JUNE 20, 2016
Some journeys in our lives are more exciting than the destination. Such a journey is the train ride of Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka. The seven hour journey can actually turn out to be a long photo shoot session of the bounty of nature.
Taking a train from Kandy to Ella is not only a comfortable option but a scenic one as well. You can get all kinds of facilities like food, toilet, meeting the locals and travellers, listening to music and relaxing as you go by the beautiful landscape peacefully. Besides, it is also a very affordable way of enjoying the bountiful nature of the country. If you are tired of travelling sleeper-class, then doing so in this train can be a much welcome experience.
With us, you can book observation decks, seats in AC compartments, first class AC compartments or second class non-AC ones. The train departs from Colombo Fort Railway stations and takes about 3 hours to reach Kandy railway station, the place from where the scenic extravagance begins. Within 7 hours, the most scenic part comes between Hatton and Haputale. If you cannot take the train from Kandy, you can do so from Hatton station.
After its departure from Kandy, the rail line gradually ascends to a summit at the level of 2024 m before descending again to Ella at 1041 m. The first hour or so out of Kandy sees a slow rise through the dense forest. Kandy is quite a chilly place. The more you ascend higher, the more you will get to see the well-known tea countryside of Sri Lanka. The sight of tea bushes lined along the hills and tea-pickers moving at work with big sacks on their back is indeed a great scene to watch. When you go higher, the tea plantations start thinning out, to make way for the beauteous villages with mountains on their backdrop and green vegetable gardens all around, giving you an Alpine feel.
As you continue to rise, the tea plantations vanish completely to be replaced with forest. The train gradually wounds up its way to Pattipola, the highest station, located at a height of 1898 m. During this time, you get occasional views of deep ravines and valleys, the hillside plunging several meters into the deep green.
During the journey, just like the scenery, the weather too keeps on changing. While at times you find clouds rolling under you, at the other ones you are surrounded by mist, so much so that your vision gets limited to about 10m. Before you reach Hapetale, you may be pelted by a shower washing away the window panes and making your journey more beautiful. Hapetale is about 1500 m above sea level. It is located on a ridge with beautiful views on both its sides.
The last hour of the journey happens to be the most spectacular. During this time you again descend back into tea country. The train goes across small hamlets and over bridges, until a time comes when the train takes a complete loop back underneath itself, about 30 metre lower down. Gradually you see tea plantations and woodlands interspersing, and valleys, ridges, mountains and waterfalls emerging on both the sides of the railway track until you reach Ella.
At each of the stations that stand on the way, the compartments gets filled with hawkers selling treats like pieces of freshly cut mangoes and pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon, freshly made rice and curry, corn with salty butter, crispy papadums, chilli fritters, etc.
The two luxury compartments in the train serve food and beverage. Needless to say, this is the most comfortable way of enjoying the journey. The observation deck is also interesting but only the last four seats can have the best view. 1st class AC has been introduced very recently. This one can be a very good option, and the 2nd class reserved seats is the last option that you can have.
Following is a summary of seats or compartments for your convenience:
Minolma Fenandiz is a writing articles, script, stories for newspapers magazines. Professional blogger and author of "Sri Lanka Gude Book". Join me on Google+