Wednesday 27 March 2013 – Ella.
Benne and I were out the door for breakfast at a reasonable time and went to a small place just up the road from the guest house that had been recommended by some other travellers. I had coffee and sugar and lime juice pancakes. My stomach was not exactly stable so I wanted something solid and boring in there. They seemed to work OK. There was enough to take one away for a snack later and the coffee was not bad either.
My legs were a bit tender from the walk up Adams Peak on Monday, they were not too bad, just the second day ache, which was totally expected. Benne was feeling a bit more pain than me so we decided to do separate things with me taking on the challenge of Ella Rock.
Mornings has consistently seen clear skies and today was no different, a perfect time to do the walk. So off I went.
I had very vague directions from the guest house and was hoping (ridiculously of course) that there would be some sort of signpost, there wasn’t.
I found my way up to the road that leads to the railway track OK and once up above the houses could clearly see where I wanted to go, and I knew I had to cross over the waterfall, so at least I had a visual on the end result.
I found the railways easily enough and walked along them for a couple of kilometres, there were a few other tourists on the walk which made me feel OK and a number had guides, but they were all so slow so I sort of ended up ahead of everyone – as usual. I had seen the rain the day before and wanted to make sure I had completed the supposed four hour return journey before the heavens opened; so no point in mucking about. I passed a nice small rice paddy terrace.
I crossed over the top of the waterfall and was immediately struck by a whole variety of paths heading in different directions, most of them up, I was standing there looking very confused when this little old bloke in bare feet came past and said he would show me the way. I thought that was pretty cool, not realising that this was an offer of a couple of hours of guiding which was not wanted I wanted. We walked through the edge of the farm he works on.
And then it was almost a race up the hill, he set a cracking pace, which I actually enjoyed and we ascended quite a way before stopping for a break. I surprised myself by keeping up though I was sheeting sweat and it was barely 9:00 am. We stopped at the view-points as we made up way up through mixed pine and eucalyptus forest.
Once on the steep final section the going was harder, I could feel my legs getting heavy and at once stage I started getting some twinges of cramp in my calves, but there was nothing to be done about it but carry on. As is normal when I do these things I didn’t carry a huge amount of water either, which really is a bit daft! We stopped for a break half way up so I could slug some water and he could get some betel nut from his pocket to chew on. I don’t think he was even puffing. I would love to see a race up a hill between these barefoot old blokes who eat barely nothing, smoke cigarettes and drink homemade liquor and some of the finest trail runners. Would be interesting to see who made it to the top first!
The view from the top back down over the small village of Ella and the surrounding valleys was just lovely. I met two French couples who I had spoken to at the guest house in Dalhousie and asked one of them to take a photo, it was a wee bit glarey. Notice – no hat, I lost the damn thing on the way. I had been using that hat since I started travelling and it had been sweated in in three continents, I was really annoyed with myself.
I was shown a small side rock that allowed a good photo of the top.
From there it was all downhill, in both meanings of the phrase. I loved the downhill section and at one stage was actually running down the tight and twisty single track, cannot wait to get some runs in back in New Zealand ! (Vicki – if you read this, I think a Piha loop and that Huia loop that I cannot remember the name of have to be run – not on the same day though !!!)
We soon got out of the trees and into a farmland section, my ‘guide’ pointed down the hill and said if I went that way I could get to the cave temples I was going to visit in the afternoon or across the hill would take me back to where I started at the waterfall. Obviously I chose downhill. This was where we parted and he asked for money – way too much money, I negotiated him down to an obscenely large amount and then found I did not have the right notes to make it so ended up giving him what he wanted in the first place. He was a greedy little bastard and ruined the day for me. I did learn a lesson and it was my fault for letting it happen – but he was still a greedy little bastard and my wonderful memories of Ella will be tainted by that experience.
I started walking down the trail towards the main road way below, there was a great view of the waterfall on the way down.
It was a fairly straightforward walk though I missed a turn to the cave temple as nothing is marked, but the time I got to the main road I could not be bothered heading back up again. I had completed a four hour walk in two hours so was hot and tired – even though it was still only 10:30…. I took a tuk-tuk back to town and the guest house and had a wee rest before heading out for an early afternoon lunch.
I did not have anything in mind until I walked past the sign that said ‘latte’ and that was it, I was sold on a western meal, first one in Sri Lanka. Pizza and red wine – preceded by a latte; which was actually not too bad at all.
I enjoyed a pleasant hour or so in the cafe, reading, writing post cards and eating a very large pizza. My hands were shaking with anticipation when I took this blurry shot!
Sri Lanka still has many left over artifacts of its colonial past, including lovely red British post boxes. Which I used to post the cards.
As expected Ella Rock disappeared from view in the afternoon – though the rain never really came. I could have had a far more leisurely morning!
I did very little for the rest of the afternoon – yet again. More washing, blogging and reading until Benne arrived back from his day. In the evening we caught up with a couple of Austrian girls that Benne had met during the day for dinner in a local restaurant. I had the best rice and curry I have had so far in Sri Lanka, very nice. The licensing laws here are vigorously enforced so though the restaurant advertised beer it was not allowed to sell it. We could however, buy beer in the beer shop and as long as we had a receipt proving the restaurant did not provide it, then we could have a beer with our meal. Which we did.
We all decided to go for a drink at one of the other, more western, restaurants – i.e. – it had a bar. But they would not serve us as is it was 9:30 and too close to the 10pm curfew – just in case we lingered over our drinks. So we headed up to the local beer bar and bought another beer just before that too closed. We got to see a small part of the other side of Sri Lanka – groups of men getting very drunk on very strong beer in small smokey beer bars -it sounds like a few other countries I have been to sadly. The men were very interested in the Austrian girls and we had a wee audience for the few minutes till closing time. At around 10:15 we walked back through town to our guest houses and we were the only people on the street – now that is weird.
It could have been a great day, I loved the pizza, the wine and the coffee. The walk was great, the views were stunning. But it was only a good day.