22nd March to 24th March 2014
22.03.2014 - 24.03.2014
In the morning we made our way to Dambulla with an easy bus journey. Nick and Rima had already booked us a room in town but we had no idea where it was, so after some hard bargaining we got ourselves a tuk tuk as we were dropped quite far away. We learnt later that Nick and Rima had a pretty bad night. They arrived late from Kandy and couldn’t find a guest house that had rooms. They stumbled across this one and the people kindly took them around to other guest houses even though they also had no rooms. In the end, they offered their own beds but Nick and Rima refused but did take a mattress on the floor outside for free. So despite the actual rooms in the guesthouse being a bit crap, Nick and Rima felt they should do the owners a favour by booking two rooms for the following night! Nick and Rima were already at Sigiryia rock, so we headed to the famous rock temples of Dambulla. To get to the cave temples we had to walk up a hill with some impressive views with Sigiryia visible about 20km away. At the top were a few caves full of Buddhist paintings and Buddhist statues etched into the rock. It was quite impressive, even more so given the fact that some of the carvings and statutes were about 2000 years old. Later we met up with Nick and Rima who were disappointed by Sigiryia, so we were glad we saved the $30 entrance fee per person! We then went for dinner in town which was a bit uneventful as the town was dead (this seems to be a bit of a pattern in Sri Lanka). However it was spiced up by an hour long electricity cut, which led to a candle lid dinner. So it was an early night ready for our trip to Ella the next morning.
The next day the people at our guesthouse kindly gave us a lift to Kandy which saved us a lot of hassle. When we arrived we booked our train and started the 7 hour journey to Ella, a small village higher up in the hill country. Rima got off earlier along the line as she was heading off to climb Adam’s peak, while we had a beautiful train journey through stunning hills, tea plantations and rice paddies. It was one of the nicest journeys we’ve been on and discussed if it would top Northern Laos, but we decided that it was so different, it was not comparable. We arrived into Ella during the early evening, and warmed to the place immediately as it was beautiful, atmospheric and peaceful. It was a bit more touristy than other places but had stunning views through the valley (Ella Gap) with mountains all around. We found a lovely triple room which after a bit of haggling turned out to be a bargain, and then it was off for dinner where we had some fantastic food. It turns out that Ella is renowned for its brilliant home-cooked food with fantastic rice and curries. We then found a great little bar aptly named the ‘Chillout Bar’, although it was shut by 10.30 and there was nowhere else to go, and so Matt and Nick’s flow of beer was abruptly stopped.
The next day we started rather late after waiting on Nick (what a surprise) and a long breakfast, so when we started it was already stinking hot. We did a popular 5 hour hike to Ella Rock and back again, a small mountain that jutted out over the valley. For the first part of the journey we had to walk along train tracks which were still in use, and it was quite strange to see cows sat right next to the tracks (on the return journey a train wizzed past us as well and we jumped out the way). We then bumped into a local woman who showed us a different path saying that the map was wrong. We went with it, but then got suspicious when she called after us and said we were going the wrong way again and then sent us down a different path. After this happened two or three times we thought we’d just follow the map. Shortly after we met an American chap who said that there are locals round here who send you off in the wrong direction and then a ‘guide’ mysteriously appears to put you on track again – for a fee of course! After the train tracks, the route went past beautiful rice paddies and through tea plantations and then started to climb quite steeply up to the summit. The views at the top of the valley and surrounding hills were extraordinary, so it was well worth the effort and sweat! Afterwards Nick and Matt decided to celebrate by beating each other up with sticks.
After the walk we had lunch and then took a local bus to the nearby Rawana waterfalls. The journey was death-defying with shear drops down into the valley and the driver was a bit of a maniac, but the upbeat Bollywood music kept us cheerful and optimistic. But we survived alive and the 90m waterfalls were breathtaking. Once again there was a local guy hanging around trying to force his ‘guide’ services on us, but we were slightly put off by the fact that he reeked of booze so we had to persistently tell him we didn’t want anything. Once he had left (after hanging around for ages), Matt and Nick took a dip in a pool near the bottom of the falls which was refreshing but ice, ice cold – so much so that Matt was shivering with blue lips when he got out. When we got back (having survived the return bus journey), we went for a stunning dinner of rice and curry (again!) this time with 10 (!) separate dishes including a stunning garlic curry with whole cloves in – it was awesome (well Matt and Susanne thought so; Nick wasn’t so convinced!). After dinner, we went off to the chill out bar again and sat on bean bags while we introduced Nick to our Canasta card game (which he seemed to have incredible beginner’s luck). Unfortunately, the bar closed even earlier this time so we wandered back and then packed ready for the next journey tomorrow. In the morning, as Nick was still in bed (!), we decided to do another walk to Little Adam’s Peak which was an easy stroll through tea plantations where we could see Tamil tea pickers working away busily. The views at the top of the peak were also beautiful with great views of Ella Rock we had walked up yesterday. After breakfast (when Nick finally woke up after 10am), we headed off to our next destination – Yala National Park for a bit of a wildlife fix.