Exploring Ella, Finding Solace in a Stranger and Making Friends for a Lifetime
I love travelling solo. It helps me connect with myself, reflect on my mistakes, learn from them and cherish the memories that have gone by. Well, I don’t mind travelling in groups or with friends, but I’m at a stage in my life where I prefer travelling alone and I find solace in it. Apart from being your own boss and no one to blame for your mistakes, solo travelling opens you to different experiences, which you’d have otherwise not ventured into. And one such thing, among many, is making new friends on the road.
After befriending Kavitha and Nagham, we set off for Ella. And for all the good reasons and experiences, Ella holds a very special place in my heart.
We reached Ella, went to our respective hostels, refreshed, changed into fresh clothes and decided to meet at the town’s junction in an hour to have lunch and later to explore the town.
To give you all a little visual perspective of the town, imagine a hippie countryside, filled with cute cafes and bars, restaurants with authentic Sri Lankan and Continental cuisines, music to groove to and a faint sound of a waterfall somewhere deep in the forests amidst the tea plantations - that’s Ella.
After stuffing my face with some Thai Curry and Rice (yes, I went to Sri Lanka and had this, but to be honest, it was delicious and for some weird reason, three of us ordered the same thing) and some tasty Mango Milkshake, we set off to visit the famous Nine Arch Bridge.
Located amidst the greenery of Ella, we decided to walk to the spot even though a tuk-tuk would have taken us halfway to the bridge. And I think, it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made among others in Ella (well, more to follow). After about 45 minutes of walk (because we went a little off route and ended up in front of a small Sinhalese house, and then stopped by various places to click pictures because I was planning to make the best of all the money that I invested in this trip), the Nine Arch Bridge came to our site and boy, I was awestruck by its beauty. I don’t know if I should call it a coincidence or the universe decided to align itself, because as we saw the Nine Arch Bridge, we heard a faint whistle of a train.
Even though we couldn’t take the train that very morning to encounter this magical experience, I was more than happy to see a train pass by and that I’ve got my perfect shot for Instagram.
The next morning Kavitha went on an expedition to climb the Ella rock and, Nagham and I decided to meet near my hostel at 6:30 AM for a hike to the Little Adam’s Peak. Having read a lot about the hiking trail, I was very keen about doing a sunrise hike and I’m glad I did it.
Little Adam’s Peak gets its name from its similarity in shape of the famous Adam’s Peak located at Central Sri Lanka. Situated 1141 meters above the sea level, this hike is very laid back and is perfect for an amateur hiker like me. Having walked for about 15 minutes, we reached the foot of the stairs which led to the peak. Being an amateur, I thought walking was difficult and climbing would be a piece of cake, but oh boy! It wasn’t and I can imagine you shaking their head in dismay at my amateurish thought.
After huffing and puffing, stopping every 15 steps to gasp for air, I reached the top of the peak (because Nagham is a pro in this and went much ahead of me). Awestruck, all I did after reaching the top was stand in silence as I huffed for air and let the cold breeze calm me down.
I’ve never hiked in my life before, never went mountain climbing or indulged in an activity of this intensity, but I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I pushed myself to wake up early that morning. I’m glad I told myself to leave all the inhibitions back in the foot of the hill and climb with a fresh mind, seeking answers to all my unanswered questions. I’m glad I found a hiking partner in a stranger whom I met just a couple of days ago and I’m glad I listened to her because she pushed me to do something which I’d have otherwise not done.
After reaching the peak, one can enjoy the view, soak the energy, let the cold breeze make that sweat on your forehead become one with nature and start your descent, or you can climb down a little bit in the opposite direction and hike to the next point in the peak.
Having brought up in Lebanon, Nagham ran through a narrow path at the hill and on the hindsight, being brought up in Chennai, in a metropolitan city with no hills to climb, I was hiking at a snail’s pace, reaffirming my steps carefully on the ground to ensure that I don’t step on sediment and roll down the hill.
Even though she talked me into doing this and pushed me out of my comfort zone, a few minutes into the next leg of my hike, Nagham was nowhere to be seen, but every two minutes I would hear her voice, “Roshan, are you okay?” Amidst the fear and the cold breeze not helping with my anxiety anymore, her distant voice helped me assure calmness. And viola, after about 15 to 20 minutes, I was on the other end of the peak.
And at that moment, I realised what it feels like to have stepped outside my comfort zone, to have found solace and support in a stranger, and to have the luxury and amenities to be able to travel. After that hike, something in me changed. I got the answers to the unanswered questions and sought clarity on things that seemed hazy. It felt like I was reborn and I was a new person. And to be honest, I felt much calmer after a long time in my life. It felt like I belonged somewhere - amidst the lush greenery, hilly mountains and within.
Though for many this would have been a piece of cake, to be doing something for the first time way out of my comfort zone was indeed life-altering, a paradigm shift indeed.
Have you experienced anything of this sort? Have you felt like you belonged within in the lush greenery of mother nature? Have you experienced an elated sense of solace in the support and comfort of a stranger? Let me know in the comments below or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me through all my travel expeditions on Instagram @weirdlyrosh.
Happy and safe travels!