The Hills are Alive
So as we are in the mountains of Srilanka, surrounded by jungle and tea plantations, it is a stunning part of the country and once you get away from the main roads the air is fresher and the breeze is ever so slightly cooler.
We are back in beautiful Ella, we were here nearly 7 years ago when it was a much sleepier and a less developed town. At that time there were only a handful of places to stay and two places to eat, it was December and it was chilly. The locals outnumbered the tourists and the only entertainment was to go for a spa. Which we did and for one of us this turned out to be a very interesting event .... more of that later.
Back to the present day, Ella has morphed into a backpackers town, there are many more cafes / bars / hostels along the main road. Construction is happening all around, with large areas of jungle being cleared to create even more accommodation and places to buy iced coffees and Ceylon teas.
The locals are now the minority and the spas have multiplied. Ella is in danger of losing its charm and greenery to concrete, so visit soon.
One of the reasons Ella is so popular is the opportunity to walk around the tea plantations and to hike its mountains.
As we are hardy wild campers and love nothing than a long slog up a mountain it's a great place for us. So armed with some basic instructions from our helpful host back in town, we set off to conquer the famous Ella rock.
The Lonely planet says that it might be worth hiring a guide as many people can get lost on route in the tea plantations, pah we said ,how hard can it be, we have trekked across the Alps don't you know. The last time we looked tea bushes were quite small, so all those lost people must be both extremely short and stupid.
The first part of the walk is along the train tracks, this in itself is a novelty, and once we were confident that we wouldn't die or be left with an afro from touching the tracks we happily walked up the middle of the rails. Occasionally we had to step to the side as a train came past, but apart from that it was a uneventful and pleasant pootle along the railway.
In fact we were enjoying the walk that much that we completely missed the path and walked a good mile further on before we were turned around by a helpful local.
What I have learnt:
It is possible to get lost in a tea plantation, without being either short or stupid. This is because the helpful smiley locals have removed all traces of the official signs to the walk. As if gullible tourists saw these signs and followed them, then they would earn no money whatsoever from offering to rescue you from tea bush trauma. This is not out of the goodness of their own hearts or for being a good person, but for around 600 rps or more depending upon your wallet contents.
There is also no point being cocky, thinking you have avoided such a scam by not giving the first helpful man some cash to lead you back along the railway track. As upon realising you were not paying he will have positioned himself blocking the correct path, so you wander off through a bloody farmers field. Where upon you are met by another "helpful " stranger, that will lead you on a merry old dance till eventually, having spent so long in pissing tea plantations you will never touch another cup of the stuff.
Accept that at some point you are going to be scammed, it is part of the travel experience, and rightly or wrongly people will see you as a walking wallet. However do not allow this to stop you seeing the good in people. As scams go In hindsight, it was quite funny and when we are back in the Lake District and someone looks lost I shall of course help and then charge them a tenner.
A lesson from 7 years ago...
When having a spa and the male masseuse asks you if you want your top half doing , do not assume he means your shoulders, as you may find that he has whipped that towel away and is now tweaking your nipples ... this is quite a surprise, however it is even more of a surprise when he then asks you for a large tip on the way out... Jacqueline ... :D