Explore Sri Lanka on a dazzling scenic train ride – the portion from Ella to Nanu Oya
Sri Lanka is home to one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. The Ella – Kandy route is renowned and stunning, though it is seven hours long. Alternatively, there is a shorter journey from Ella to Nanu Oya that takes only two hours; despite the reduced travel time, the route is nothing short of spectacular.
The first class carriage is air-conditioned so the windows do not open. Hence second class is a better option for photographers, as you can sit or stand by the train’s doors and get some stunning shots of the landscapes that the journey generously offers. I purchased the second class ticket from the counter and waited for the train on the platform. I was excited and impatient for I had heard so much about this train ride that everyone expresses fondness for.
The platform felt historic. It wasn’t too big. The sun shined just right. A local mother breastfed her baby, gazing with joy. Few local men conversed subtly in Sinhalese. Some foreign travellers extended their necks ever so often, eagerly waiting to catch the first glimpse of the train. There was something in the air as everyone had a smile on their face. Then the garbage bins caught my eye. There were four different coloured bins allocated for glass, plastic, paper, and food/degradable waste. How impressive to find something of this sort at a quaint railway station such as Ella.
The train chugged in. Passengers embarked and the ride was quick to get rolling. The train wasn’t teeming with people, so seats were readily available. It felt a tad musty at first but as the train moved at a relaxed pace, I became distracted by the sudden advent of scenic bliss. The train weaved through hills and dales, the emerald eye-pleasing tea fields, and canopies that loomed once in a while. Not to mention a few silver sheened waterfalls that looked like gems on the way. As the train winded through the changing landscapes, I rested my head on my arms, poked my face out the window, and felt the air through my hair. My eyes stayed widened to see what would be unveiled next to dazzle me.
I was on a slow moving train, sometimes slowing down to 20km/hour through Sri Lanka’s scenic hill countryside. It wasn’t the fastest mode of transport, but it was the most beautiful way to travel. Not just on the tracks through the scenery to reach a destination. But to introspect and go back in time, to think about all the history that had to occur before I was able to be there. All the efforts that had to be executed by unsung heroes who laid out the path I could take delight in – to soak in the cultural and scenic grandeur of the island nation.
The Sri Lankan railway network was introduced in 1864 by the British, mainly to transport tea and coffee from the highlands to Colombo to be exported internationally. It had faced a decline, and was in shambles due to wars; but restoration efforts were pioneered in the early 2010s. Now the train ride has become a favourite for many visitors. To think about how the country has overcome adversity and has become what it is today – an inviting place for people from all over the world – truly makes me feel glad to be a traveller in today’s day and age.
We’ve come a long way. We’ll go a long way.
The train stopped at Nanu Oya, and it wasn’t long before I was on a bus to Nuwara Eliya, also known as “Little England” for its cool weather and architecture. For sure, because I saw Edinburgh.
Oh the joys of travel. The fascination. The humour.