scenic train sri lanka

Take the Scenic Train – Sri Lanka

 

The infamous slow train ride through Sri Lanka’s epic countryside is an absolute must. I hopped on the train from Ella, and for the next 7 hours to Hatton, was taken on an insightful and almost magical journey through tea fields, mountainsides and local villages. I kept all my senses alert and made some incredible encounters along the way.

Tickets are only 204 LKR ($1.35) and for the most part the train was quiet and empty. As soon as I boarded, the conductor came by and told me which side was best to sit on to get the best view. Throughout the entire journey he was always checking on me to see if I was alright, whether I had eaten lunch, and letting me know when the train was stopping for longer periods so I could get off and walk around. Typical of the kind and caring nature of the Sri Lankan people.

scenic train sri lankaI made myself comfortable, my head out of the window, senses on edge – excited for what was coming around the next corner. The train chugged along like the low beat of an African drum. The fresh mountain air and smell of eucalyptus filled my lungs as we edged our way along the cliff side. Then on through the pines, the vista opening up over an entire valley; rolling hills with fields of tea plantations as far as the eye could see.

The contagious smiles of the children beam at you as they hang out of the train windows, their laughter carrying down the tracks. Little voices screaming with joy as we go through the tunnels. scenic train sri lankaThey are intrigued by this foreigner that is eyeing them through a camera lens and waving at them. They shout at me “Where are you from!?” and turn away shyly, giggling, when I shout back.

Slowly with each stop more people jump on, and the train starts to get crowded. Packed with school kids, the little girls all wearing pig-tails, women in colourful and ornately decorated Saris and intricate nose piercings, railroad workers with all their tools and tired faces after a hard day’s work.

Vendors pushing through the crowds selling typical Sri Lankan snacks of peanuts, samosas, lentil cakes, salted green mangoes and more. Shouting “Mali wadis!” or “Suwadi wadis!” as they make their way through the train – it was pretty entertaining!
The elderly gentleman sitting across from me grabbed my arm suddenly gesturing that I try one of their local treats – which are by the way served in recycled makeshift “pouches” made from old school homework or office papers!

I was a sucker for those lentil cakes so I bought a couple of things to try and shared some of my loot with old mate. With a look of surprise on his face, he showed me a toothless grin and gratefully accepted. We sat happily enjoying our goodies, taking in the spectacular view, when all of a sudden a wad of spit comes flying past my face and out the window! I turn around to see some guy leaning over the old man, who seemed completely unphased, hukking and spitting like some character out of a Western movie. The more I looked around the more I noticed people doing it – even the kids! Just one of their customs I guess…

As we reached the old man’s stop, he turned to the men behind him, and pointing at me said something that included the word “Hatton”. They all looked at me and smiled and nodded. Hopefully he was telling them to make sure I got off on the right stop? There was actually a lot of pointing at me and discussion going on throughout the journey. Nothing alarming, I guess they are just very curious of foreigners. They love to ask where you are from and what nationalities are visiting their country.

A vegetable vendor at one of the stops started shouting up to me from the tracks with a beaming smile, asking where I was going and a few other questions. Then, feeling chuffed with himself that he had conversed in English with a foreigner, he gave a little head wobble and trotted off happily with his veggies. The people are immensely friendly.

scenic train sri lankaThe train began to empty out again as it slowly putzed along. The conductor came back to proudly inform me that we were reaching Pattipola – the highest train stop in Sri Lanka, 1691 metres above sea level. Due to the cooler and wetter climate this area is rich in crops and vegetable farms, supplying the majority of the country with all of its fresh produce.

As the afternoon ticked on, I was once again alone in the cart until a nice young man came by selling peanuts. He of course stopped to ask me a million questions and excitedly sat down, telling me that a waterfall was coming up, and that I should get my camera ready. We sat chatting for a while, talking about his family, when old faithful (the conductor) came by once again to let me know the train was going to stop in Nanouya and wait for an hour. He suggested I go and get a cup of tea at a nearby local spot and ordered the young man to take me and show me! The young man kindly obliged and we walked up to this little hole in the wall in this tiny village, where they were serving typical snacks and tea. We sat down and watched the men making fresh roti and cooking up stir fry, wolfing down some sweet Ceylon tea and delicious local treats. It was wonderful! The kind man even walked me back to the train and after making sure I was alright, said goodbye and made his way home to his family. I was truly blown away by the genuine compassion and kindness shown by the Sri Lankan people.scenic train sri lanka

While the sun set over the mountains, the train soldiered on over the tracks. The cool night air a refreshing change to the sticky heat of the day. Finally we reached my destination, Hatton. With one more tuk-tuk connection to Dalhousie, I was excited to get some sleep. That night I was to embark on another awesome journey – A night hike up Adam’s Peak.

 

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