The amount of times we have sang Rhianna’s “Under My Umbrella” in Ella is obnoxious…..
Our private taxi ride from Mirissa to Ella was a pleasant experience and given our psyche at the time, well worth the money. The 4.5 hour drive is through many residential towns ranging in population size. There did not seem to be any infrastructure or points of interest for tourism, so we skipped stopping for lunch and bathroom breaks altogether. We could have used both.
Our taxi took us alongside Udawalawe National Park. Most visitors have more than the eight days on their itinerary and choose to spend at least a day exploring the park via safari. We didn’t have time for that, but got incredibly lucky and witnessed a wild elephant on the side of the road as we drove by.
The curious but gentle elephant came within 15 feet of us and we just stood there with enormous grins. Eventually the elephant grew bored of us and continued on his way and we followed suit.
It was raining when we arrived at the Ella Rock House (booked on booking.com which seems to have the best hotel rates in Sri Lanka). The sweet owner was there to greet us and bring in our bags. He showed us our simple but nice 1st floor room and an excellent recommendation for dinner, Chill Cafe. It was already 6 PM and since lunch consisted of the Asian version of Pringles and coconut cookies, we borrowed an umbrella and walked the five minutes to the main street.
Chill cafe has a great atmosphere and an excellent menu of both Sri Lankan and western food.
It is so rare to find a touristy place that is also cool, but Chill Cafe was just that. Liz’s iced tea and our food were both beautifully presented and delicious.
After stuffing our faces, we returned home exhausted and fell asleep before 9pm. We both seemed to be suffering from a little jet lag because at 3:30 am we were both wide awake. We waited until 7 before going upstairs to the balcony where the host prepared our breakfast which included, hot tea, a massive plate of fruit, an omelet, and (for some reason) eight pieces of toast.
We had debated between the two hour round trip, Little Adams Peak, and the five hour Ella Rock. With the impending rain and some negative reports of locals harassing tourists on the Ella Rock trek, we chose Little Adams Peak.
The hike was fairly easy and very well marked mostly along rolling hills covered with tea leaf plants. There were about 200 stairs to climb at the end, but the scenery at the top was well worth it. It was a true, welcome to Ella moment.
We continued down the opposite side of the peak and walked around it to return to the trail. I had hoped to get a moment walking amongst the tea plants but the detour was not much different then our original path.
On the way back to the main road we headed to cafe 98, which is connected to a luxury hotel with a high mountain pool and an amazing view.
If you have some money to spare on your trip to Ella, it seemed like a great place to stay if you don’t mind being away from town. While we there we made friends with an English couple (Charlie and Katherine) and made plans to meet up later that evening.
Thanks to our early wake up, we managed to do all of this at a leisurely pace and return to our hotel before 10 am to pick up more cash. After a little negotiation, we hired a tuk tuk driver to take us about 20 minutes to Uva Helpewatte Tea Factory.
When we arrived, we followed the instructions of the security guard and made our way through the seemingly abandoned factory. At that point, we weren’t sure what we were getting into. After climbing some stairs to the third floor on the other end of the factory, we found the “visitor center”. It had a great view and for under two dollars per person we were offered a 30 minute tour for us and another couple.
We saw every step on exactly how tea leaves turn into a finished product right in front of us. Liz even volunteered to pitch in with the tea making.
Everything completely exceeded our expectations. The tour guide was excellent and very informative.If you make it to Ella, it is a very worthwhile experience. Afterthe tea factory we went back into the main center of Ella for a quick Sri Lankan lunch of yummy curry from Dream Cafe.
We headed back to Ella Rock house for a much needed nap but too notice of an Italian restaurant that was next door. We looked it up and it was #1 on TripAdvisor so we our dinner plans. After napping and just being lazy, it was approaching the time of our meetup with Charlie and Katherine so we forced ourselves to dinner, even though we had not really worked up an appetite. By the time we had finished our five tapas plate appetizer, we were out of time and just not hungry for more food. We paid the bill and made our way back to Chill Cafe, this time for drinks with our new friends! We stayed up late listening to the DJ, drinking beers and just enjoying the stories of a traveling couple, far more adventurous than us.
The next morning Liz got another hotel workout in while I got some much needed work done. Our kind host arranged for a tuk tuk to take us to the train station, he even called to confirm the time of departure was still correct due to an email we received about a delay.
At around 11 AM, we caught the train from Ella to Kandy (Peradeniya is the closest stop) which we had booked in advance at Expo Rail, based on recommendations. It was by far the most scenic method of public transportation I have ever taken, which is saying a lot.
While the first class ticket with the observation deck is five times more expensive, and probably not five times better (11 bucks versus 2 bucks), The extra 9 dollars was well worth it. For a seven hour train ride, the seats are incredibly comfortable and the access to breathtaking views unparalleled. Plus, they serve you lunch and tea and have power outlets!
We have hundreds of pictures from this train ride. We sat outside in the observation cart for the first two hours and then ran outside anytime the view promised more photo worthy moments. The photos don’t do the trip any justice, but here are some of our favorites…
While we had a rough start in this country, after visiting Ella, Sri Lanka is making a serious comeback. The people have been incredibly friendly and the countryside full of amazing beauty. We can’t wait to see what Kandy and the Cultural Triangle have in store.