Sri Lanka, Ella

Rising 80ft over the jungle canopy are nine stone arches. A colonial-era railway bridge built by P.K Appuhami, a local Sri Lankan builder, and chief designer D.J Wimalasurendra, who was the project manager of the railway line and would later become known as the “Father of Hydropower” in Sri Lanka. There is a popular rumour about the bridge, that when construction began the Great War broke out and so all the steel assigned for the bridge was reallocated to the war effort. As a result the locals turned to building the bridge with stone bricks and cement instead. Whether this is true or not, I do not know, but construction ended in 1921, and the bridge has stood since then.

To reach the bridge you take a scenic jungle path for about 20 minutes on a very pleasant and shaded walk. Finding it was easy as it is was well sign posted on the main road. We sat on a log overlooking the bridge waiting for a train to pass, but found we were running off an old schedule so we spent 2 hours people watching and met a British couple who stopped for a chat. Originally from the north of England, he was a semi retired Berkeley professor and she a UC system university administrator. They had visited Sri Lanka 40 years ago and now were back as part of their retirement travels, they said it was surprisingly the same as when they last visited. That Ella had barely changed at all.

After walking back along the railway tracks we made our way back to Ella Hide Villa. I recommend this place based on the views and breakfast sambol alone.

If you have ever looked into traveling to Sri Lanka, no doubt you will have heard/read/seen things about Adams Peak. It is a holy mountain known for the ‘sacred footprint’ a rock formation at the top which Buddhists believe is the footprint of the buddha. Well, in Ella there is a place called Little Adams Peak, which is a much smaller “mountain” that got its name because it is a similar shape to its big brother. Finding Little Adam is very easy, and you can gain access to the path by cutting through 98 Acres which is a very fancy resort. The hike up to the peak is quite short and not too strenuous but the views at the top are beautiful. At the summit there is a small buddha, semi-stray dogs, and a man selling coconuts. The main view point is next to the buddha but you will see three small cascading viewpoints that make a small ridge along the top of the peak, the view from each of these is slightly different and equally beautiful.

On the way back we stopped at the restaurant in 98 Acres. It has a large veranda where you can sit and eat while looking out over the valley and hills. There were a few vegan options but the most appealing by far was the Sri Lankan curry set. This involved a range of delicious curries and chutneys with a fruit plate for desert. There was this sharp sour lime chutney on the plate that blew my mind.   

Something very special about Ella is the nature. Because the town surrounds a road that snakes through the hills you have access to a lot of wilderness, and the wilderness has a lot of access to you. We saw many grizzled giant squirrels, brightly coloured lizards and even a dog faced water snake

A short 3 hour train and bus ride away is the small city of Nuwara Eliya, also known as “little England”. We stayed at Villa Tea Fields Hotel sat in the middle of a tea field. Something that was a little different was we were able to borrow bikes and take ourselves on a tour of the town. Nuwara Eliya has the coolest climate in Sri Lanka and is considered the most important location for tea production in the country. The city was founded by Samuel Baker in 1846. Because of the cooler climate the British colonialists felt more comfortable and could enjoy their favourite pastimes such as fox hunting, elephant hunting and cricket. What is weird and interesting about Nuwara Eliya is that so many of the buildings have features from colonial period. There are a number of hotels from this period and several newer hotels that are styled as colonial properties. As someone born and raised in England the combination of the hills and lake and the old style wooden houses felt more like summer in the Swiss Alps than the English countryside. When climate change destroys the world as we know it and there is snow in Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya has a great future as a ski resort town.



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