The Most Beautiful Train Journey In The World, Sri Lanka
by Brian Barry
Long train and bus journeys are part and parcel of travel, some days you love them and some days you hate them. This train journey from Kandy to Ella was one we were certainly looking forward to, all the guide books had it hyped up as ‘the most beautiful train journey in the world’ and we wanted to see if it was going to live up to its reputation. It began slow, building the suspense, with the train being over two hours late, not the best start but the train finally pulled into the station and we were off.
We opted for second class, unreserved seats which were perfect and offered great views out the large windows. A first class observation carriage is also available for tourists, it’s got a glass front so you can get better views of the scenery but the glass is not cleaned regularly resulting in rubbish photos through the dirty glass and being away from the vendors and all the fun which taking the train can be! With open doors between each carriage you can get some great photos from the train as it moves through the mountains so this seemed like the best option for us.
Up and down like a yoyo as the train rolled on through the Sri Lankan hill country taking photos was how we passed the time on the seven hour journey. Every time you sit down the train rounded another corner and another amazing view opened up in front of us. Bending and winding through the countryside the train slowly chugged along, people hanging out every door, tourists and locals alike, trying to get the best view of the beautiful scenery as we passed by. You had to be careful at times as the track was sometimes carved out with just enough room for the train, arms and legs were quickly pulled in at the narrowest points, usually just in time! Some of the braver locals reached out and picked flowers from the door of the train as we went flying by, passing them in through the open window to Noelle with big smiles.
Rolling green palm plantations coming out of Kandy gave way to thousands of acres of tea plantations as we crept towards Haputale. Dotted through the rows of tea bushes women were working, picking the tea leaves in brightly coloured saris, like coloured lights on a Christmas tree. Locals use the track as walkways between villages and would often wave, smiling excitedly as the train passed along. Children in school uniforms ran by, men and women walking livestock on rope and parents standing cradling young children seemingly just out for a walk, life seemed simple up in these hills and it was refreshing to be away from the hustle of Kandy. Valleys stretched as far as the eye could see, waterfalls dotted the valley walls, expansive evergreen forests broke up the never-ending tea plantations which blanketed across the lush mountains, as the train rolled on from Haputale to Ella.
With evening setting in the sun began dropping from the sky casting an amazing yellow glow across the valleys below. Passing through railway stations, they were beginning to get less busy and Ella was getting closer, although we were tired from the trip, the excitement of reaching and exploring somewhere new was keeping us going and as the brakes slowed the train we grabbed our bags and jumped off at Ella Station, breathing in the crisp, clean evening air, it felt good to be in the hills again.