The train journey between Kandy to Ella is said to be one of the most scenic routes in the world. Obviously, it entered into my itinerary when I planned the trip to Sri Lanka. But I found that the booking process was complicated. It was not possible to book tickets online if you are outside Sri Lanka. Few trains had private first class compartments added which could be booked online. But their web site always had issues and I had to drop my plans of train journey in Sri Lanka.
|Nine arch bridge near Ella|
In Sri Lanka, our driver suggested us to take the train journey between Nuwara Eliya and Ella. The journey was about 3 hours and was termed to be the most scenic route. He said considering the busy season, the first and second class tickets would not be available but we could buy third class tickets from the railway station just before the journey. While we take the train, we would come by car to Ella with luggage. That sounded like a nice idea.
|Train entering into a tunnel|
The nearest railway station near Nuwara Eliya was Nanu Oya, 9 km away. The train was supposed to start at 9:30 AM and hence we were at railway station at 9 AM. We got the train tickets without any issues and entered into the platform. For 60 Sri Lankan Rupee, it was very cheap.
|A railway station in Sri Lanka|
With people started pouring into the platform, we slowly realized that our journey would be a challenge as the train would be very crowded. Most of them were tourists and we could hardly see any locals.
|Nanu Oya station|
As the train slowly entered into the station, people got into tizzy and looked eager to enter into the train. Seeing the crowd, I started doubting whether we could even get into the train. But being an Indian and used to crowd handling, I was confident that I could barge in. I took Tanu with me and pushed ourselves into the train. Chaya was bit slow but she managed to get in.
|Highest station in Sri Lanka|
Since the train had come from Colombo, it was already full and no seats were available. The prospect of spending three hours standing on the train loomed large. We even thought about getting down the train and calling our driver back!! But having gone far into this journey, it was not good to turn back. Also, with the crowd getting down was not possible!! Many people were still on the platform and could not get into the train!!
|At one of the stations|
We managed to get Tanu a seat by requesting a local to adjust. Things started getting better as the train pulled out of the station. Taking photographs was difficult due to the crowd but I managed to take one the waterfall that appeared. Slowly, people started adjusting to the situation and very quickly we entered into conversations. It was interesting as there were people from many nationalities. It was too much for a Chinese kid to handle the crowded situation and she puked. But their parents managed it so well by putting vomit bag in her mouth to ensure cleanliness. I remembered an incident long ago where a lady puked on me carelessly in a bus!!
As the train reached Ambewela station (30 minutes from Nanu Oya), one person got down and I could manage to get the seat. Chaya and I sat on that seat alternatively. Another Chinese kid was tired of standing and I asked her to sit on my lap. Her mother seemed to be very happy with out gesture.
The train entered into Hortons plain national park where the scenery was at its best. Halfway through the journey at Haputale, people seating next to me got down and Chaya managed to get the seat.
It took nearly 3.5 hours for the train to reach Ella station. Our driver was promptly waiting for us.
|At Ella station|
Finally, was it worth? What can be done to make the journey better? Indeed, there is no question about scenery but it is similar to Nilgiris toy train journey or between Kukke Subramanya and Sakleshpur. But each route is different and I think that one should have an experience of Sri Lankan train. Here are few tips to make it better.
- If you are concerned about crowd, try to book first class. Also, try booking via travel agent. I could have asked my driver to make booking earlier but it did not strike my head.
- Trains from Kandy to Ella is crowded but the other way runs with less people. It is a good idea to plan the trip from Ella.
- Avoid peak season if you do not like crowd.
|Waterfall near Ella|
During the train journey, keep the following things in mind.
- I did not see any toilets in third class. (I may be wrong too). Keep this in mind and make use of restrooms at stations.
- Try to travel light. It will be really hard with heavy luggages.
- If you are prone to vomiting during journey, keep vomit bag. It will be handy.
- I did not see anyone selling water or food stuff in the train between Nuwara Eliya and Ella. Better to carry some food items and water.