There are a few really cool hikes around Ella, Sri Lanka. Almost all of them are super manageable and have amazing views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Everyone always says that you have to climb Little Adams Peak, which is true because it’s beautiful! But once you get to the top of that relatively short and easy climb, you’ll see a taller, more majestic, and incredibly tempting looking peak called Ella Rock. It’s the tallest thing you can see in the area and I knew the moment I saw it that I was going to figure it out. I had researched routes, which is a smart thing to do in Sri Lanka because nothing is properly marked, and I found a decent looking blog entry that gave some details on how to get there.
I took off from the main street near my hotel and turned right onto the appropriately named Waterfall Road. It leads to views of the waterfall that a lot of people also hike to while in Ella. This road winds through some residential and hotel areas and eventually runs into the railway line. Here I took a left and followed the tracks for a little over a kilometer. It was a route used often by the locals and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM asked where I was going and wanted to offer help. This is pretty common in Sri Lanka. Everyone wants to talk to you, and while they are usually just being helpful, in this case most of the locals probably wanted me to pay them to be me guide up the mountain. As I am a rugged individualist and already knew my route thanks to the blog post, I told them I was “just walking.” The blog told me to make the second left hand turn after the Kithaella rail station, and offered several pictures of where not to turn, but weirdly none of the place you’re actually supposed to turn. (Oh hey, I didn’t take any pictures of it either!) It turns out that all of these paths lead to the mountain, but some are more difficult to follow than others. Right before the station, a local man pointed to a path and shouted “Ella Rock!” I told him, “No, the blog I read said that one is confusing. I know where to go.” After lying to several more Sri Lankans, I began to wonder if I’d missed my turn. I passed the station and had gone maybe 200 meters and hadn’t seen anything convincing. A local man then asked me if I had a pen. What is this, my office? No. I have no pens on a hike. Right after that, I found the turn! There was an obvious bridge crossing the river, just like the blog said there would be.
The path was clear and winded through some small farms. I was feeling good. But then, the path branched: one way went up some steps between houses and the other went to the right into the forest and toward the mountain. I picked the latter. About 5 seconds later some small children asked me if I had a pen. I told them that no, I did not. And they shouted at me, “Ella Rock, coming?? You from??” Then they pointed at the other trail (to the left of the house) and indicated I had gone the wrong way. I sheepishly turned around and followed their instructions. So unlike me. This path continued fairly clearly through the homes and some sparse jungle. Always keeping to the left and headed vaguely up. Right after the homes ended, I came to some very large, bushy plants that the blog post had described. It was grass. Tall grass. But whatever. Then I got to the forest. They described it as a rubber tree forest for some reason, but it was actually eucalyptus. It’s fine, we don’t all know our trees I suppose.
The rest of the hike was amazing. I saw some super cool endemic bird species, such as the Ceylon Junglefowl (Sri Lanka’s national bird) as well as some peacocks. I was extremely sweaty, but it was really misty up there so no one could tell. The path was very steep and I passed a lot of dumpy Europeans that were clearly eager for their next cigarette and got to the top in about 30 more minutes. It was very misty up there, so most of the views were shrouded in fog, but you could still get glimpses of the valley below. And the clouds all around gave the cliff face an effect of dropping off into nothing, which was a very eerie feeling. I spent about 15 minutes up there and then I ran back down, because I’m a badass Coloradan. Passing all the same out-of-breath Europeans. I also passed the same little kids who again asked me for a pen. They also told me, “you should be scared.” Of what?? The impending pen shortage? I made my way back to the tracks and passed some smoking French women. Smoking on a hike. So European. The whole thing took 2.5 hours. What I read said that it would be 4. It was at that exact moment that I decided to start my own travel blog.