Outside my drawn curtains, thick grey clouds, threatening rain, concealed the moon. The world below was draped in a blanket of serene darkness, wrapping around the gently swaying palms. The air was still, at first just disturbed by the gentle gurgling of a stream that passed in the valley below, flowing elegantly from the side of a mountain. The steady lapping and breaking against smooth, eroded rocks was drowned out by the rumbling of ancient motors, rattling within their steel cages. In the distance dogs barked, the notorious symphony of the Sri Lankan night.
I awoke abruptly, my eyes feebly attempting to adjust to the gloom of our room. The barking sounded again and I instantly recalled what had awoken me. Dogs barking were becoming a regular issue for us here in Sri Lanka. Pretty much every night so far, we had been disturbed by gruff barking outside our bedroom. This time I could hear not only one dog barking nearby but also the excited yapping of a puppy as the duo tumbled over in rough play. Based on the volume of the kerfuffle, the dogs were just outside our room, on the balcony.
I'm used to waking up in the night. Back at home I wake up at least twice per night for seemingly no reason. However, being woken up by noises is a little more frustrating as it can be difficult to go back to sleep when the racket is persisting. Little did I know, the dogs were going to be the least of our sleeping issues that night.
In the early hours of the morning, just as the dawn light was starting to peek through our room, a persistent banging started up, presumably from some local construction work. I groaned. So much for a lie in today. Boy, had we really needed a lie-in after our extensive train journey yesterday. For about an hour we tried our best to ignore it but the noise proved too stubborn to suppress by our pillows and we gave in to the morning, much earlier than we would have liked. However, it's difficult to be grumpy when you are waking up in such a beautiful place, as I was soon to discover.
Today marked our 3rd full day in Sri Lanka. The wonderful thing about today was that we had absolutely nothing planned. There was no travelling today so we could relax as we liked. I was thrilled that I'd picked Ella town to relax at. When booking trips, it can be tricky to know which places you'll like best and so it's difficult to know how much time to allocate to each place. I'd decided that Ella was one of the must-visit places of our trip, not least because it shares a name with me! For once, I had got it spot on. In fact, I actually wished that I'd allocated more time to this beautiful mountain town.
Lewis and I got up and opened the curtains, allowing rays of daylight to burst in and light up each tiny crevice of our room. Just outside our french windows was the balcony where a table sat waiting for us, coaxing us over for a relaxing breakfast. Beyond the balcony was a view that never ceased to take my breath away. Ella Rock stood proudly in the distance and raging to her right was Kithal Ella Falls, crystal clear in colour today in contrast to the brown tirade of mud-streaked water that greeted us yesterday.
Today the sun was concealed behind thick grey clouds and a light drizzle of rain was falling. I hoped that the weather would brighten up later so that we could do some exploring. Not having a car meant we were likely to be doing a lot of walking and the idea of getting soaked didn't quite appeal to me right now!
As we left our room and stepped out onto the balcony, our lovely host, Kumuduni, greeted us with a smile. She announced that our breakfast would be ready shortly and asked if we'd like some tea in the meantime. My mouth began to salivate with excitement. Sri Lanka tea was quickly becoming my new obsession!
As with a couple of our AirBnB accommodations in Sri Lanka, breakfast was included which was a wonderful treat. I am known to get very hangry in the morning if I've not eaten so having breakfast on the balcony was my idea of heaven. I was also super excited for breakfast as Kumuduni had proved herself to be an incredible cook!
Sure enough breakfast exceeded expectations. We had sweet pancakes (which were turning into a favourite breakfast of mine), egg hoppers, fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice made using local fruits. The fruits of the day today were watermelon, pineapple and papaya.
The rain still continued after breakfast so we decided to stay at the homestay for the morning and catch up with some work. Having your own business has many positives but one notable downside is that it can't just stop for you whilst you go on holiday. Emails needed answering, invoices needed paying, social media posts needed posting. At least we had a wonderful view whilst we worked!
Whilst we were working at our table, a young couple arrived at the homestay and sat at the table next to us. Kumuduni welcomed them and offered them tea and biscuits which they gladly accepted.
"We were excited to come here as her name is Ella." The man told Kumuduni in an Australian accent.
My head turned sharply at the mention of my name but of course, he wasn't talking about me. The blonde girl beside him was smiling. How funny that she had the same name as me. I hardly ever meet another Ella!
As Kumuduni left to prepare the tea, Lewis leaned over towards the couple. "We've got another Ella here as well." He laughed, referring to me.
The couple smiled happily.
"Ella must be the place where all the Ellas come together." Ella joked.
