We arrived in Nuwara Eliya via train. Having purchased unreserved seats at Hatton station Amelia and I were left to fend for ourselves when the train arrived! With our weighty backpacks on we did well to beat the mad rush to the doors, only to be outdone by tourists behind us 'reserving' seats by throwing their bags on seats through the window! Not a technique I've seen before, but it was mildly irritating, especially as we now had to stand on our fatigued legs for the journey to Nuwara Eliya.
The views out of the window were reminiscent of the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia - rolling hills filled with luscious green tea plantations as far as the eye could see..
Our aching legs didn't endure too much suffering, we arrived into the picturesque Nuwara Eliya station one and a half hours later. From the station it was about fifteen minutes by tuk tuk to the centre. As we couldn't find any cheap accommodation online, we asked our friendly tuk tuk to help us. The tuk tuk drivers we'd met so far in Sri Lanka were honest reasonable men. With the going rate being around 50 rupees (25p) per kilometre one can't really complain!
After being shown a couple of places outside our budget we eventually bartered a cheap room at 'Victoria Inn'. It didn't really tick the right boxes, but it seemed cheap accommodation was hard to come by, so we paid the tuk tuk driver and dropped our bags in the room - not that they stayed there for long.. As with a lot of places we've stayed in, the pillowcases smelt like they hadn't been changed and there was a lack of towels and toilet paper! Normally they're issues that are immediately resolved with a quick word - that's if you can find someone to have a 'quick word' with! Eventually, whilst Amelia was crossing her legs for the loo, I hunted down the owner and asked for the necessaries.. To cut a long story short the both of us had had several 'quick words', before we decided enough was enough and left. Just as we buzzed off in another tuk tuk we turned caught a glimpse of the owner, he was looking at us bemused with towels and toilet paper in his hands..
In the time we were waiting I'd hunted down a recommended hotel called 'Misty Mount View' and bartered for a good rate. Misty Mount View was situated on the highest peak in Nuwara Eliya, which had its advantages - tranquility and views, as well as its disadvantages - a strenuous walk or a perilous three-wheeler ride up a very steep track. The latter is what we experienced during our arrival with our heavy backpacks - the tuk tuk literally felt like it was going to topple whilst the driver pulled a u-turn on the steepest part!
It was a tired hotel, but it had clean beds, towels and the much needed toilet paper for Amelia, who was now about to wet herself! Not only was the room clean, but for the first time in Sri Lanka we had a TV and balcony, all for just 2000 rupees (£10)!
With its temperate climate and old colonial buildings Nuwara Eliya has earned the name 'Little England'. So far we hadn't seen many of the colonial buildings, but we could certainly acknowledge the cooler climate! Our jumpers, jackets and trousers were back out from the depths of our backpacks for our walk down into the town.
Walking down the long windy roads took longer than we'd expected. But happily we found an attribute that, in my opinion, grants Nuwara Eliya its alias more than anything else... a pub! We made sure to pop in after a brief look around the town and a bite to eat at 'Sri Ambal' for dosai - a fermented crepe/wrap made from lentils and served with buckets of curry.
The Pub as it was called, served us draught beer ('Lion' - the national beer). Disappointingly they didn't have ale, but the draught Lion hit the spot - especially for 150 rupees (75p)! The atmosphere in the pub was bizarrely similar to a typical English pub, however the 'smoking ban' has yet to hit Sri Lanka, so we left that evening stinking of ashtrays!
Sadly I wasn't able to barter for breakfast too, but we were prepared and ate a couple of bananas that we'd bought on our way back the previous evening.
Amelia was craving a coffee that morning, so we found ourselves at possibly the plushest hotel in Nuwara Eliya sipping away on what was actually reasonably priced lattes. The hotel was called 'The Grand Hotel' and we made sure to use their facilities whilst we were there! It was a very posh place with polished wooden floors and grand pianos. I even stumbled into what looked like Arabian royalty whist searching for the little boys room!
A waterfall called 'Lovers Leap' was (according to the Internet) only 6kms away, so rather than paying for a tuk tuk Amelia and I decided that we should walk. Throughout the walk to the waterfall we were met with plenty of curiosity, mostly friendly, however some kids have sadly been taught to look at foreigners as som sort of cash cow and beg for money. It does leave a bitter taste but we tend to ignore them and carry on smiling.
'maps.me' (free GPS app) as usual navigated us to the waterfall with no troubles. We strolled through a dusty town, across a cricket pitch, along polluted roads and finally through tea plantations to reach it. It was a multitiered waterfall standing 30m tall. It appeared as though we were the only tourists who'd walked, as the few others that were there had tuk tuks hanging around nearby. Stomachs grumbling and snaps taken we decided to head back for a much desired lunch. Rather than going back the same way we decided to take a diversion to pass by Gregory's Lake.
It was late by the time we reached Sri Ambal for lunch. It was a slightly different 'branch' but offered the same food. This time instead of ordering the rich buttery dohsai I went for the masala dohsai and Amelia the plain.
Tired after a long day out, Amelia and I decided to head back for a relaxed evening in front of the TV - not something we can do very often! Along the way we bought some 'short eats' for dinner, beer from the wine store (off-licence) and breakfast for the following morning...
Bananas again for breakfast, followed by some very dry cake bought from a bakery. Thankfully, a friend of the hotel was able to take our bags down to his shop in town early that morning, whilst we made use of the Internet and did some research on our next destination.
Later that morning, we walked down to collect our bags, purchased takeaway rice and curry and caught a local bus to the train station. The train station was bustling with tourists, so I decided whilst we were waiting to escape the hustle and look for photo opportunities on other platforms. Whilst strolling around I was beckoned by a voice above, it was coming from a Sri Lankan station worker. I wasn't sure what he wanted, but I didn't think I'd done anything wrong so I climbed a metal stairwell to reach him. He told me that he was a signalman about to go to work. I asked him what his job entailed and before I knew it he ended up giving me a guided tour of his place of work.
The 'signal box' was up above the rest of the platform and full of big red, blue and black mechanical levers which operate the signals and points. I was very intrigued, but also fully aware that our train was supposed to be arriving soon! Not wanting to distract him for long, I left the friendly signalman and met Amelia back on the platform.
This time we stood waiting on the platform feeling far more relaxed with knowledge that we didn't have to compete in the mad rush. We'd reserved seats in advance for our journey further into the 'hill country'..