10 stops over 2.5 hours
Route taken not just to get from one place to another but for the magnificent view along the route. Many travel guides will recommend this as part of your travel through Sri Lanka. Even if you have a car throughout. We left our driver at Nanu Oya after our three day stay in Nuwara Eliya, he got us on the train and took our luggage to drive the route to meet us at Ella. First Class tickets cost around £10 and the cabins have AC along with a guaranteed seat and the luxury of space. I’m not sure what it’s like in 2nd and 3rd class but I can imagine a lot of cramming and standing. Standing on the platform as our train arrived quite delayed, I couldn’t help but think of Tokyo and the Shinkansen, the bullet train which was once the fastest in the world and built way before its time and light years ahead of the rest of the world. Run impeccably on time and are never even a minute late.
The train in Nanu Oya was late by at least 30 minutes, our driver did mention delayed trains of being the norm.
Our cabin when we got on was full of foreigners. Not to first class standard but I didn’t expect anything else. The kids got their own seats and we had ours with room for our bags overhead.
To understand what makes Sri Lanka you can’t compare it to any country. It’s an island with lots of raw untouched and un-kept beauty. You’ll pass through the tea country to see thousands of waterfalls splashing through the landscape, makeshift housing, inhabitants living in areas that anywhere else would have been too dangerous or too remote to survive in – but here they are living, working and building families, surviving from the natural resources enriched within the land.
Sri Lanka as a tourist industry is inundated with friendly subservient locals and as an economy slowly progressing in prosperity from decades of invasions and colonisation. We came across many friendly faces with a story to tell about their forefathers, lots of historical sadness etched in to the landscape as well as natural disasters which have rocked certain areas and still do from time to time.
We spent our last two days in Galle and the fort which is in abundance full of colonial warfare has also been annihilated by the 2014 Indian ocean tsunami which not only devastated Thailand and parts of Indonesia but also reached the coastline of Sri Lanka, with only the buildings inside the fort surviving (built by the Dutch). Through aid and government support, businesses and housing have vastly and swiftly rebuilt since then.
And for the surviving fort holding UNESCO status, even though the beauty of the architecture has been built with the blood of local ancestors decades ago, in modern day the Sri Lankan born natives all get to prosper from the booming tourism here which is set to only continue to get stronger and stronger.
And as I sit on this train ride passing through the hours I get the ultimate privilege to see what it is exactly that is the beauty of that no other than what makes Sri Lanka.