Hope for the best, plan for the worst. If you’ve travelled before you’ll have heard this phrase but I didn’t really understand why it would be so important. What could possibly go wrong with a simple train journey between Nuwara Eliya and Ella, two towns in the south of Sri Lanka? 

Used to the frequency and efficiency of the Metro in Madrid, it was interesting to see a platform, for the most part, unchanged since it was built 200 years ago. You could easily envisage what life would have been like back under colonial rule, as a peaceful platform saw nothing but a few people and a street cat. We had worried for months about the outcome of this journey and had tried to book tickets six months in advance. After repeated attempts online that resulted in failure, we had been told we could buy an economy ticket on the day. Ready for the journey ahead, we walked up to the ticket office and paid next to nothing for three tickets. Job done!! All that worry for what? It was clear that we were going to get a lovely window seat and we’d be taken all around beautiful tea plantations with breathtaking views and finish in our final destination at ease. This wasn’t the case.

I rested on a bench and closed my eyes but when I opened them again the station was completely full with over 1000 passengers eager to get on. After a few minutes waiting, screeching could be heard in the distance and my eyes were met with horror as an ancient train with just two carriages pulled into the station.

The passengers on-board panicked as they saw tourists preparing for battle stare them in the eyes from the other side of the window; a window which was opened as tour guides lifted their customers through it as others tried squeezing through the door. The carriage once belonging to business class saw over 300 people standing,sitting and even lying in the overhead bins and the carriage which was once the observation carriage left people with little chance of observing anything but the worst of humanity as fights broke out to let people on and push others people off.

Advertised as having the best views of the tea plantations, you’d be lucky to have any view at all which is what we decided as we walked out the station in despair- However we felt we had made the right choice as we looked at struggling passengers pressed against the glass with no hope of sitting down in the next four hours. Parked outside, clearly knowing this would happen, was a line of tuk-tuk drivers eager to take us on our journey. All three of us squeezed onto the back bench of this three wheeled go kart and for the next two hours we zipped around tight mountain trails with contrasts of beautiful views and polluted cities. The whole way our drivers proud music system blasted Bollywood music with the whole experience rattling our eardrums, bones and nerves, until finally we arrived. 

As promised in the guidebooks, Ella was a peaceful, hippie hotspot filled with friendly restaurants with breathtaking views over the misty mountains. As I sat comfortably in a bar sipping my coke, what made it even better, was knowing that about now, a sweaty, cramped, 200-year-old train was screeching into the station to offload hundreds of disappointed and exhausted passengers.

  • Alex Brickle
  • : My name is alex, i am 12 years old and have loved nature ever since my dad dragged me up and down hills to go birdwatching but now it’s me who drags him along to spot the next animal. I enjoy writing too, and am also interested in aeroplanes and cycling. I am very fortunate to have such amazing parents who take me to the gratest places on earth!!
  • : https://www.sneakyleopard.org
  • : I think people should visit my website because it gives them tips on what animals to see and where to find them. They can also learn a lot about the village and towns these animals live alongside, as well as the funny moments I’ve had while spotting them.
  • : youth_(12_–_18_as_of_31st_december_2019)
  • : This is the first time this story has been published.