After our first week in Sri Lanka we were starting to get into the swing of things. We had spent an extra night in Galle than we had first planned and then continued around the southern part of the island towards Yala National Park.
Galle to Tissamaharama
Our lovely host in Galle had confirmed the bus we needed to catch to take us to Tissa and as Galle was the starting point we all got seats and stored the bags without any issues. The trip took nearly four hours and cost us a total of 670 LKR/$6.22 NZD. Tissa isn’t a very big town but as soon as you arrive at the bus station, if it hasn’t happened on the bus on the way there, you are accosted by offers of safari tours to nearby Yala National Park. We took one guy’s details to speak to him later and walked the 250 metres to our accommodation.
Our only reason for going to Tissa was it’s close proximity to Yala National Park and our wish to do a safari. Lincoln was very keen to try to spot a leopard as he knew his grandparents had seen one during their trip to Sri Lanka a few years prior.
We only booked two nights at Yala Meedum Safari (see our review here) and they gave us details and pricing of the safaris that they offered and Logan went to speak to the other guy to see what his costs were. We decided to book through our host and we were given the wake up time of 4.30am – the total we paid for our safari was 15,000 LKR/$139 NZD. The next morning we were given coffees by our host as they finished making our packed breakfast so we could eat it on the 20km journey to the National Park gates. The gates open at 6am and we arrived at 5.20am and got in the queue.We were astounded at how many jeeps there were but it seems anyone can enter the park not just those with guides; I would hate to think what it can be like in the high season. At 6am the engines roared into action and the line of jeeps streamed into the park. There are numerous tracks to take and we pretty much immediately headed off to the left away from the pack. We started to spot animals left and right…… water buffaloes, spotted deer, crocodiles and so many beautiful peacocks.We continued around the park and saw mongoose, wild boar, elephants, lots of different birds and stunning landscapes.The major attraction for us was the elusive leopard and we began to see signs of leopard activity, a group of jeeps were stopped near a condensed areas of trees and our guide found out what everyone was looking at…. a dead deer had been pulled part way up a tree, no doubt for the leopard to snack on at a later time. A bit further on we saw a baby water buffalo that had been taken down but again, no actual leopards around.
We continue our journey around different areas of the park and after about four hours we stopped at a rest area where the edge of the park means the coastline. A beautiful area to take a break from the back of the jeep and some of the rugged, bumpy tracks.By midday our time was up and we headed out of the park and back to Tissa township. Lincoln was disappointed we didn’t see any leopards but that can happen when we are trying to seek out animals in their natural environments and when they are an animal that doesn’t always want to be seen. Nevertheless, it was still an incredible few hours out among the wildlife and wild landscapes.
Tissa to Ella
After the safari we stopped in at the bus station to enquire about how we could get to Ella the following day. It seemed there was only one bus that would go directly through Ella without us having to transfer to another bus and it came through Tissa at 8.30am. So the next morning we made the short walk to the bus station and confirmed where we needed to be to catch the bus, which was actually going to be coming through at 8.20am. The boys weren’t looking forward to this bus trip as we couldn’t be too sure how empty or full it would be once it arrived at Tissa; however we had another stroke of luck because although it looked very full as it pulled up, there were a lot of people who got off. The attendant was very helpful, checked where we wanted to end up and opened the back of the bus so we could stow our larger bags. The boys and I got one seat of three together and Logan was a few rows behind us, but they were happy we weren’t standing or crammed in for the next two hours. Total cost for this trip was 776 LKR/$7.20 NZD.
We arrived safely in Ella township and called our host who had kindly offered to collect us. As we waited we noticed how geared up the town seemed to be for tourists – obviously high on the radar for a lot of visitors to Sri Lanka.
We were pleased the host had collected us as I doubt we would have found ‘Happy Laugh Hostel’ that easily. It is a good 3kms out of the main township and still mostly under construction (read our review here). Our host was heading back into town, so after we had checked in we gladly hitched a ride as we wanted to purchase our train tickets as soon as possible as they can sell out. The train departing at 9.30am that I wanted to catch was in fact sold out but thankfully there was an extra, 1st class carriages only, weekend service running, departing at 2.15pm, so we purchased tickets for that train and went to find some lunch.
