Heading north in Sri Lanka
04.16.2017 - 04.19.2017 85 °F
16 April 2017
We left Tissa and Shiraz (the manager at Ainur Lanka) arranged for a driver to take us to Ella. Train travel from here isn't practical (more like non existent) and with the holiday, neither is the bus. It's a little more expensive but we're not splurging on a lot of other things so might as well be for comfort.
Traffic into Ella was steady. It was Sunday and I think everyone in Sri Lanka is on holiday. Our driver had the address to our guesthouse - Dinaro. He had to ask a couple tuk tuk drivers for directions but we were shortly taking a right off of Main Street. Up a narrow road and right onto a dirt road ..and then a left on a smaller dirt road. Our driver was determined to get us to our destination. I would have dropped us off and told us to walk. We finally found the sign to our guesthouse and then it was out of the van and a short walk up a steep dirt path.
At the top of the hill, ahead of us we saw an older building that looked like it needed some work and nothing like the pictures on Booking.com. Luckily, that wasn't ours - our guesthouse was the building next door.
As we rounded the cement brick wall, out of one of the two rooms came came our host. His English is sparse but his smile brilliant. "I finish cleaning"...no worries, the chairs on the front porch are comfortable. We'll wait.
Staying in Dinaro, we're definitely away from the tourist area. Ella, we discover, is pretty much a tourist town but for SriLankans and foreigners alike.
Chaminda finished cleaning and we settled in our rooms - queen sized beds, super clean bathroom, fan and mosquito netting. Breakfast is an additional $3 per day per person. We're handed a menu for the next morning. Five choices, of which four are pure Sri Lankan - just how we like it.
With bags secured, we head towards town with a quick stop at the train station to get information on trains leaving for Nuwara Eliya on the 19th. We're told that all 2nd class seats are sold out but there are first class seats for 1000Rp ($6.50), we grab them. I inquire about seats from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy (actually from the train station outside town - Nanu Oya) but am told I'll have to check at the train station there when we arrive.
Tickets in hand we head towards Ella for a late lunch. Downtown Roti Hut looks good. Seats upstairs on the 3rd floor with a great breeze and overlooking the street below. Masala Dosa for me, Jim had rice and curry (wrapped in a banana leaf) and Brenda had vegetable Kottu ( spicy chopped, stir fried roti with veggies) and a couple cold Lion beers. This will more than last us the day.
It's Sunday, so most of the shops are closed. We wander back up the hill. Jim and Brenda's cribbage competition continues.
17 April 2017
Great night sleep. Our plan was hike Little Adam's Peak and we wanted to get an early start so we asked for breakfast at 0730. Breakfast was delivered right on time, by a woman and her daughter who live down the road. Both smiled and waved as they passed the dishes through the barbed wire fence to Chaminda.
Wonderful way to start the day........
We headed out about 0800, starting with a walk into town (about 10 minutes), down the road and up the other main road towards the trailhead. Actually, it was up and up and then once we hit the trailhead it was up some more until we arrived at a stone staircase. And then it was up again to the summit. Beautiful vista from a couple different levels. We chatted with a couple (Liz - or maybe Lisa -Brenda and I heard two different names) and Simon from the UK) for a bit and realized we'd all be heading towards the same direction - Nine Arches Bridge. The USA - UK contingent was formed. We hiked back down the staircase and out the trail to the road, took a right and it was up and up and up again. With the help of another couple was found a shortcut, down a dirt path and we were very lucky that we did. The trail narrowed to a footpath running behind a small house and out to a dirt yard. We came around the house and found a few seats, a ramada and the most beautiful unobstructed view of the bridge. The young men living there had transformed this spot into an nice little rest, observation area - complete with tea, coffee and snacks. I decided since we are in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), it was time for a tea break.
Waiting for the train from this level was great. Once it passed, we scaled down a very narrow, steep path to the railroad tracks. Once the train passed another one does doesn't come along for a few hours so many people walk the tracks towards the train station just outside town. It was a long, hot walk. With thirst and hunger quenching first on all our list it was into town for lunch.
When we finally got back to Dinaro - my pedometer read 20K+ steps. I think I earned that beer.
18 April 2017
Breakfast was again a masterpiece. Over the last couple of days we've tried everything on the menu: string hoppers, hoppers, potato curry, curried dal, rice and curry and coconut roti. These dishes were always accompanied by fresh fruit (the local papaya is like none I've had before) and of course, tea.
Prior to breakfast we experienced a little surprise. Upon first opening our door I notice one of the men from next door walking into the yard with a piece of cloth and a long stick....no idea what he was up to. Well.....he proceeded to use the cloth on his feet to assist him to climb the very tall, very thin tree and when he got almost to the top - with the stick - wacked down a bunch of betel nuts....and then slide right back down the tree. Regarding betel nuts - they are used by many people in SEAsia as a "mood enhancer" but in reality it's really bad for you - is known to cause oral and esophageal cancer. I think I'll pass.
Amazing as it may seem, we have not shopped at all on this trip so we decide to see what the shops have to offer. Being a tea growing region, Jim, of course, is headed to the tea shop. Brenda and I notice a little shop on the way down from Dinaro but first...try to find Ella Spice Garden to see if they have openings for their cooking class.
With Jim off on his tea hurt, Brenda and I finally find Ella Spice Garden. The sign (hiding in plain site) took us down an alley, up a hill and through an ornate gate into a beautiful, multi-level spice garden. We talk with the owners father and find out that there is only one space available. I encourage Brenda to take it - I'm hoping for a yummy meal Sri Lankan meal the next time we visit Chandler :-).
Mission accomplished we gather Jim and head back to Dinaro, but not before stopping at ........Brass shop. They have some nice souvenirs and some unique items. Jim likes quirky reminders of our trip - his acquisition is an old (antique) metal betel nut cutter. I inquire as to whether we will have problem with customs to which Madu (the owner) responds, "oh, it's not that old!". I had to laugh. After a short English lesson and a few purchases, we head up the hill.
Brenda spent the evening at class and Jim and I watched the passing crowds from the upper level of Downtown Roti Hut.
Our time in Ella and especially staying at Dinaro was lovely....Tomorrow we're taking the train to Nuwara Eliya (train stop Nanu Oya) for a quick one night stop.