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Hill country railway to Nuwara Eliya

One of the most Instagrammed tourist attraction in Sri Lanka is the nine arch bridge designed by the British over 100 years ago. The majority of people take a train from Colombo or Kandy to Ella to enjoy the scenic rail and see the bridge. We decided to cut it up into stages starting first in Nuwara Eliya, aka: Little England.

The morning rise

Unfortunately, we only got use of the hostel’s breakfast once (see yesterday’s vlog) as this morning we had to wake up early and get to the train station. Our train, not until 08:47, was fully reserved and therefore only unreserved tickets were available. These are unlimited in number, but only sold a few hours before the journey. We therefore needed to get to the station to queue up.

All the advice, which we took, said to queue for tickets at least 1/1.5 hrs before the train departure. Which meant we arrived at the station for 7:15. The queue was already at least 50 people. Eventually, after I panicked and withdrew another 50 quid from the ATM for a ticket that cost less than one pound each, we got our tickets.

The train comes

Kandy station seemed to be fixed in an old age. Hardwood notice boards painted by hand display the destinations, whilst hand-moved clocks provide information on the expected departures.

Old school tech: Hardwood boards with clock faces mark when the next train is due
Old school tech

The tickets are stamped and we walk down the platform to stand with 100s of other foreign tourists, all waiting for that moment when the train is coming. And all limbering up for a fight to get on the nearest carriage.

Tourists standing all along the Kandy platform, hoping to get a space and a seat on the train
Tourists limbering up, train not in sight

The shining blue wagons coming bouncing around the corner and the whole platform picks up bags and cameras and bottles to get ready to board.

The journey begins

It’s a good job that the most sought after photo is that of someone leaning, looking, or almost falling out the door of the carriage. That is because, once everyone else had barged into the carriage, I was left standing with a backpack on my front and back, hanging out the door of the train by about six inches.

For about 10 minutes we all stood there, wondering what the next course of action would be. Luckily we all managed to remove our packs (just) and stand with them between our legs. This was shaping up to be a long and unpleasant journey. Not quite the serene experience Instagram had portrayed…

Getting on the train was hard enough but getting a seat was impossible. There was enough space for one to sit on the floor on the whole way to Nuwara Eliya
The floor offered space for only one person to sit, at a squeeze

At one point, a loud Australian near us declared that he couldn’t take anymore and was going to get off at the next stop. This would be understandable since he had 7 hours ahead of him, going the full way to Ella. But given we were less than 15 minutes into the trip, did seem a little over-dramatic. We, on the other hand, had only 4 hours ahead of us, which was a little more comforting.

Windy trip to Nuwara Eliya

Having worried about being stood in the train doorway, I actually ended up having the best “seat” in the house. Standing there with the wind blowing in your face, one foot half out the door and the other placed firmly in the carriage, you really get to experience the journey.

Whilst I had my head out of the door looking forward feeling the breeze, I tried to get some nice shots on my camera (check out our insta if you haven’t yet done so), and the journey whistled by.

Rob leaning out of the train, risking his life.
Don’t try this at home!

Little England

Soon enough we arrived in Nanu Oya station. Perched on the side of a mountain at 1,613m, it is the gateway to Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is a further taxi drive up the hill and is noticeably colder than the rest of Sri Lanka. So much so that there is a “winter market” in the town centre selling warm clothes (one of the few spots in the Country).

the guards at the stations are all dressed smartly in white

Surrounding the lovely Lake Gregory, the town spreads around the valley and up the steep-sided hills. We were staying in a budget location which was a long way up, but it was worth it for the spectacular views.

Weather

The British love to talk about the weather. Everyone knows that. And in Little England it is just the same. On our first day we saw rain, lightning, thunder, cloud and 25 degree heat. The cool evenings are a refreshing change from the city heat though.

After a lovely meal, more Kottu (chopped roti with meat and veg), we started the 40 min walk back to our hotel. That’s when the rain hit, so instead we opted for a tuk-tuk. For once, this was difficult since all the tuk-tuk drivers stood under shelter waiting out the rain, not wanting to be splashed.

Eating Kottu in Nuwara Eliya
Eating Kottu in Nuwara Eliya

Drenched and cold we found our way back, ready for a sleep and a good bit of walking the next day.

See you tomorrow.

Rob and Jenny

Xx

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Rob & Jenny

About Rob & Jenny

We are a married couple from London taking a break from the 9-5 to travel the world and soak up new experiences. Follow us to find out more about the places we go, the things we see and the experiences we have.
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