“It’s better to travel well than to arrive” – Buddha
Very few journeys in life consist simply of you exploring the place. Most of them lead to you exploring yourself, asking yourself the integral questions, and in some cases, answering what you could never before. Traveling is the antidote to the human condition called ‘routine’. Travelling in Sri Lanka is bliss, simply put. Pick out any destination and you’ll be enthralled by the humble, serene beauty of this island. However, one train ride puts everything to shame. It makes you question your role in this nature and makes you appreciate the presence of nature in your life. The train ride from Ella to Kandy is a life-changing experience you simply can’t afford to miss.
Introduced in 1864 by the British, the train was an efficient way to transport the in-demand Ceylon tea from the hills to Colombo. However, the days of colonialism are far behind us, but the beautiful train journey is very much present, a gift that keeps on giving. The train journey takes you through tall and lush green mountains, as you glance at the enormous tea plantations and perhaps even wave at the friendly tea-pickers. The view outside your window is breathtaking, to say the least, and many tourists have supposedly called this train journey ‘life-changing’.
The actual train journey lasts for seven hours, depending on a smooth schedule and favourable weather conditions. For booking the train tickets, you have to question your preference. The first-class compartment is often sold out during the peak tourist season, but in case it’s not, you might want to book yourself a ticket ASAP. First-class compartment travel is comfortable, and that’s about it. It lacks a few bonuses that the second and third-class compartments possess. For example, windows in first class are boarded shut, you’ll most definitely be surrounded by tourists, and you won’t get to try local train food. For the other two classes, you’ll be surrounded by locals, and interacting with them is always recommended. Second and third class compartments are humble, noisy, and often the most genuine way to experience train travel.
From Kandy, the train timings are 8:47 am, 11:10 am, 5:00 pm, and 3:30 am.
From Ella, the train timings are 6:40 am, 9:20 am, 10:57 am, 12:05 pm, 6:55 pm.
It is worth mentioning that just like the Indian train system, the Sri Lankan train system operates similarly. What we mean is that if you’re traveling at busy timings, expect a stubborn crowd that won’t give you their seats. Also, you’ll have to push your luggage through the crowd, so do not feel bad if you have to physically shove people out of your way, such as the bittersweet experience of traveling in second class and third class compartments.
The most breathtaking part of the train journey is from Haputale and Ella, and then Ella and Badulla. For the former, the view outside your window will consist of lush green forests, heavy mist, and a long and winding corridor through which the train manoeuvres itself effortlessly. For the latter, it’s something very similar, however, the train meanders through crazy turns and elevations, giving you an untainted sight of the Sri Lankan mountains.
Although seven hours don’t sound that taxing, they can be incredibly long if you’re stuck in the train with no food or water. Agreed that vendors oscillate through the compartments pretty often, but still, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Carry your water and snacks, water most importantly if you do not trust the local water sources. Also, a last but crucial tip for this train journey is to sit on the right-hand side during the journey from Kandy to Ella, and on the left during Ella to Kandy. This gives you vantage views of the mountains, without having to shift a lot, or strain your neck. For the photographers, carry an extra set of lenses if you have to adjust, we assure you that you’ll be clicking a lot of different photographs. Also, don’t forget to carry an extra set of charged camera batteries. Travel responsibly, make sure you’re not a problem for yourself as well as other travelers, avoid being reckless by running along the tracks or sticking your head out of the window.
Curated by Yashodhaan Burange
Photo Credits – Pexels, Shutterstock