As we said goodbye to another visitor (bye Ash, Steven and Callie, miss you already) we say hello to another.. my mum (aka Grandma) is here to visit for 10 days. I’ve been really looking forward to her visit because we’d planned a 3 night trip up into the hill country, including an elephant safari and a ride on the famous ‘train from Ella’.
Our first stop was Udawalawe, we took Ian’s mum here too and I couldn’t wait to go back. First stop was the elephant transit centre to watch the baby elephants get fed their milk and long grass. I would never get sick of watching baby elephants, they’re just too cute for words, trotting around (I don’t know if elephants trot?!) and bumping into each other, standing on the grass while they pull it up to their mouths using their trunk to brake some off.
Interesting fact: did you know Asian elephants have 5 toes on their front feet and 4 toes on their back feet, and African elephants have 4 toes on their front feet and 3 toes on their back feet!
It was an early start the following morning to hit the road on our elephant safari. Once again it was something we had done with Ian’s mum, but this time was a different experience…
We saw so many elephants and up close too! They grazed on the plants and leaves next to us and crossed the road in front of us… they were everywhere! It had rained quite a lot since our last visit so the ride in the Jeep was more of a 4WD experience. We stopped to look at a Painted Stork and it’s two babies standing at the top of a tree in the middle of the lake then looked down in the lake and saw a big crocodile – no wonder they were up so high. We edged forwards on the dirt road next to the lake and then I realised there was another HUGE crocodile stretched out on the road in front of us! Wow! Rocky could see it but clearly didn’t comprehend the danger of what was in front of him. I’ve been to Australia zoo and seen them jump up high as the zoo keepers stand on a ledge to feed them big chunks of meat, so suddenly I felt very vulnerable in our open air Jeep. And the drama didn’t stop there. We turned the Jeep around and drove through a muddy puddle only to get stuck…. about 20 metres away from where we saw the crocodile. The driver kept accelerating and I could just feel the wheel digging itself deeper into the mud. Rocky was sat on my lap and I tried to stay very calm. No one is supposed to get out of a vehicle in the National Park and I think the drivers can get big fines if they or their passengers get out. But we were stuck, so out jumped the driver. We were so lucky that there were other Jeeps around to help, 3 or 4 drivers had now got out of their Jeeps and were all giving a helping hand to tie on a big metal rope to the Jeep in front and to the front of our Jeep. Meanwhile, I’m thinking if the crocs see these guys they’re going to think all their Christmas’s had come at once. The Jeep in front backed up and pulled us out spraying mud all over Rocky and I. Everyone around us cheered apart from Rocky who was a bit stunned by it all, but we were out of the mud and on our way again.
The whole safari was amazing. We saw elephants, buffalo, eagles, crocodiles, peacocks and lots of beautiful birds. So then it was time to head back to the hotel for breakfast and a swim in the pool before making our way to Ella. We left the hotel to start the 3 hour journey and the route took us on a road alongside the national park. We couldn’t believe it – there was an elephant standing right on the the edge of the national park, and because we weren’t in the national park ourselves it meant that we could get out of the minivan and walk right up to it, with only a thin electric wire fence between us. It’s such a treat to be so up close to these beautiful animals. Our driver, Nilan, bought some wood apples from the fruit shop across the road and Rocky enjoyed rolling them under the fence and watching the elephant pick them up with its trunk and scoop it up into its mouth. No sooner had we jumped back into the minivan to continue our journey, there was another elephant just the other side of the fence and this happened another 3 times! But we eventually got on our way and arrived in Ella around 3 hours later.
The drive into Ella was beautiful, we knew we were going to be stopping to have a look at a waterfall just on the outskirts of town, but we had no idea just how spectacular it was going to be. Ravana falls cascades from way up high right alongside the road. I took Rocky up close which i’m not sure he appreciated as it was pretty noisy.
