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Tea Country – Ella, Sri Lanka

Ella, Sri Lanka

January 16, 2015 – January 18, 2015

Full Ella Photo Gallery Here.

After taking in the sunny beaches of Sri Lanka’s southern coast, we headed inland to central Sri Lanka’s mountainous tea country.  Packing in the swimsuits we headed to the bus station and soon found ourselves surrounded by jungle covered mountains, waterfalls and tea plantations which cover much of central Sri Lanka.

Besides its endless stretches of beaches Sri Lanka is widely known for its tea.  The small island nation is one of the worlds largest tea producers.  The tea of choice is Ceylon Tea, that’s the typical black tea you can find everywhere, particularly in Lipton Tea, whose plantation we would visit later.

Before we could visit any tea plantations we first had to get to tea country and our next stop, the mountain town of Ella, and that meant boarding a bus for the five hour ride to central Sri Lanka.  On the journey we experienced our first bus mishap.  After hours of riding through the plains and the jungle, along steep roads lined with steep cliffs our bus began to make a loud grinding sound.  It sounded like continually grinding gears to my untrained ear.  Then came the sound of loud metal bits clanging and thumping around, similar to the sound large pieces of steel might make if you put them in a oil drum and rolled it down a hill.  These horrible loud and alarming sounds were followed by our bus pulling over along the side of the road and everyone getting out.  Out bus was dead.  Luckily we had traveled over a hundred kilometers and were in fact just half a kilometer from our destination, the small town of Ella, which was only a short walk down the road.  As far as break downs go I would say ours was pretty fortunate!

Our broken Sri Lankan bus alongside the road, fortunately we broke down only a half kilometer from our destination!
Our broken Sri Lankan bus alongside the road, fortunately we broke down only a half kilometer from our destination!

Ella – Sri Lanka

Ella, Sri Lanka is a small mountain town nestled between several different peaks, and is surrounded by mountain views, lush green jungle, waterfalls and tea plantations.   The town has lots of guest house options and turned out to be a great base from which to take day hikes to viewpoints, to tour a tea plantation and to take a cooking class so I could learn the secret of Sri Lanka’s amazing sweet curries.

The three official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala, Thamel and English.  They all look quite different and are on nearly every sign.
The three official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala, Tamil and English. They all look quite different and are on nearly every sign.
Banana delivery truck.
Banana delivery truck.

Ella Rock

Ella Rock, rising high above the town of Ella.

Ella Rock is a large rocky mountain point which offers a great view of the surrounding landscape and is not a very difficult hike if you can find the way.  You start by walking along the railroad tracks to the base of the mountain and then heading up, there is a maze of trails and guides hanging around the bottom offer their services but it seems that most trails head to the top and if you just keep going in the right direction you’ll get there without too much trouble.

The hike to Ella Rock starts along the train tracks.
The hike to Ella Rock starts along the train tracks and some exciting wildlife.
More wildlife, monkeys hanging out along the tracks.
More wildlife, monkeys hanging out along the tracks.
Leaving the tracks the trail goes through farmland.
Leaving the tracks the trail goes through farmland.

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The view from Ella Rock.
The view from Ella Rock.

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Little Adam’s Peak

A shorter peak than Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak, offers great views and an easier hike.  The views are possibly even better than from the higher Ella Rock, because of the angle offered from the viewpoint, so its worth the hike if you have time.

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The view from the top.
The view from the top.

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On a clear day its possible to see the ocean.
On a clear day it is possible to see the ocean.

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Walking through a small tea plantation on the way down.
Walking through a small tea plantation on the way down.

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Cooking Class

While in Sri Lanka we decided to take our second cooking class of the trip.  Since discovering how much fun cooking classes are we might just have to take one in every country we visit, especially since we are now in Asia where the food is amazing.  We signed up for a cooking class in Ella and learned several great Sri Lankan curry recipes.

Our instructor for our class.
Our instructor for our class, Chandika, with the 140 garlic cloves needed for the garlic curry.
Fresh coconut is used heavily in Sri Lankan cooking.
Fresh coconut is used heavily in Sri Lankan cooking.
A hand cranked coconut grinder gets all the white meat out of the coconut.
A hand cranked coconut grinder gets all the white meat out of the coconut.
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All the ingredients for the common dahl, or lentil, curry.

 

Eating the food at the end of the class is the best part.
Eating the food at the end of the class is the best part.

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Nine Arches Bridge

A simple hike out of town will take you to the Nine Arches railway bridge.  Much of the country’s network of rail lines was made by the British in order to take tea from the tea producing central high mountain regions to the coasts and the ships waiting to take the tea around the world.  Nine Arches bridge is one of the large architectural relics left behind by the British and still in use today.

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We met a family living near the bridge who invited us over for tea and biscuits and a great view of the bridge.
We met a family living near the bridge who invited us over for tea and biscuits and a great view of the bridge.

ninearchbridge_ella_srilanka_4 ninearchbridge_ella_srilanka_3 ninearchbridge_ella_srilanka_2 ninearchbridge_ella_srilanka_6 ninearchbridge_ella_srilanka_7After checking out the bridge we walked back to town along the tracks.

Scenery along the tracks.
Scenery along the tracks.

Halpewatte Tea Plantation

One of the large and touristy tea plantations in the area is the Halpewatte Tea Plantation about 5km out of town.  We took a tuk-tuk on a one way trip to the plantation, as we wanted to walk back through the very photogenic countryside.  We arrived on a weekend non-production day however and they were not offering any tours.  It seems that climate change has shortened the growing season and there were no pickers out the day we were there.  This was just another example of climate change we have run into all over the world in our travels.  They did however have a great rooftop restaurant and tea tasting room, where we sampled some fresh tea and enjoyed a great view of the valley below.

Our tuk-tuk we rode to the plantation.
Our tuk-tuk we rode to the plantation.

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A roadside vegetable and fruit market.
A roadside vegetable and fruit market.
Acres and acres of tea plants filled the valley as far as you can see in every direction.
Acres and acres of tea plants filled the valley as far as you can see in every direction. Can you spot anyone hiding in the tea plants?

Food in Sri Lanka

As I’ve mentioned before the food in Sri Lanka is amazing.  The curries are a bit sweeter and typically not as hot as Indian curries and everywhere we went we had great meals.  The best part is they often come by and offer to top off any dish that’s getting low!

Breakfast curries, and noodle hoppers, instead of rice, the hoppers are essentially little webs of noodles pressed flat so you can pile curry on top or dip them.
Fruit, a dahl curry, and string hoppers, served at breakfast instead of rice, the string hoppers are essentially little webs of noodles pressed flat so you can pile curry on top or dip them.
A  great dinner of rice and vegetable curries.
A great dinner of rice and vegetable curries.
Homemade yogurt piled in fresh cut fruit is a popular dessert.
Homemade yogurt piled in fresh cut fruit and treacle, or palm sugar, is a popular dessert.

 

After a few days in Ella we boarded a morning train to Adam’s Peak, not to be confused with Little Adam’s Peak which we climbed in Ella.  Adam’s Peak is several hours away by train and bus from Ella and is a very tall steep cone shaped mountain with high local religious significance, and apparently the thing to do is climb it in dark hours before the sun comes up so you can watch the sunrise.  Saying goodbye to Ella, we prepared for a picturesque train ride and some steep mountain climbing.

One thought on “Tea Country – Ella, Sri Lanka”

  1. Hi, we are currently doing a 3 month trip and will be in Sri Lanka next week. I too have decided on a cooking class per country, do you remember the details of your class? Thanks! Sara

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