20.06.2014 37 °C
I remained traumatised by our journey up the mountain to Ella for some time after arriving and Bill said it wasn't an experience that he would repeat in a hurry. The hotel certainly didn't help matters. The hotel was right up above the village, up very steep roads and I felt very marooned, which may have been OK if we were in a nice hotel.
The room we were in had sheets that didn't fit the mattress and the mattress didn't have a protector on it, the bathroom was very dirty and every hour or two in the night we were woken by a loud clanging noise (Bill originally thought it was monkeys jumping on the roof). In the morning we decided that Bill would go into the village by tuktuk and I would remain in my turret (we had looked up other hotels in the area and they all seemed similar). I asked the hotel owner if the room could be cleaned and he said there was no way we were going to get clean sheets and towels and I pointed out the bracket outside our window that had been banging all night (he pulled half of it down so it was obscuring the view). It wasn't too long until Bill returned and he wasn't too happy, he said that he didn't like Ella, the people were not very nice and there was no way he was going back in the village as the journey in the tuktuk had been quite frightening. So we sat there side by side looking at the view pretending to be having a nice time, counting down the days until our driver came to take us to our next destination.
It was at this stage our driver walked up the stairs to see what time train we wanted to catch later in the week, we nearly threw our arms around him. His English is not too good but we pounced on him and asked him to take us to a new hotel. He really was unsure what we were asking but we did get him to sort of understand. I went online and looked at a hotel he suggested right on the Main Street in Ella, which was thirty seven pounds for three nights. We were really unsure if we should book it, but as Bill kept saying 'anything is better than here'. We told the hotel owner we were leaving and he said he hoped it wasn't anything they had done and we set off back down the mountain. I am glad that the trauma of the previous day had made me forget how frightening it was (this was for about a ten minute journey) it was a single track, where you could have fallen down either side and very very steep, but we made it.
Getting to our new hotel, we were pleasantly surprised and were given a lovely welcome, by everyone, including the owner. It is on the Main Street (there is only one street, very similar to a town in a spaghetti western). Our room is enormous, we had two four poster beds, a large balcony facing the mountains, it is clean, the wifi works and the bed linen fits. The staff kept asking me why we had left 'The View' and I would tell them in graphic detail. We went out to eat (yes, for a curry) and sat outside watching the world go by and we both saw Ella and the people in new eyes and laughed at how our reactions to Ella in the previous hotel had been clouded. The waiter came up to us and asked how we were liking staying in 'The View' and we told him we had escaped as it was so horrible and how did he know we had been staying there? He told us that 'The View' was their sister hotel, owned by the same owner and he had been working there when we first arrived. It was then that I recalled all the bemused looks on everyone's face as I told them in graphic details about the hotel we had escaped from!
Yesterday Bill decided he was going to climb up Little Adam's Peak (Punchi Sri Pada). Little Adam's Peak is named after the sacred Adam's Peak mountain as there are similarities between the two, Bill hopes to climb Adam's Peak on Monday morning. I had no desire to climb it and ambled down to the laundry, where the lady decided to look at every piece of laundry and discuss it with me, although I was very pleased to see her put it in a washing machine and then I ambled onto the post office. The rest of the time I spent booking future hotels. It was strange spending time without Bill as we have spent so much time together in the last five months. Our driver is also staying in Ella and seems to be very bored walking around, especially as we have refused every suggestion by him to travel around the area. Looking at hotels, many offer free accommodation for your drivers if you stay with them. Most tourists here have drivers as it is almost impossible to travel around the middle of Sri Lanka without a car.
Bill really enjoyed the climb, which he said was extremely easy ("even you could have climbed it Claire") and especially loved watching the tea pluckers working. One of the pluckers told Bill to pick a leaf and taste it, he said it tasted like a privet leaf (neither of us like tea). Near the top he talked to a couple from England and they took it in turns to take pictures of each other. We have not come across many other travellers in Sri Lanka, but those we have, have tended to be English, last night in a restaurant we were talking to a couple from Reading.
Ella is in the heart of tea plucking country. Many of the women (most are women) plucking the tea are Indian origin Tamils and were brought over by the British in the nineteenth century to work on tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Interestingly up until 1971 more than eighty percent of tea estates were owned and managed by British companies. The pluckers were not recognised as citizens until 2003, but many still have problems with documentation, which affects their right to vote, send their children to school and open bank accounts and are said to be invisible to many Sri Lankans even today. The pluckers work for less than two pounds each day and to earn the two pounds they have to pluck 180kg of tea. The pluckers take the top two leafs and the bud from the tea bush and the speed they are working is quite remarkable.
Tomorrow we are heading for Nuwara Ellya (which is said to be the highest area in Sri Lanka...oh dear!). We leave Ella by train in the morning and the journey is said to be one of the top ten beautiful train journeys in the world. When we get off the train our driver will take us to the hotel. We are staying in a tea factory which has been turned into an elite hotel and it is somewhere I have really wanted to stay and I am really looking forward to it.
Tomorrow is also three quarters of the way through our travels. We have both said we thought we would be sad to be coming near to the end of our travels, but we are excited about visiting India and we are both looking forward to returning home and seeing where life takes us on our return.