When I had to take deep breathes and count to ten in order to hold back tears, I mentally checked off the bus ride from Tangalle to Wellawaya as (one of) our worst yet. Standing at the bus stop in Tangalle we saw a bus overflowing with people and when a man told us it was going to Wellawaya we figured we would have to wait for the next one, but he squished us on much to my dismay. Trying desperately not to get pushed to the back where I was sure to have a claustrophobic-breakdown, Nick found me a thin bar that circled the driver where I sat for the next 3 hours causing all circulation to my legs to be cut off. Nick remained standing but eventually shuffled himself to a small corner where he was able to sit on my backpack for the rest of the journey. A quick switch in Wellawaya and we began to climb the mountain roads towards Ella.
When we arrived in Ella we were pleasantly surprised by how quaint the village was. We walked up a bit of a steep hill with our backpacks to arrive at the Hill Top Guesthouse where we stayed for three nights. Hill Top is run by a very friendly family, and we met up with some friends we had spent time with in Mirissa and again in Tangalle, which made the stay even better. The home cooked food and warmth of the owner and his family really made our stay here very special.
Nick and I woke up the next morning at a good hour and did the hike to Little Adam’s Peak which took about an hour stopping for pictures all along the way. Not a difficult hike, but very rewarding with workers picking leaves in tea plantations, and beautiful views at the top if you arrive before the clouds do.
We had some very lovely curries at our guesthouse but the four of us decided to take the advice from Lonely Planet and get some garlic curry at Rawana Hotel on our second evening. If you arrive 2 hours early you can sit in on the cooks and get a step by step Sri Lankan cooking lesson with an extremely enthusiastic chef, along with a recipe to bring home. We sat in amazement as we watched them cook up a mound of garlic that we were told was the equivalent of 100 grams per person! My dad would have had his eyes popping out of his head if he smelt that much garlic cooking. Other dishes served included sweet and sour aubergine, mint potatoes, dhal, beetroot, pineapple chutney, tamarind, spicy coconut sambal and an alien looking vegetable called a bitter gourd which was very tasty. The entire meal was absolutely delicious and we agreed it was our best in Sri Lanka thus far.
The following morning Nick hiked up to Ella Rock which is a much more grueling hike, taking 3-4 hours. I stayed back partly because I didn’t feel well and partly because we needed to get our train tickets at 9am. Nick returned covered in sweat and with some amazing pictures giving a panoramic view of the surrounding hills. It comes highly recommended from Nick although use of a local guide would have been useful to him as he did get turned around on some of the trails but still made it back in 3 hours.
Leaving the beach can be hard, but we knew we couldn’t go all the way to Sri Lanka and only see beach, especially knowing that our next destination will be the Philippines, home to some of Asia’s best. Saying that, we were very glad that we did leave once we reached Ella because it is a very different side of the country that would be a shame to miss. Continuing with this theme we are on our way to see more of the Sri Lankan hill country.