Sri Lanka 2013 : Train to Nuwara Eliya

Clear blue skies welcomed us the next morning as we prepared to catch the 9:24am train to Nanu Oya; the closest station to Nuwara Eliya. After a quick breakfast of string hoppers, we made our way to the Ella train station which was about a 10 minute walk. We were travelling by the Podi Menike train which are the new Chinese-built ‘Blue trains’ that have better suspensions which translates into a more comfortable ride. The 1st class cabins are air conditioned and have cleaner toilets though the windows don’t open wide. Most of my time was spent hanging out of the door which gave me uninhabited views on both side of the train though the train can be a bit jumpy so had to make sure I didn’t get too adventurous.

I can’t remember his name but he was extremely helpful. He was the only one running the place since the owner was away and warmed up to us a little more than expected thanks once again to the wife’s Tamil skills. Even though Sri Lankan Tamil is different from the one my wife speaks, it was good enough to have basic conversation.

The Little Folly has brilliant moist cakes that even gets a mention in the Lonely planet book. Here is a shot of the front bakery section next to the road as we walked towards the station. A clear blue sky in summer usually spells harsh light and shadows along with sweaty brows. Not exactly pleasant for photography but it’s not like we had a second chance.

The train was on time as expected and we hoisted our-self into the 1st class carriage that was completely empty. Since the train was on its return journey, the first class carriage was the second last carriage of the train which meant we had opportunities to get shots of the train curving into the scenery ahead.

But it also meant the view looking back even though gorgeous could have been made better with more train in it.

Possibly a warehouse serving the Diyatalawa station right next to the train tracks. As the route is mostly served by a single track so one delayed train usually leads to a domino effect for the rest of the day for all the remaining trains in both the directions with delays sometimes lasting more than an hour. We were fortunately lucky and no such delays were faced.

The train track runs in close proximity along the Peradeniya – Badulla – Chenkaladi Highway which is sometimes visible from the train as it winds its way through the mountains.

The train moves at a relatively slow speed so taking panoramas (at higher shutter speeds) is a piece of cake. The scenery is just gorgeous and you just can’t stop ogling over it (and taking as many pictures as possible). Keep an eye out for various pedestrian dirt crossings along the track where you can spot people going along with their daily routines.

Travelling with just the 35mm and 135mm limits to what you can do especially when you want to shoot a panorama with the aim of capturing as much as possible in a single picture. This was shot when the train had stopped at the Idalgashinna station and I wish I had managed to capture all of the tracks in the frame. On the upside, the 35mm exhibits minimal amount of distortion and vignetting making the process of stitching the images together a lot easier for Photoshop.

There are a lot of tunnels that you pass through. And there’s nothing like getting a picture of the train entering it. I did try to capture the light painting on the tunnel walls via the interior lights of the train but since the ride isn’t the smoothest, the results were not blogging worthy. (>_<)

You pass several tea plantations, pine forest and small villages that inundates you with so much beauty. You just don’t get tired of the view. Absolutely brilliant.

We reached Nanu Oy around 12pm. Since we hadn’t pre-booked our ride to Nuwara Eliya, we got picked up by the first driver who approached us. Obviously prices were on the higher side since we stepped out of the 1st class carriage along with the fact that we continued to be taken for Arab tourists. It’s a painful drive to Nuwara Eliya thanks to the under construction road that had been reduced to backache worthy dirt road. Even though the distance isn’t much, it took over an hour to get to our hotel i.e. Villa Acacia. And that’s when the fiasco that was Nuwara Eliya began but that story is for another blog post.


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