Day 5 *Continued:
Flo and I were determined to soldier our way onto the train to Ella especially seeing that the station was packed with tourists and backpackers heading the same way. When the train slid into Nanuoya Station, we tried to find the second class cabins, only to wind up in third class in our haste to board. It wasn’t at all a bad thing though! There was more space than when we travelled from Kandy-Nanuoya, and we managed to get a seat each. In fact, just about everyone there got a seat so it felt a lot more roomy and comfortable so in my opinion, take third class.
Without so many people milling around the aisles and doorway, we managed to take some shots by the doors. The train travels slow enough to hang out from the trains, but please don’t do it if you don’t feel confident about not letting go. The train is slow enough but not all that slow.
The weather was decent during our trip but there were scattered showers here and there, as well as heavy mist that obstructed some of the view.
There were a lot of greenery as we went onwards towards Ella, and tea plantations were spread everywhere.
There were also beautiful waterfalls and rapids that we saw along the way. And monkeys!
We were advised by our host to alight at Kithaella, just one stop before the main Ella station, as his ‘hotel’ was more easily accessible from there.
In fact, it was only about a 5 minute walk, uphill the entire way, to his place. We arrived mid afternoon and settled into our room which was clean, and thoughtfully put together albeit more basic. We had a nice view from the balcony of the natural landscape set before us and the next three mornings, we were woken up by the calls of the resident peacocks around.
Around 5pm, our host drove us to Ella Town which is essentially a single road with restaurants and bars lined up along both sides. In fact, we were really blessed that throughout our stay in Ella, we didn’t have to hire a single tuk tuk because our host graciously ferried us up and down once a day.
Upon his recommendation, we went to 360 Ella to unwind after our day of travel. Weather here was really cool in the evening, but nothing a pullover or sweater wouldn’t do to keep you warm. We had some drinks there, smoked a bit of shisha, and with my food from the morning breakfast buffet still sitting snugly in my belly, I sat back at dinner time and watched Flo dig into his Chicken and Egg Kottu Rotti.
Kottu Rotti is basically vegetables, rotti and your protein of choice all cooked together and chopped up on a flat top. You’ll never fail to hear the chop-chop-chopping in the making of this dish wherever you go. It’s not much of a looked but I tried some and the flavour was pretty good. I can see the appeal. I didn’t take too much to the rotti being in there though because it absorbs liquid and tends to take on a softer, mushier texture. Flo really enjoyed this especially eaten with some sambar.
As with our stay at Villa Arunala, we were once again treated to the wonderful Sri Lankan hospitality at Dream Catcher Resort. Venura spent every morning we were there preparing a feast for us – omelette was a daily fixture, as were fresh fruit, toast with butter and jam, but he made sure that each day we were there, we had a different local breakfast dish to try.
This first morning we had dosa with a side of pol sambol, and lawariya – string hoppers stuffed with coconut and palm sugar.
These were very much similar to Kueh dadar with the coconut-palm sugar filling. We both took to this but as we left it for last, we were too full to clean the plate. We were treated to Pol Rotti (Coconut rotti) and Pani Pol (Stuffed coconut pancakes) the next day, and on our last morning, we had plain and egg hoppers with Venura’s homemade dhal. That dhal was the best we had throughout our trip. No joke!
Fuelled up, we decided to tackle Ella Rock. It’s said to be the more challenging one compared to Little Adam’s Peak which is also situated within the Ella vicinity. The location of our homestay meant that we didn’t have to travel quite so far to reach the base of Ella Rock. All we had to do was follow the railway tracks until we reached a small turning on the left.
A couple minutes off and we went over a bridge that crossed over some rapids.
We had to cross a tea plantation and then hike up until we reached a plateau. There, the scenery was pretty cool but the mist coming in meant that it wasn’t quite a clear as we’d have liked.
We were there breathing in the cool late morning air thinking that the hike was a breeze. Until we walked further in and realised that that was kind of the halfway point. Thereafter, the difficulty level increased with us having to scale boulders and steeper inclines. We were decked out in our hiking shoes and so, were pretty impressed with some of the locals who were clad in their flip-flops making their way up.
The humidity and creeping temperatures of the afternoon made sure we were sweating bucketloads by the time we reached the clearing at the top.
No view for us but hey! We reached the top and that, to me, was quite an accomplishment.
It was just after midday when we reached the peak, which meant that it took us about an hour half to get to the top.
We cooled down and spent a while there hoping that the haunting mist would clear but it stubbornly stayed.
We left after rehydrating ourselves and downing a banana each, but chose to take a different route home instead of scaling down the slippery slopes that we had clambered up. This path was less trying but longer, and with hardly anyone walking those tracks, there were periods where it almost felt as though we were the only ones around for miles on end. Thank God for GoogleMaps and to be fair, we did pass by some locals every so often who made sure to check that we weren’t lost.
Just shortly before we reached the railway tracks, this old man at his back garden insisted we were following the wrong path and then hopped barefoot out to lead us ‘the shorter way’ back. It involved walking along lots of vegetation that crowded the barely-visible path and at one point, I walked out back onto a clearing and looked down to see these really gross leeches on my shoes, and one hanging on my ankle. Luckily, no blood was lost as I squealed and had Flo and the man pick them all off of me. After crossing two slim iron planks that ran over a narrow stream, we were at the railway tracks once more. The old man asked for some money but we told him we had none. I felt bad but we didn’t ask him for help and many times, we told him we were ok to go alone but he kept trudging on ahead. Anyway, things didn’t get ugly. He accepted our refusal and we went our separate ways.
The rest of the day turned out to be a very wet one. Very very wet. Flo and I cooped ourselves up in our room waiting for the rain to die down but it persisted all the way until hungry bellies got us to head into Ella Town for dinner. We were really grateful to Venura for driving us as the rain blasted away. Flo and I decided to head straight back to 360 Ella since the downpour made it near impossible to walk around and choose a different restaurant.
I chose the chapati set with fish curry – they served bone dry chicken with curry instead so I informed the server about the mix up. He returned with fish curry which was also chewy and dry. That said, the curry sauce was yummy.
There was also a side of pol sambol and vegetable sambar which I lapped up. The sambol had a strange acidity to it so I didn’t take much of it lest it’d gone bad. The chapati were served warm but was quite thick compared to ones I’m used to.
Flo opted for the Stir-fried Chicken Noodles which were tasty. He loved the chilli sambal they provided on the side, and had to have seconds of the chilli to go with his noodles.
Service this second time wasn’t great though. We were charged 175 rupees for coke light when their price of normal coke was only 100 rupees. It’s not that we have a problem paying more, it’s just that we weren’t informed beforehand of the higher charge for coke light, nor was there a pricing on their menu to let customers know. We queried our bill and the server told us that if we had a problem, we could mention is to their manager. We did, and he simply apologised and said that their menu wasn’t updated, and that it would be in the coming New Year.
Anyway, it’s more the principle of it that we were unhappy with. We did find out that across all the eateries in Ella Town, diet coke is generally charged at a higher price. We would have simply appreciated being told if the menu didn’t reflect that. While we didn’t return to 360 the rest of our stay, I have to admit that their food is decent and their live music is really good. So it’s definitely a nice place to chill especially when Ella’s most popular eatery – Cafe Chill, is crammed with people.