It’s nothing but a ten and almost an eleven hour journey from Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka. By an express train with a coach or two of Rajadhani Express and Expo Rail – a luxury train service in the country – it would (still) take nearly eight hours. But not a tad we thought that December was the peak season of the country and we wouldn’t be able to reserve tickets for the express trains only a few days ahead of the journey. By the time Zin went to the Kandy Railway Station to reserve tickets, everything was booked out, and we have also reserved our hotels and made plans for the journey ahead. We were left with nothing but to travel in the goods train at 3.30 in the morning. A goods train? Seriously?
The train compartments are small, smelly and cramped, with a “few” mosquitos swishing through the air. Seats are small and hard. And to make it seem more arduous we didn’t sleep the night before. We happened to spend the night before in the lobby area in Clock Inn, Kandy, sipping a coffee or two. We were not allowed to reserve a bed and sleep for the night in Kandy Downtime Hostel which we thought we could. And the reason? Sri Lankans, we were. Locals.
Everything seemed arduous. Everything. Until Zin saw the aurora over the mountains. The beautiful sunrise. The way he’s ready for another day, smiling and happy. And that was all that needed to change what looked like an arduous journey to one with a lot of fun. Along the way are hours and hours of awe-inspiring sunrises and breathtaking beauty of nothingness. There, my friend, is really nothing out there, apart from mountains, of colours and shapes different to each other, tea fields and small waterfalls. And wild flowers of vibrant colours with names you couldn’t pronounce.
Sometimes (and by sometimes I pretty much mean every time) the best and the most cherishable travel experiences are the most uncomfortable ones. And the best travel experiences are always associated with trains. Zin happened to have a pretty grumpy boyfriend (hello there Nathan!) alongside at the beginning of the journey –who slept along the way until sun rose over the mountains – and forgot everything but to laugh and goof around thereafter. And turned to his sweetest-self afterwards.
We made friends with a kid whose expressions changed from a smile to red eyes full of tears in two minutes. And became happy with a simple snack like a packet full of tip-tip. The goods train stopped for more than ten minutes at some railway stations and opened up the opportunity for us to while away hours and hours peeping into the breathtaking scenery.
Along the journey – which didn’t even cost LKR 200 for both of us – were talking to two German backpackers who said we were a cute couple and whom we unexpectedly met the next day in Ella, clicking a few snaps of the breathtaking beauty of Sri Lanka’s up country. And more than that, making memories.
After almost eleven hours, we saw the Ella railway Station. And we can now say travelling by train, mostly in an uncomfortable one, is our favourite way to anywhere, and everywhere.