I agreed before Ella's fiancé (sadly I can't remember his name!) added, "But who is the real Ella?"
"Ahhh, that is the question." I grinned.
"Is your full name actually Ella." Ella asked.
I nodded and she continued, "Damn, mine's Isabella."
"I guess that means I'm the real Ella then." I teased.
"Ah," Ella's fiancé shook his head. "The real Ella can be decided in a great battle at dawn."
"Oh, I eagerly await it."
We got talking. The couple talked about how they were from Australia and how they were travelling around Sri Lanka for their honeymoon. They had left for Sri Lanka the day after their wedding and had been in a mad rush to pack for the trip. We shared our experiences so far and compared stories from our times in Sri Lanka.
It felt nice to meet someone on our travels. I was starting to feel at last like a backpacker.
After lunch the rain was still pouring outside but I wasn't prepared to waste the entire day. Besides, we were leaving Ella town tomorrow. Kumuduni kindly offered us some umbrellas and off Lewis and I went on a walk to Ella town.
Kumuduni told us the quickest way to the town was by walking down the railway tracks and then taking a right before the station. It seemed strange to be walking down a railway line, something you are told to avoid at all costs back home. However in Sri Lanka it is part of every day life. Trains are relatively infrequent and don't travel too fast. As walking down railway lines is normal here, trains honk at every bend they get to in order to let any people know that they are coming.
Walking down the railway was harder than I thought it would be. The gaps between the sleets are relatively large so I had to walk at an unusual gait, in a perfect rhythm which is something I'm not used to. I also had to keep my head down and eyes on the railway at all times or I risked accidentally missing a sleet and splashing my boot down into the thick mud. Despite my best attempts, I still misjudged my steps numerous times and my boots ended up coated in sticky mud.
At last we reached Ella town, a quaint row of shops are restaurants nestled between towering green peaks. The size of the town instantly appealed to me. I'm not much of a city girl and the size of both Colombo and Kandy had daunted me. Ella, however, was the perfect size. It had enough activity to be exciting but wasn't a sensual overload.
Lewis and I went on a bit of a shopping spree, buying presents for our relatives back home as well as some clothing. The prices amazed me. I got a gorgeous pair of shorts made out of lightweight cotton which worked out at only £3!
Ella also had many enticing restaurants. If I hadn't eaten lunch already or had dinner scheduled in with our host, I would have loved to have stopped off at one for a bite to eat. It felt a shame to be leaving Ella the next day. I felt like it had so much to offer us and we'd only just scraped the surface of it.
After an afternoon shopping, we were exhausted. I think I must be unfit. My feet were practically hanging off and I suppressed a groan at the idea of walking home, now with our backpacks stuffed full of shopping. I was impressed that we hadn't grabbed any food at all. At one point Lewis had been incredible tempted by a pack of 'Hawaiian Cookies' which seemed to be a staple snack in Sri Lanka.
I was surprised at how late it was. Behind the looming mountains, the sun was already starting to set. We'd have to get a move on if we were to be back at the homestay in time to get ready for dinner.
By the time we arrived back at the homestay, darkness had fallen. We had a short amount of time to get ourselves looking presentable before dinner. We were informed that it was going to be a group dinner tonight. As well as ourselves, the Australian couple we met earlier would be joining as well as two other groups of people. All of the guests of the homestay would be having dinner together!
I'm normally pretty antisocial but when travelling I seem to come out of my shell more and tonight I was very excited to meet the other guests. I suppose part of it was because I knew we'd have quite a bit in common as we were all here in Sri Lanka together. My biggest peeve with mingling with people is differences in interests.
Lewis and I were the last to arrive at dinner. We were eating just outside the kitchen today where several tables had been pushed together to create on large table for us all. There was another group of Australians, a mother and daughter duo as well as a couple from the Netherlands. Everyone had their own funny stories to tell.
I was amazed to hear that the couple from the Netherlands, two engineers, were travelling round Sri Lanka by a tuk-tuk which they had rented. I thought it seemed very brave! They informed us that they didn't find the driving too difficult to adjust to.
The mother and daughter from Australia had a similar night to us when we were in Kandy. They told us that their second night in Sri Lanka left them in accommodation they weren't comfortable in and they were too worried to walk in the dark so went without dinner. This was almost a complete replica of the situation Lewis and I experienced in Kandy except the mother that thought ahead and stashed some bread rolls from their flight to eat later. They came in handy that evening and they didn't go hungry.
We had a fun night socialising and laughing with the other backpackers. The food was also incredible! It was a great way to end our time in Ella town and I felt excited for the next part of our journey tomorrow.