Today I got to channel my inner Sheldon Cooper… yup its train ride time! I am REALLY looking forward to this ride when I wake up. It is often billed as one of the most scenic train rides in the world. Spoiler alert… I think they are right!
Of course the lovely guest house I was in couldn’t muster up a breakfast at 6am despite the fact that I paid for it. So I decided to use the extra time to just walk through the early morning empty town and to the train station.
Everything is smooth and easy this morning. No issues with my ticket at the train station. Easy boarding and finding my seat … the 2nd class reserved section is EMPTY other than three other tourists.
Ella to Kandy and AMAZING Views
Then we’re off. This train is herky jerky and LOUD .. lurching forward and backward suddenly and screeching on the tracks and banging on the couplings. Nothing like the much smoother and relaxed rides you so often find in Europe.
But then the scenery arrives.. first as we trundle slowly but surely through the foothills are scenes of every day life. Children headed off to school and farmers in their fields. Then the first sweeping vistas arrive. views over the whole valley as far as the eye can see.. truly beautiful.. but the most beautiful in the world? Not quite, but I hold out hope.
And then it starts as we enter the National Park. Huge Eucalyptus and Pine tree groves. Views of the mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see, cool tunnels for the train and to oh so fresh air that I haven’t smelled in weeks. So peaceful.
Finally we’re in Tea Country. High in the mountains are endless rows of tea trees (bushes). Up the mountain, sweeping down the valleys. Dark Green, light green and everything in between depending on when they were last picked. Even large crews of pickers in the fields. I don’t know how they do it. Up to 16 Kg (35 lbs) carried in bags on their back strapped to their heads. All while trundling up and down the mountain side, through these endless rows of tea plants. And the most amazing part is that none of the pickers are young (at least to my eye!) and mostly women. So we have a bunch of elderly women on uneven ground with heavy loads hung off their heads climbing up and down mountainsides…. bad ass!!
In Kandy Again…And On To Negombo
At the end of the line is Kandy again and its just as chaotic as it was before. So finding my bus here proves to be a bit challenging. But unlike my trips through Africa, there is nobody trying to hijack me from the bus lot into their bus or trying to carry my pack or really any harassment at all.
What there was were friendly locals and tuk tuk drivers (Sri Lankan’s you continue to impress me with your friendliness!!) trying to help me find my way. It was so unusual in my experience that I had a hard time not being guarded and defensive about it. Sad that it comes to that.
But finally after about 10 queries I find the bus to Negombo and hop on to claim my seat not on the triple side. Well unlucky there but I am able to find a seat on the aisle at least so someone else will be crammed into the window! However, entering the bus is like walking into the Sun! I start sweating… I mean SWEATING. Beading on my forearms, chrome dome, shins, everywhere. I can’t take it anymore. So I plop down my daypack to claim my seat and hop off the bus where instead of being 125 degrees its only 98.
But I end up striking up a conversation with a gentleman sitting at the table outside the bus. Turns out he’s the driver and he informs me that I get the local price of about $3 for the entire 5 hour ride to Negombo.. sweet! But they don’t have change for the large bills I have so I should find some change before getting on board. Easy enough there is a shop just down the way where I buy a bottle of water and all is set.
And we’re off. The breeze through the bus makes it cooler but not cool. But the warmth, and the motion of the bus and the fact that I was up at 5:30am put me to sleep quickly. This has the added benefit of discouraging anyone from trying to cram in the middle between myself and the guy on the window. So for about 3 hours I’m blissfully comfortable .. or as comfortable as you get on a bus seat 🙂 Its all relative right?
The only experience of real note are the hawkers that get on the bus to give their pitch for whatever it is their selling.. food (ok normal) by your typical grungy looking street vendors…. gold chains (odd) by an Indian looking Willie Mays (think flexseal commercials) .. and the craziest magic cleaning potion I’ve seen (just weird).
Relaxing In Negombo On The Beach
Finally hours and what seems HOURS later we’re in Negombo. A quick tuk tuk ride later and I’m at the hotel. It is right on the limited beach that is present on the west coast and my room views and the hotel views are amazing! I settle in, and take possibly the most AMAZING shower that I have taken this entire trip.
Then I wander up to the rooftop bar for a snack and a glass of wine. After that a quick nap and off to whats nearby for dinner. Turns out thats Chinese food. Really quite good actually.
The next morning I try and sleep in but am unsuccessful as I’ve been up early every day for the entire trip it seems. So I have a quiet breaky on the patio at the restaurant downstairs and then head out to the pool and sit and read and relax and have my final beer before my trip home.
And the trip home is uneventful really. A really painful 7.5 hour layover in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and an overnight visit with Troy and Ed and families in DC. Thanks guys for the pickup and drop off at the airports! Finally a pick up in Detroit by Mom & Dad and I’m home in my own bed.
Thanks all for following. I’ll be putting out one more blog entry with various resources and recommendations from the trip for those that might end up in this part of the world at some point.