Ella?’  Thankfully, each bus had taken me closer to Ella.  The bus drivers and conductors hadn’t lied, they had just misled me, and I hadn’t asked the right question to get the actual answer.  I said, ‘Ella?’, pointing to the bus, and the conductor replied, ‘Yes.’  I said, ‘Are you sure?  Is this bus is going straight to Ella?’  He replied, ‘Yes.’  Fed up of going from bus to bus, I said, ‘You’re sure.’  He replied, ‘Yes.’  Well, there was no more I could do to ensure I was on the correct bus that was going direct to Ella.  What I hadn’t realised was that I was merely a hop, skip, and a jump away from Ella. Ella

I wasn’t on the bus for long when we went past a sign for the train station, so I knew we were close.  The conductor told me this was Ella.  I thanked him.  I had no idea where I was going to stay at that point.  Then, a woman, sitting on a seat on the other side of the aisle, asked, ‘Have you booked a place to stay?’  I said, ‘No.’  She said, or so I thought, that she knew someone who had a vacant room.  Fantastic!  She told me to stay on the bus for a bit longer.  I looked out of the window, and saw all the shops, bars, and restaurants lining the main street, and lots of foreigners.  This was going to be the most touristy place I had been to so far.

When the woman told me to, I got off the bus with her at Ella Junction.  We walked up the road for a bit, and then turned right at a sign which was advertising massages.  ‘Now that would be nice…’, I thought, ‘…a massage.’  We arrived at the house, and it turned out to be her house, not a friend’s as I had originally thought.  As I walked in through the gate, I saw the German guy I had met in Nuwara Eliya the night before when I was searching for a place to stay.  He said, ‘So, you’re staying here as well!’  The WiFi wasn’t working, but I took it because the woman seemed lovely, I didn’t want to be in a situation where I didn’t have a place to stay, and I wanted to go out and see the sights.  The woman made me a pot of tea and gave me some tiny bananas, which seems to be common in Sri Lanka.  Then, I headed off to see Nine Arches Bridge, which sounded easy to get to.

Nine Arches Bridge

When something sounds too easy, it often is, in my experience.  I walked up the road, but I walked too far.  I was expecting to see a sign, but I didn’t see one because it isn’t clearly signposted.  It was a Czech couple who told me I had gone too far.  They were in a tuk tuk.  The tuk tuk driver offered to take me, too, but I was happy enough walking.  I carried on round the road, and got chatting to an older lady.  I found out later that she was 80 years old, and had only recently traded in her backpack for a suitcase.  She offered to show me the way because there were a couple of ways to go.  She had inadvertently taken the most difficult route the day before.  When we got to the place she had walked down, it didn’t look easy at all.  I have no idea how she managed.  The Czech couple were there, and she offered to show them the way, too.  The three of us were in awe of this lady.  She was incredible, and such an inspiration.  She travels slowly around different countries, on a limited budget.  She hikes as well.  Apart from making her way down that treacherous, wet, muddy slope towards Nine Arches Bridge, she also hiked up to Little Adam’s Peak.  It might not be the most difficult of hikes, but she looked like a frail, old lady.  She can’t be that frail, though, if she is able to do that.  Once she had shown us the easier route down, she said, ‘Goodbye’, and that was it.  I never saw her again.

Nine Arches Bridge, Ella

The ‘easier’ route down, wasn’t that easy, so that woman impressed me even more.  Because it was wet and muddy, it was slippery.  It wasn’t long before we spotted Nine Arches Bridge in front of us.  What an incredible sight!  It’s definitely worth going there, for sure.  We joined others, all national tourists enjoying this wondrous sight.  I was snap-happy, or I would have been if my camera battery hadn’t died on me.  I hadn’t been able to charge anything the night before because I didn’t have an electric socket in my room.  So, with no camera battery, and a limited battery life left on my mobile, I couldn’t be as snap-happy as I would have liked.  That was so annoying!  Nonetheless, I was glad to be there.  When we got to the train track, there was a guard and lots of people milling around, so I figured it was OK to be there.  The train track is in use, so do exercise caution if you go on the train track.  I walked over the tunnel, but I didn’t go through it.  Local people use the train track like a footpath.  It was fascinating to see them going about their daily lives in this remote and stunning part of Sri Lanka.

Little Adam’s Peak

Little Adam's PeakOn my way back, as I was walking past the turning for Little Adam’s Peak, a tuk tuk driver asked if I was going up.  I said, ‘It’s too late, isn’t it?’.  He disagreed, and was confident that I would have the time to get up and back before it got dark.  I decided to go for it, and walked with purpose to ensure I got there in time.  The thing is, I walked too far.  I stopped to ask if I was going in the correct direction, but found out that I should have turned off two roads before.  Bummer!  I walked back and found the sign I had missed which had been obscured by a 4×4.  As I was going up, lots of people were coming down.  I knew I couldn’t mess around.  I had to get up and back before it got dark.  To my surprise, it didn’t take long to get up to the top.  The view was great.  It might be little, and not THE Adam’s Peak, but I was happy.  I would have been happier if my camera was working, but you can’t have everything, I suppose.  I had to make do with my phone, which had a terrible camera, but at least I could enjoy the view around me.  There were other people still there, but I wanted to get down before it got dark.  Sure enough, I did.  Even though I went too far initially, and then sat down to enjoy the view, it only took me an hour in total.  Sweet!  I got back to the road just as it got dark.  

Aryuvedic massage

I headed off to book a massage at the place the Czech woman had raved about.  To my relief, they were able to fit me in at 22.00.  A full body massage on Christmas Day – fantastic!  I returned to my accommodation and had dinner with the family I was staying with.  You can’t beat proper home-cooked Sri Lankan food!  It was delicious, and I had a good chat with the woman and her family. Massage in Ella

Then, it was time for my massage.  I am so glad I booked it.  It was incredible.  It was an Aryuvedic massage that began with me sitting in a chair for an Indian Head Massage.  Then, I moved to the massage table for a full body massage.  The masseuse massaged every part of my body, and when I say every part of my body, I mean EVERY part of my body!

Ravana Falls

Ravana Falls, EllaEarly in the morning, before breakfast, I got a tuk tuk to Ravana Falls.  I decided that, before leaving Ella, I should see the nearby waterfall.  I shared the tuk tuk with a couple of Russian friends.  We got as close as we could to the waterfall, while still being able to take photos without getting our lenses wet.  It’s a popular attraction as it is one of the widest waterfalls in the country.  Some local tourists stripped off and immersed themselves in the water.  

Dowa Temple

Dowa Rock Temple

Before I went back for breakfast, the tuk tuk driver took me to an ancient rock temple, called Dowa Rock Temple.  It’s very colourful inside, and there is a massive half-finished carving of Buddha beside it.

Location

This is where Ella is located:

Because it is a touristy area, it is well-served with buses to different parts of the country, although it isn’t that easy to get to and from Nuwara Eliya, as I found out.  The thing is, be prepared for buses that are packed to the hilt.  When I say packed, I mean packed, as in nose to nose!

Have your say

Have you been to Ella?  If so, what was your favourite bit?  If not, are you thinking of going?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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