People go trekking and hiking for many reasons. While keeping fit is without doubt one of them, other reasons include experiencing the beauty of nature, spending time in solitude, seeking adventure, overcoming challenges, facing fears and a love for scenic landscape photography.
If hiking or trekking is your passion, Ella is a must-have on your bucket list. Located in the Badulla District in the Uva Province, the lush town is surrounded by tea estates – and it is an exciting base from which to hike and explore the surrounding hills, and view the valleys below. In the following interview, seasoned traveller Aneesha Iddawala offers a firsthand account of a climber’s tale.
Q: Why Ella?
A: Ella is a small town in the hill country that’s famous among backpackers for hiking. A popular hike in this part of the world is a climb to the summit of Ella Rock. There are two routes to the base of the Ella mountain – a shorter path that’s some 3.5 kilometres (km) along the main road, on which you can even travel in a vehicle halfway, and a longer route of around 7 km on which you walk along the railway track before entering the jungle.
We opted for the longer route. The best time to attempt it is early morning or evening as the area tends to be scorching during the day. We walked along the railway track for about 2.5 km before taking a left turn into the village and jungle.
Q: Any tips for the climb?
A: It’s advisable to take water and energy bars with you although there are vendors selling water along the way. A good pair of hiking shoes or trainers will come in handy too!
Q: Could you describe the trail and what you witnessed along the way?
A: Once you leave the railway track, your path lies across vegetable plots with crops like cabbage and green beans. After a point, you enter a thick section of tall grass (grass that’s taller than you are) and you’ll witness several paths leading in – but some are dead ends. We had to seek a villager’s assistance and he was happy to guide us in return for a nominal fee.
The walk through the thicket is about a kilometre long before it clears up with taller and larger trees. By this time, you’ve entered the jungle and base of the mountain, which is covered with turpentine (Syncarpia hillii) and pine trees all the way to the top.
Q: How did you feel on reaching the summit?
A: Once you reach the base of the rock, you’ll enjoy amazing views and know it will only get better at the top! There are several paths to the summit – we took the steepest and shortest, which was completely under the shade of trees.
After roughly 800 metres of climbing, you reach the top. The Ella Rock vantage point is where you’re treated to stunning views and you will see Little Adams Peak on the opposite side, as well as the town and winding road that leads to Ella.
There are many sights to see in Ella such as the Nine Arches Bridge in Demodara and Ravana Falls. The view from the lookout point is serene, and I suggest you take a moment to enjoy the peace and fresh air.
Q: Your most memorable moments were…?
A: At the top of the mountain, there are several viewpoints to discover but on the way down, we took a longer but less steep route to return to the base – it even took us through the backyards of friendly locals!
Compiled by Monita Pesumal