Having grown up in the golden age of Public Information Films, there is something vaguely disturbing about being in a place where almost all instructions for hikes start with the words “walk along the railway tracks…”.
(Un)fortunately for us, on the days we were in Ella the Sri Lankan railways were actually on strike so there was no chance of trains passing, but in any case it seemed as if walking along the tracks was indeed quite the done thing.
Our guest house was perched on a hill slightly above the main part of town across – and yes, a short walk along – the railway track. In the early mornings and evenings we would be either just above or actually inside the thick clouds…most eerie!
The view from our verandah – across the pool and then across the valley:
Our slightly ramshackle guest house ‘The View’ (which it did, indeed have) with it’s very welcome pool:
Things to do in Ella: Hike (not always along the railway line), visit tea factories, and hang out in the travelers cafes in town. These things were all achieved:
Hiking through the tea plantations to ‘Little Adam’s Peak‘:
Tea at the Ella Flower Garden cafe and plant nursery after hiking up and down:
Some things spotted on the route back into town. Yes, that’s an elephant in the back of a truck, being transported to some ‘elephant rides for tourists’ hellhole.
Hike (along the tracks!) to the Nine Arches Bridge.
The next day we attempted to visit – by rickshaw/tuk-tuk – the Halpe Tea Factory. We’d selected Halpe from the various tea factories around as it seemed to have the best-rated tour, however after a scenic journey there it turned out to be closed, so our driver re-routed us to the Demodara factory instead.
Demodara tea factory – outside:
Leaves are brought in three times a day based on the pickers’ shifts and the distance of the plantation from the factory:
The engine that once drive the whole factory, the small boiler and the large boiler. They generate the heat needed to wither and to dry the leaves at different stages in the process:
Leaves being ‘withered’ – several hours of hot air being blown at them to remove 35% of the moisture. Withered leaves then being stuffed by hand down a chute to the factory floor below (no photos permitted) where they are bruised, oxidised, rolled, graded, dried (repeat as required) until they are ready to be bagged. This was a factory for black tea – green teas follow a slightly different process:
Tea graded according to the Orange Pekoe system, then bagged and stamped ready to be sent to the tea auctions in Colombo. The field to bag process takes a maximum of 48 hours and usually less, sometimes under a day:
Sadly when it was time to leave Ella for our next stop Nuwara Eliya the train strike was still in full swing so we missed our chance to see that section – pre-booked in the ‘Observation Car’ – of one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys.