Little England in Sri Lanka

14th October 2015

We left Kandy to head to Sri Lanka’s highest town, Nuwara Eliya, or Little England as its known.

We could only get 3rd Class Reserved tickets and the owner of our homestay had panicked us a little, telling stories of the crowdedness and unsavoury characters we would encounter. People would be sat in our seats and we’d have to stand holding our bags for hours he said.

When we got to the station we almost bottled it and waited for a later train. After a bit of dithering we thought ‘sod it let’s get on, it’ll be alright’. The worry was for nothing and the journey was great. Someone was sat in our seat, but of course she moved when we got there. Everyone had a seat and the carriage was comfortable, nothing like what we had be told. He must have been talking about 3rd Class Unreserved.

Text book wrapper
If you get hungry there are no cheese shops, bottles of red or fast food and Upper Crusts. Rather, you can buy all sorts of fruit, samosas and fried dhal from guys up and down the trains and through the side windows. You hear them coming as the train pulls in, shouting ‘waddy waddy’ (or something similar – my Sinhalese isn’t the best).

Nuwara Eliya has two golf courses, Sri Lanka’s only horse racing track and Victoria Park.

And it is freezing. Like proper cold. You can imagine what it was like in its heyday with a large expat colonial community. And it’s fascinating to think that those whole travelled half-way across the world only wanted to replicate what they left behind.

But it’s sad to say that a lot of the colonial grandeur has disappeared and we felt that in many ways the town has an essence of emptiness about it, almost like it has been deserted.

We only stayed here one night, the main reason being our 4:30am departure to Worlds End the next day. World’s End is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular attractions and is a near 900m vertical cliff situated in Horton Plains national park. On a clear day it gives amazing views over the south of the country including Udawalawe national park and even to the coast.

We prepared for the trip by reading this article.

Classic pose.

Nice view

Don't do it Julie.

This was a real highlight. It was truly spectacular and well worth the early start. We walked for 9km in the most beautiful landscape.

By 11am we were done and set off to the highest railway station in Sri Lanka to catch the train to Ella.

What it says.

Waiting for the train at Sri Lanka's highest railway station

The train was late and they will only sell you tickets in the final few minutes before it arrives. A strange system presumably to do with the amount of seats left after tickets were sold at the previous station. These stations are only connected by phone and 100 year old signalling systems but seem to do an admirable job.

Sri Lanka Railways - 100 year old signalling equipment

This was a very local train with only 3rd class unreserved seats. With a little apprehension we paid Rs45 each (about 22p) for the four hour journey. We jumped on board and found our seats (turns out we sat in the seat reserved for members of the clergy but nobody seemed to mind).

It’s a cliche I know, but the journey was amazing with incredible views of huge valleys, mountain and tea plantations, and amazing people. We met a local school head teacher who gave us the lowdown of the area, his family, his school – the lot. Plus an old mental lady, we couldn’t understand a word she was saying but was lovely – we think. Our fears of 3rd class unreserved were completely unfounded and we felt a little bit silly about our previous panic.

It was certainly better than the 7:29 to London Victoria anyhow.

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