We wanted to go and see the famous nine arch bridge before checking into our hotel, as we knew we wouldn’t have time in the morning. So Nilan drove us through Ella and parked the minivan on the roadside… we had to get in a tuk tuk from here. The tuk tuk ride was more like a rollercoaster ride, up and down hills with big drops to one side of us. Grandma was holding on for dear life. Rocky was loving the ride. I was just laughing nervously. A fairly steep and muddy climb down took us to the viewing point. No trains going across the bridge today but a photo opportunity all the same.
It was getting late in the day now so we made our way to our hotel and headed out for pizza. Our hotel (called The View) was basic but had the most amazing views across the Ella hills
On the way back to the hotel after dinner Nilan was edging the minivan carefully down the thin steep road leading to our hotel, when suddenly in the headlights just ahead of us a leopard crossed the path and disappeared in front of a guest house building. Nilan couldn’t believe it, he said it was a very rare sight. Then there it went again crossing the path the other way and disappearing down the hill. Nilan told us it was a ‘white leopard’. What a treat. Another animal ticked off the list.
Rocky was a struggle to get to bed that night, he had bad nappy rash and I didn’t bring the cream with me on our trip as he doesn’t get it very often. Typical that he gets it now. He was in lots of pain and wouldn’t let me near him the poor thing. So when we woke the next morning I asked Nilan to take us to a pharmacy before we had to catch the train at 9.20am. There was no pharmacy in Ella believe it or not so we had to go to the next town. We got some cream and I wrestled with Rocky (no pun intended) to apply the cream. It was getting late now and I was worried we were going to miss the train as we’d driven 6kms to find a pharmacy. Then Nilan said we could catch the train here. It happened to be the station before Ella so it meant that we would go over the nine arch bridge, and we’d also beat the Ella crowds to get a good seat… perfect. We made the train with a minute to spare and got a seat on the right hand side (thanks for the tip Ash). Both mum and I got a window seat and I sat Rocky next to me. We were ready for the 3 hour train trip to Nanuoya, close to our next destination Nuwara Eliya.
The atmosphere on the train was great, everyone stuck their heads out of the windows and took in the views, we knew the nine arch bridge would appear soon so we had cameras at the ready. I probably didn’t get the best photo, only because i was holding onto Rocky whilst also holding my phone to take a photo, and trying not to let either fall out of the train. Crowds were on the nine arch bridge right next to the train as we went across it. Rocky waved at everyone and they waved back.
Rocky was exhausted from all the travel and within 10 minutes was asleep next to me on the train. I was crossing my fingers for a long nap otherwise how was I going to keep him entertained on a train for 3 hours?!
The train trip was breathtaking. The whole thing. Through hundreds of tea plantations, mountains, jungles and villages, past waterfalls, through tunnels and over bridges, spotting monkeys and waving at locals. I can see why its described as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.
My wish came true and Rocky slept for about 2.5hours on the train, waking not long before arriving at our stop. Nilan had driven to meet us at Nanuoya and took us to the town of Nuwara Eliya. Our accommodation (Medlin Cottage) was lovely, it looked onto the lake and across to the hill which is the highest point of Sri Lanka, close to 2000m above sea level. It was cold here. We added a few layers of clothing and headed out for a walk around the lake. It was nice to be on foot for a while. We had a leisurely walk and arrived at a kids fairground. There were horse rides and the usual fairground rides for young kids and also a big inflatable with climbing walls and slides. Rocky had an absolute ball, and once he’d gained the confidence to go in the inflatable on his own (no adults allowed) he didn’t look back. I think we must’ve watched him climb up and slide down about 50 times.
The following morning we set off at 8am to head back to the villa on the south coast – a 6 hour journey on mostly winding roads. Once again the views were spectacular. Rocky had the ipad to entertain him and also slept for a couple of hours, and we eventually made it home around 4pm (yes the 6 hours turned into 8 due to various stops for tea and lunch and looking at waterfalls). When we arrived home we had Ian and his brother (who arrived while we were away) there to greet us. They took Rocky in the pool and mum and I unpacked. It was such a wonderful few days. I’m so glad we were able to explore more of Sri Lanka, it’s such a beautiful country.