Every day at 3:15, and again at 5:45, a rusty old train packed with people pulls into Ella. There's a constant turnover in a place like this. Yesterday, after the wave of tourists that contained me hit the train station, there was the usual flurry of activity. Tuk tuk drivers, tour operators, and guest house owners scramble for business. The owner of the guest house I had booked for the night had said that he'd send a tuk tuk to the station. A blue one. Well...considering that I've seen only red, green, or blue tuk tuks since I've been here made finding the ONE that had been sent for me an easy task. Not really. I ended up with a skinny driver with dread locks who I'm guessing had done a fair amount of drugs in his time. Of course I noticed the whiskey bottle in the bottle holder next to his seat, but that's not at all uncommon. People reuse bottles of all sorts to hold water. I've seen old ladies tipping back vodka bottles. (It's a tad shocking the first few times, and still makes me giggle.) But, what're you going to do? He drove me up winding roads, making sharp unexpected turns into what I thought were walking paths. Nope. Roads.
He stopped suddenly, pointed down a ridiculously steep and long flight of stairs, and said simply, "There."
I paid him and was seriously relieved when a man came up the stairs to help me with my pack.
And, after dropping off my bags and a walk down a path between houses and jungle into town, I found myself sitting at a bar, enjoying a cocktail and chatting with a few locals while I wrote yesterday's post. Reggae and house music blared from speakers, intermittently stopping when the power went out approximately every 20 minutes and I could have just as easily been in a bar in Cabo or Costa Rica or anywhere, really. Ella is a tad different than where I spent my first two weeks, for sure.
Darkness fell and I knew better than to attempt to find my way back to my guest house. So, I walked up to a random tuk tuk in search of a ride.
And it was him. Again. How on earth is it possible that I find the same strung-out driver, out of all of the hundreds of tuk tuks in this place?!
Regardless, I made it and very carefully felt my way down the cliff of stairs using the flashlight on my phone, some with a three inch rise and others a staggering twelve inches, with no rhyme nor reason. Sri Lanka needs stair police.
I slept like the dead.
This morning after breakfast I had to pack up and switch guest houses. I now have no truly clean clothes - just clothes in varying states of gross.
I'd originally only planned on two nights here, and when that got stretched to three, my previously booked place didn't have space. So, I stayed at a different spot last night.
When I arrived at my current place of residence, my room wasn't ready. So, I dropped my bags, laced up my trusty old hiking shoes, said hello to the resident kitten, puppy, rabbits, Guinea pigs, ducks and various other birds, and got directions on how to walk to town and up to Little Adam's Peak:
Down some more less-than-regular concrete stairs that wind between houses in various stages of construction or decomposition (sometimes it's hard to tell which are on their way up or down), all the way to the railroad tracks. Follow the tracks (ignoring the giant signs posted that warn that walking on the tracks is a punishable offense), past the cow (really), then the tea stand, when you see the road below, cut down to it and walk into town.
By some miracle, I found my way. I passed enough locals and tourists once on the tracks that I figured that it was a pretty normal thing.
After walking through town and managing to locate the trailhead, I meandered through a tea plantation, following an elderly woman in a sari and no shoes carrying sticks on her head over the rocky dirt path. Eventually, I passed more tourists, which confirmed I was on the right track.
Up and up I climbed, stopping to catch my breath (too many Sri Lankan carbs and no gym is taking its toll). The view from the top was incredible. In one direction, I could see the valley and in the other, Ella stacked on a slope.
Alas, it was hot, my sunscreen was wearing off, and I started down, most of the time focusing on the fact that my shoes were too tight. I bought them before I went to Tanzania and they were too tight then. Since, they've been on hikes with me on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Alps in Austria, mountains in Costa Rica, Idaho and Oregon. And I'm fairly certain that they've been too tight all along. I just can't seem to let them go after they've been so many places...
Which got me thinking that maybe the shoes are a bit metaphorical - a lesson on the fact that I'm too sentimental and hang on to things and ideas far longer than I need to.
Or maybe I just think too much.
I'd kill for a pair of fingernail clippers right about now.
And why does Sri Lanka have SO many ants?!
One has deep thoughts whilst walking down dirt roads in foreign lands.
And then I decided that I needed a beer and lunch before I made any rash decisions as to the fate of my shoes.
I watched the 3:15 wave roll in from my table at a place called the Rotti Hut, then backtracked to the tracks, past the tea stand, then the cow, and by some small miracle found the correct stairs up the hill.
One amazing shower (with hot water!) later, I chatted with the owner, Dumidu and a German couple over a cup of tea. I also have claimed temporary custody of Dumidu's puppy. Breed: Definitely not Sri Lankan Brown Dog.
Tomorrow, I'll do more hiking and meet up with Kerri, a woman I met while volunteering that will be arriving on the afternoon train.
Maybe by then I'll have figured out what to do with my shoes.