As I made my way onto the platform, I remember thinking to myself - these people can’t ALL be getting on the same train, can they? They won’t fit, surely? Oh, how wrong I was!
When researching the Kandy to Ella train journey, all I read about was how it’s one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. A beautiful 6-7 hour journey through local villages and farms, alongside tea plantation fields, waterfalls, rolling hills and mountains, along cliff edges, through tunnels and across the Seven Arches Bridge (worth a visit!) chugging along no faster than 20mph.
It was 8 am on a busy Saturday morning early March in Kandy. I had arrived at the train station an hour early to purchase my ticket for Ella. After reading online about the different classes available: 1st class in a luxury air-conditioned carriage (no thanks), 2nd class reserved and non-reserved or 3rd class. I decided to live on the edge a little and risk it, so I went for the 2nd class non-reserved. How busy can it be right?
As I made my way onto the platform, I remember thinking to myself - these people can’t ALL be getting on the same train, can they? They won’t fit, surely? Oh, how wrong I was! The platform was booming with locals and a handful of foreigners, including myself. Maybe I should have bought a reserved seat after all? Oh well too late now! As the old clattering train came to a slow screeching halt, a few locals started to pile on before the train had completely stopped. It was absolute chaos.
I finally made it onto the 2nd class non-reserved carriage, after pushing my way across the platform to the door and dragging my big rucksack up into the carriage doorway as people clambered over me. I looked up from the floor only to see - Crap! No seats left. Not only were there no seats but it was so busy that people had crammed onto the wooden benches like sardines. Looks like I’m standing then! I managed to find a spot for my bag in front of the luggage holding area at the end of the carriage and a handle close by to stand and hold. This meant I wasn’t by a window to enjoy the views either! I was not impressed with my decision, but after giving myself a stern talking to, I decided to try and make the most of the journey ahead.
I quickly came to the realisation that the majority of the gorgeous, picturesque views were on the left side of the train (take note if you make this journey!). My immediate view was the luggage area. I started to ponder about how I could get closer to the open door, to feel the breeze and take some photos! A few tourists had played it right. They managed to board just before the train left, so they were sat in the open doorway. I could tell they were not keen on sharing their space as they were letting people climb over them instead of moving from the door, so they didn’t lose their seat. I would LOVE a bit of cool breeze right now. After an hour or so, I resided to the floor. The guy opposite me did the same; we were both sat looking so disheartened at each other. It was so hot and stuffy; I had the constant smell of bin wafting in my face (my own fault for using it as a leaning post I guess).
Finally a seat - YES! As the train ground to a halt at Hatton, it felt like a vast majority of the passengers may have had enough of the journey and got off! It turns out that it was the stop for Adams Peak – definitely worth a visit! Also explains why the train was so busy - not only was it a Saturday, it was in the thick of Pilgrimage season! Lesson learnt).
Perfect! A window seat! I made my way to the bench and started enjoying the views out of the window. I felt amazed by the vast open landscapes.
I managed to hang my camera out the window to get a few snaps. Perfect!
Throughout the journey, local vendors would swarm the train chanting in their native tongue – obviously, I had no idea what they were saying, but I’m guessing it had something to do with the huge basket of goods they were carrying. The smell of spiced nuts, buttered corn and fresh fruits filled the carriage. Mmmmmmm, how much for those, mate? I was amazed at how they made their way through the carriage so effortlessly with their massive carrier of treats. When the train stopped, (the few times it did) and there was no room for vendors to squeeze on, they would exchange money and fresh produce/snacks through the open windows!
I had locked eyes with the view-hogging tourists a few times on the journey. About halfway through or maybe a little over halfway, the hoggers moved. About bloody time! They gave me the look and nod, as if to say – here, it’s your turn now. I made my way over to the doorway. Ahhhhhh FRESH AIR. Feeling the sun and wind on my face was absolutely delightful!
We were slowly rattling our way along the side of a mountain, I sat down and dangled my legs out. I wonder if anyone’s ever fallen out? Although it was rather scary hanging out of the old clattering bumpy carriage, I wasn’t going to let that stop me! I was so close to the mountainside. In fact, I felt like if I had kicked my leg out, I would have been able to touch it! The scenery changed frequently, and next minute, I was plodding passed farmers in their fields. It’s scorching, how do they work in this heat? I hope they keep hydrated!
If I’m honest, I was slightly envious of the door-hoggers on the left side of the train as their view was a bit more exciting than mine. What I could see over people’s heads was out of this world. I could see an abundance of green rolling hills, vast valleys and tea plantations passing by. It was gorgeous. I stared at the cliff edge, sat back and enjoyed the remainder of my ride.
After many hours of taking in the scenery and watching the world go by, I arrived in Ella. It was nearly time for the sun to set and the remaining of the passengers jumped off. I dragged my bag off the train and stretched. What a ride!
Author - Vicki Watson
Vicki is originally from the UK but has settled in New Zealand for now, excited to find out where the next adventure will take her. All she needs to be happy is a beach to lie on and watch the sunrise or set. Her motto is "Bad decisions make for good stories" and she's got plenty of great ones to tell ;-)