27th March 2015
Our tailor-made specialist for the Indian Subcontinent Sunita is currently on a recce in Sri Lanka. Below she talks about train journeys through this wonderful country.
We have all had our share of train journeys. Most journeys, with the exception of a daily work commute are looked forward to with some enthusiasm and excitement.
So here I was, at the Nanu Oya train station in central Sri Lanka, waiting to board my train to Ella, which takes one of the most scenic routes in the country. Whilst the trains are notorious for delays, it is still worthwhile taking the journey for the outstanding experience. There are three different travel classes on this train, not very different from each other. I opted for second class as you can open the windows to feel the cool, fresh air of the hills (natural air conditioning), as well as being able to take some great pictures. First class is air conditioned with tightly fastened windows.
The first sight which greets the traveller at the train station is the authentic 1940s style train schedule, which looks so much at home on the wall there. The original narrow gauge trains have been replaced by the broad gauge ones, although they still travel at the same speed. On the platform I found all the other travellers, mostly foreign tourists, also waiting with the same excitement. On boarding, we embarked on a real breath-taking journey through the tea plantations, soaking in the manicured green hills, covered with tea bushes. After a while, the tea gardens made way for dense forests with colourful trees, which subsequently changed to paddy plantations and terraced farms. The journey alternated between these, local villages and lovely train stations straight out of a Noddy book. All good things end too soon and before long the train was in Ella!
There is good news for all those who love train journeys and want to experience it in Sri Lanka. There are some really scenic journeys to be enjoyed, not just in the tea country but along the southern and western coast. The Queen of Jaffna train has resumed operations between Colombo and Jaffna after a long gap of 24 years. While not the most scenic, it is the fastest travel option between Colombo and the newly re-built train station at Jaffna. The countryside on this journey is definitely green most of the way, passing through the very narrow strip of land at Elephant Pass, connecting the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of the island.
A train journey need not be the most luxurious or amongst the top ranking train trips in the world to be unforgettable. Just a simple, local train journey can take you back to your childhood, creating the most memorable experience.