We arrived in the tiny Sri Lankan mountain village of Ella after a 10 hour train ride. The journey was spectacular, winding through tea plantations, past Buddhist temples, and around crashing waterfalls.
On one of our stops, the Engineer invited James up into the engine cabin for a look around! He even said that he could ride the rest of the way in the engine, which was a very nice gesture, but the air-conditioned coach won out.
When we pulled into the station at dusk, all the tuk-tuk drivers clambered to take us to our hotel, but when we told them the name, they just pointed down the hill to a salmon-colored building. We asked, “How?” and they pointed to a cowpath (no joke!) straight down the hill. Alrighty then! This is why you need a backpack! So we strapped them on and headed off like we knew what we were doing.
Checking in at these small town B&Bs is usually a low key affair, and this was no different. The owners were nice and offered tea, but at that point all we wanted was a shower and drink on the balcony, both of which we managed.
Morning broke to the sound of unfamiliar birds, kid’s voices, and Buddhist chanting. We headed down to one of the most exotic breakfasts ever. First you start with a “hopper” – a bowl-shaped crepe and fill it with any combination of the following (clockwise from the top): fresh grated coconut and red onion, curried dal (lentils), and onion sambal. Now that’s how to kick-start a morning!
One of the reasons we traveled so far into the mountains was to hike in one of the tea plantations, and the trail to Little Adam’s Peak was perfect. We walked out of town on a curvy road to the cutoff for the trail, and encountered this grandmother who offered a photo, for a small contribution of course. She was so cute, we couldn’t resist.
We had never seen tea growing before, but were surprised to see that it looks like a sea of well groomed shrubbery growing on steep hillsides.
We were a little confused because the large waxy leaves, when picked, didn’t smell or look anything like tea as we knew it. After a conversation with a man on the trail we discovered that the leaves that get picked for processing are only the first two new leaves and the bud.
After multiple stops to chat with locals, we hiked the steep trail up Little Adam’s Peak. The view from the top was wonderful, and best of all, we could see the trail DOWNHILL, back to town and a cold Lion Lager.
Hiking and drinking beer is hard work, so the next stop was a tiny rotti shop for our second round of delicious Sri Lankan food for the day. It was a quick stir fry with fresh veggies and string hoppers (noodles) plus a few secret ingredients.
This chef’s movements were incredibly fast and he was adding ingredients and stirring at lightning speed. He wasn’t just cooking, he was creating, and the results were delicious.
Upon returning to the hotel, we had our LAST first for the day, sleeping under a mosquito net (or mozzie net as it’s called in Sri Lanka). All the day’s activity, and the pretty pink color of the mozzie net helped us sleep like babies.