After lunch we caught a local bus back to Ravana Falls, which we had seen on our journey into Ella, it was just 6kms out of town and looked pretty interesting. Located right on a corner of the windy mountain road, the falls are very popular with tourists and locals alike. Despite the numerous signs about the dangers of bathing/swimming it didn’t seem to be deterring many but as we hadn’t brought our togs with us we just paddled around in the refreshing water to cool off a bit.The following day we took a track, not far from our accommodation, down through the jungle and tea plantings to the Nine Arch (or Nine Skies) Bridge. Constructed in the British Colonial period, it spans 91m at a height of 24m and is built entirely of rocks, bricks and cement. It is said that just as construction started WWI broke out and all the steel consignment for the bridge was seized and allocated to war related projects. As a result the work came to a standstill until locals came forward and built this massive bridge without any steel. There was a train due just before midday so we waited for it to pass along the curved bridge and then we walked up a different track towards Ella town for some lunch.Next on the agenda was to conquer Little Adam’s Peak and it was a pretty good track towards the submit with a few sections of well constructed steps. We made it to the summit and the stunning 360 degree views around this beautiful area.Ella was a cool little stop and it was nice to have some slightly cooler temperatures up in the mountains.
Ella to Kandy
This route is world famous for its train travel and photography; people hanging from doorways while passing through mountain ranges and jungle scenery, and it certainly did not disappoint. As mentioned, the whole train was 1st class carriages so the boys were pleased we had allocated seats but of course, 1st class meant higher prices and the total trip cost us 5,000 LKR/$46 NZD. So it didn’t completely break the budget and we were in much more comfortable seats for the six hour journey. The train rolled into Ella around 1.45pm and the masses of tourists flooded off. Definitely the most we had seen in one place since being in Sri Lanka. The train was cleaned and we found our carriage and seats at the front of the train. We departed right on schedule and it didn’t take long to see why this trip is so popular. We began to climb into the mountains and at the highest point we were 1,898m above sea level. The scenery we saw during the first few hours before the clouds rolled in and the sun set was just incredible and the trip was a definite highlight of our time in Sri Lanka.Logan took amazing photos of the trip and you can check them all out by clicking on the album link to our Facebook page.
By the time we got to Kandy we were about an hour later than expected and it was nearly 9pm. Nonetheless our amazing hosts were waiting for us and we gladly hopped straight into the car without needing to haggle with tuk tuk or taxi drivers.
Later I found out that doing the journey from Kandy to Ella can be much busier but you can also book this trip online in advance because it is so popular. So even a 2nd class reserved ticket would give you a pretty comfortable journey in either direction.
We were warmly welcomed at Kandy Jungle View with delicious hot chocolates (click here for our review) and it wasn’t too soon after this that Logan realised we didn’t have our passports!! They were still “hidden” at our accommodation in Ella. We called our host in Ella and thankfully, even though there were new guests in our room, our passport holder was found. We only had two nights in Kandy but they were able to arrange to get our passports on the train up to Kandy the following day, so we had a slightly anxious day hoping all would go to plan. It did, and Logan went to the station around 4pm and quite easily collected them from the station master. After 14 months on the road, that was the first time we had forgotten to pack them.
We only had one full day in Kandy but sadly the rain started early in the morning and didn’t ease until midday. So we finally ventured out to get lunch and look around the city centre. We bypassed the Temple of the Tooth (which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha) and decided instead to wander the 3kms around Kandy Lake. It was a pleasant walk and we saw lots of different birds and numerous water monitors; the boys kept a count and we finished with seeing 15 in total. Definitely the most we have ever seen in one place before. We also passed by the Queen’s Bath on the lake edge, but it was under renovations so we couldn’t walk through on this occasion.A very interesting (and busy) week and while we might of liked a little longer in Kandy, we needed to get back to Colombo during the working week to get our visas processed for our upcoming visit to China.
Average Daily Spend for 4 weeks in Sri Lanka – $118.30 NZD ($54.20 under budget per day)