It seems over the years I’ve subconsciously (or maybe not) made a habit of spending my birthday overseas. The introvert in me hates the fanfare that comes with birthdays, and what a better way to spend it than in an amazing location.
And of course it just so happened that smack bang in the middle of our time in Sri Lanka was my birthday! So of course, when planning this adventure, I made sure we were going to be somewhere real spesh (it was Margaret’s birthday too just before we left so it was really a double celebration).
Me and my googling had heard amazing things about Ella, its beauty and wonder, so what a better place to spend my (insert number here) year on earth.
Now Margaret will be the first to tell you that the car ride up wasn’t the smoothest or straightest, but we got to stop along the way and charades our way into a lunch meal at a local hangout, complete with never-ending stares.
The weather in Sri Lanka is very much determined by which side of the island you’re on at what time of the year, as each side cops the monsoon season for about a quarter of the year.
Ella is pretty much in the middle, so it’s a bit of a rollercoaster each day – but hey, I’m from Melbourne so that’s nothing new. The majority of our time it was ungodly humid, as you’ll be able to tell from my hair and the photo quality.
On the way up to Ella you pass Ravana falls, which apparently you can take a dip in when the water isn’t reenacting a scene from The River Wild.
We booked our accommodation at Ella Bamboo Cabana on Airbnb, for its incredible view over the valley and would highly recommend.
And being the blondes we are, we ignored the instructions to not follow Google Maps to get there and as a result, pretty much had to scale our way down the side of the mountain in sandals, bag in tow, to get to the house.
Bit it was all worth it to wake up to this:
Included in our accomm was breakfast, which was a feast of fruit, curry, eggs and toast to ensured we were sufficiently fuelled and fattened for the day’s activities.
Our home-stay was also located on the famous train line of “The most beautiful train ride in the world” from Ella to Kandy, which provided much entertainment, including a local family of monkeys, and a delightful stroll into town (which we discovered on pretty much our last day – we had been walking the long way along the road…).
First activity on the Ella agenda was a visit to the famous Nine Arches Bridge, home of the Insta photo. To get there, we hustled a tuk tuk driver who was remarkably cheaper than all the others…which came apparent when he dropped us on the side of another mountain, which we then had top scramble down (through mud), again in sandals…do you see a pattern here?
You can see why it’s popular, hey.
Getting a shot on the side of the bridge was probably one of the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done (besides the time I had to get back down from the top of Huayna Picchu), but I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t done it. So over my jelly legs went – you can see by the below that my ass is pretty much hanging off the back to ensure maximum non-falling offness.
Marge was super keen to head to a tea plantation and collect some goodies, so we headed up to the Uva Halpewaththa Tea Factory, 5km north of Ella. Which was non-operational on a Sunday. It’s ok, we would make up for it in Nuwara Eliya.
Despite impending rain, we set off that afternoon for Ella Rock, about a 10km, 3-hour round trip from town. I’d heard that it was slightly confusing to get there, so pre-downloaded the directions, in my typical A-type fashion.
To get there, you walk along the railway tracks, before a turnoff takes you through tea plantations and finally up the steep mountain. The hike itself is beautiful, and at times challenging, but very much worth the effort for the view up top.
And in case you were wondering, we got absolutely drenched, but were also entertained for most of the way by some Sri Lankan guys making a music video has they hiked up in jeans (still unsure if they ever made it to the top).
I know I said I didn’t like to make a fuss for my birthday, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to do some special things for it with my gal. So naturally I made us wake up at 4.30am to watch the sun rise over Little Adam’s Peak.
You can get a tuk tuk almost the whole way to the top (we walked, humble brag), but obviously leave enough time to get there before the sun comes up so you don’t miss the glory.
Upon our return, I had requested/demanded to see a waterfall, get a massage, drink cocktails, eat delicious food and attend a traditional Sri Lankan cooking class. And it did not disappoint, I mean, who doesn’t like a birthday boob massage?
In our search for afternoon cocktails we came across the most awesomest chill bar/lounge/restaurant called Cafe One Love (also the name of the venue I spent half my early 20s in) that had serious festival vibes. I literally could have hung out there all day listening to tunes, drinking cocktails and snuggling kitties.
We finished off the day with a cooking class at Grand 39, which was recommended by our host, which I am now recommending to you. Our teacher Iran was super lovely and we cooked some incredibly delicious dishes, which I can’t wait to cook at home eventually.
My other recommendations for Ella, I mean this post is long enough as it is, so why not throw a bit more info in:
Food: Chill Cafe, In Reincarnation, the little traditional place diagonally opposite the bus stop for some mad as heck roti wraps.
Do: Ella Train Station
Ella was heaven on a chapstick, make sure it’s definitely part of your Sri Lankan adventure!