Monday, January 06, 2020

Going Up to Ella, Sri Lanka

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Day 67 - We were piled in the van and on our way at 6:45 am. This was without breakfast, I might add. We later stopped along the way at a stunning hotel in the middle of nowhere as we were nearing Ratnapura, the gem city. It's called that as many precious stones are mined in the area. When passing rice paddies, one can see tin-roofed shanties over the holes where workers dig to find rubies, sapphires, cat's eyes, and other precious stones. First, we went into the city center to see the Aramanapola Raja Maha Vihara, a Buddhist temple going back to 250-230 BC.

Going to Ella

Our driver didn't follow Jay's initial plan and we had to backtrack quite a ways to get to our destination temple of the day. The Batatotalena Cave Temple is said to have been one of the 16 places which the Buddha stayed during his three trips to Sri Lanka. It has a history exceedingly older than that as some nearby caves have remains dating back to 14000 BC.

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

The hike up was only about a half-hour. I'm going to feel it tomorrow, I'm sure. Now I have aches and pains after crossing the street. This location is supposedly where the Buddha and his disciples stayed after ascending Adam's Peak, a mountain sacred to Sri Lankan Buddhists, Moslems, and Christians. As you can see it was covered by clouds but the cave provides an excellent vantage point.

We had to go back through the middle of Ratnapura just as school was letting out which meant major traffic jams. We had not yet started to wind our way up the mountains towards the town of Ella, Sri Lanka. Jay and I stayed the night once on a trip eight years ago. Since that time, it has become somewhat of a tourist magnet. The onslaught of backpacking young folks discovered Ella and now it is part of their Asia/SE Asia circuit. Interestingly there were lots of young people travelling with kids too. I cannot fathom the extra work travelling with a toddler must entail!

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Not a Selfie

Going to Ella (Unedited)

It didn't take long before we started seeing tea growing on the passing slopes. We were heading to an area where tea plantations prosper in the cooler mountain weather. The road surfaces are now excellent in Sri Lanka, but travelling the switch-back laden road was slow, really slow. I bet at times were couldn't average more than 30 kph. Yet around each corner, there was another interesting vista. As you will note even modern monks cannot live with their phones.

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

Going to Ella (Unedited)

By the time we got to Ella, it was around 6:30 pm. It's dark at 6:30. If we hadn't wasted time and had followed Jay's route, we would've gotten here a few hours earlier. The business section of the town was packed with tourists. We could hardly find a place to park the van but eventually did near the train station.

Jay, Nazir and I walked to find us a place to stay. Fortunately, after asking at just one full hotel, we found a perfect place, the Sun Top Inn, on the Police Station Road. We got three rooms, one for Jay's sisters, one for Nazer and the driver, and one for Jay and me. After deciding we'd get our own breakfast outside, we settled on a price of about $US 16.50 per room.

We went out into the night to grab dinner on the main drag. That road goes down into the valley where spectacular Ella Falls is. The meal was fine and we had live music from across the road. I have to say this city is more exciting than during our last visit.

Tomorrow begins at 7:00 am.


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