This was probably the area I was most excited to visit but I can’t exactly say why! I knew I’d enjoy the tea plantations, the beautiful train journeys and the energetic walks, and I liked the sound of ‘Little England’ with its British history.
After my night in Kandy, I got the train to Nano Oya, the famous station near Nuwara Eliya in the tea country. I spent four hours on the floor and was hardly able to take any photos of the beautiful scenery, although I did get quite a good snap out of the loo window!
I stayed in Nuwara Eliya for two nights, at a homestay recommended by a friend. I wasn’t best impressed with the host family, although they did make me nice dinners and their house had gorgeous views of the tea fields.
It was also perfectly located for an afternoon visit to Pedro Tea Estate, where I learnt more about the tea production process. It was fairly similar to the factory we visited in Kandy, but it felt more special doing it in the actual tea region.
At Pedro’s Tea Estate, they make 2500kg of tea every day. The factory runs 24 hours a day, split between two work shifts and employing 80 workers overall. In the fields, they have 700 ladies hand picking the tea leaves. Incredibly, it only takes 24 hours from the beginning to the end of the process. When the product is ready, it is shipped to Colombo for the weekly auctions.
I don’t think I realised that the tea sold by various companies (Lipton, Dilmah etc) is actually the product of a huge range of tea factories. One week they might buy a load from Pedro, but the next week they’ll get a better deal somewhere else. Does this mean the tea is different in each box of Liptons you buy? I tried to ask the guide about this but I didn’t receive a very constructive answer. It’s interesting, though.
From Pedro’s, I walked up the nearby hill to Lover’s Leap waterfall which was pretty and offered some amazing views.
The following morning, I woke up at 5am to get to Horton Plains National Park as early as possible. Hundreds of people hike the loop every morning, hoping to see the beautiful views from World’s End before the clouds rise at about 9am. After queuing for ages to pay the pricey entrance fee, I was worried I would be too late for the views.
Apparently, you can see Adam’s Peak on a clear day, but the weather wasn’t great so I couldn’t quite see that far away.
My photos definitely don’t capture the beauty of the hills, the light and the immense drop, a combination which really makes you feel you’re at the ‘end of the world’.
From World’s End, I continued the loop back to the starting point, passing Baker’s falls.
I got my tuk tuk driver to drop me off in Nuwara Eliya so I could have a little explore of the town. I visited the famous Grand Hotel for a cup of tea, walked down to the beautiful lake and popped into a little Indian restaurant for my first ever rice-flour dosa, eaten with my hands.
Overall, I really enjoyed my trip to Nuwara Eliya but found it slightly different to what I was expecting. The scenery was beautiful and I would rank Horton Plains among the best things I did in Sri Lanka, but I don’t think I’d have needed any more than two days there.
The following morning I headed back to Nanu Oya, ready for the famous journey to Ella. Again, I didn’t have a seat, and I was so far from a window or door that I wasn’t able to get any photos at all. I enjoyed the journey a lot more than the previous one, though, and am glad I spent my time appreciating the scenery rather than documenting it all on camera.
My favourite part was the warm peanuts I bought from one of the many food sellers walking up and down the aisle, which were coated with chilli salt and wrapped in Sinhalese algebra homework. It doesn’t get more Sri Lankan than that!
Again, Ella wasn’t what I expected. Frankly, I was slightly underwhelmed by the town I had been most excited to visit. It’s a horribly touristy street with many overpriced cafes and hostels everywhere. It is pretty soulless and clearly just a pit stop for the beautiful walks and waterfalls in the vicinity. Much like Machu Picchu town, in fact.
There’s loads to do in and around Ella though, and I did have a really wonderful time overall.
I hiked up to Little Adam’s Peak, although the foggy conditions meant there wasn’t much to see from the top.
I walked a few kilometres down the railway to the Demodara Nine Arches bridge and then literally waited hours for the train to cross. It was three hours late, but I spent a happy afternoon at a lovely cafe overlooking the bridge, meeting other keen travellers and drinking tea.
I completed the supposedly difficult hike to Ella Rock without much difficulty. The Lonely Planet makes the walk sound impossible to do without a guide to take you the right way but my trusty app Maps.me sorted me out completely, as did the lovely couple I met after the 2km walk up the railway and accompanied for the rest of the climb.
Again, the views weren’t as good as they might have been on a clear day (no sign of Adam’s Peak, for example), but I absolutely loved the challenging walk and thought the scenery was still pretty gorgeous.
I ate perhaps the best meal of my time in Sri Lanka at a tiny little cafe called Matey Hut. The restaurant seats 12 and runs out of food at 4pm every day because it is so popular. I had their famous ‘rice and four curries’ and tried my first ever mango curry (spicy, sweet and utterly delicious) and hands down the best aubergine curry I had in Sri Lanka. All for £2! I also tried the banana flower salad which was like nothing else – so fresh, crunchy and flavoursome.
I also visited the Rawana Falls, made quite a few random friends, sent some postcards from the little red postbox, had a lot of tea and mango juices and treated myself to a cheap and slightly dodgy massage.