It’s Thursday and I’m taking to the tracks again. This time I’m headed to Sri Lanka, a place I visited in early 2013 with my wife and we stayed about 10 days there, mostly in Kandy. We took just the one train trip whilst there, although more were planned, but that day turned out to be one of high adventure – and not all in a good way. But to be sure, there was some good from it.
The route from Kandy to Colombo by rail is supposed to be very beautiful. In fact, they have a special, ultra-swish tourist train that plies that route. There are television monitors in the carriages and nice seats that appear to have come from aeroplanes, and of course you pay quite a premium for those seats. If you’re interested in the full-service option, check out Exporail at their website (just click on the word ‘Exporail’ 😉 )
For those wanting to save a few pennies, there are around six or seven daily options run by Sri Lanka Railways. The prices in 2014 range from less than a dollar for 3rd class, to under 3 dollars for 1st. For a distance of some 120km, that’s not a bad price. My wife and I planned to change at Colombo Fort Station and head on down to Galle after the first journey of about 2 hours and 45 minutes. This meant taking the very first train of the day from Kandy, at 6.15am. In retrospect, perhaps not such a great idea. We were barely awake when we arrived at the Kandy Station. The train was already there, and we had tickets for the ‘observation carriage’, at the end of the train. The train was a long one, with first, second and third class carriages. The observation carriage was just 20 rupee on top of the first class ticket price as far as I can make out. It was a diesel engine pulling the train. It wasn’t the best of days; in fact it would rain for the first couple of hours non-stop. The observation carriage wasn’t as cool as it sounded. It was quite old for one, and secondly the back was open to the sights (not to the element, there were windows!) so you could only see what you had passed. Add to that low-lying cloud and rain, and despite it being clear that the place was very green, not so much was to be seen. Sri Lanka is very densely covered in forest in many places. You could almost call it a jungle. It’s hilly too, so it’s really beautiful, and so we could appreciate that at least even if we couldn’t see all that much. But, we were so tired, we missed around half of the trip, asleep!
The trip came to its conclusion at the Colombo Fort Station. A hive of bustle and hustle, it was a pretty cool place we thought. Getting our onward ticket was pretty easy, and we had over an hour to wait for the train to Kandy. I got some money via debit card from an ATM, and we waited and watched as the station saw trains arrive and leave. Finally, our train arrived, only slightly late. The push to get on was intense to say the least. I was caught up in the fervour in an effort to grab a seat for my wife and myself, but managed only one for my wife. I was putting the bags up above the seats when I realised my pockets were much lighter than usual. Yes. I had been pick-pocketed in the rush to get on the train. The one and only time in my life too. We got off before the train left, and people searched the carriage for us, but, well, that was that. The story of what followed is awesome really – we were taken in by a family, and had an amazing time, but that will be for another post. My experiences on the trains in Sri Lanka were somewhat disappointing in the end.
Given a sunny day though, I suspect from all accounts it is spectacular. Some days don’t pan out how you’d like them to though, and this was one of those days. But, I will never forget my experiences with the trains in Sri Lanka!