Arose at 3.45 am. Achila made us a cup of tea which we enjoyed and gave us our sandwiches for on the train. We have left our big cases at Jayabo Residence and had packed two small bags for the trip south. We mounted Jayabo’s 4WD Ute. It was easier said than done as there was only two seats and Erica ended up sitting on my lap! It was the first time for many years and I have to say she seemed heavier than the last time! Quick drive to the station where Jayabo purchased our tickets for us. 360LKR each or $3.50 Australian. He then kindly escorted us to the correct carriage and settled us in on the left side for the best views down the mountain. We were very grateful for his assistance as we felt confident we were on the right train.
It was 4.36 am when the train light went out but they soon came back on as they connected the locomotive. The carriage was a blast from the past. Very solid with slide up windows surrounded by timber architraves, 2 ceiling fans and very solid vinyl clad seats on a tubular pipe base. We estimated at least 60 years old but a goodie.
5.01 am several toots were the final boarding call and our carriage was almost full. A paper vendor appeared and we bought a Daily Mirror in English for 30LKR or 29 cents Australian. 5.11 am the guard blew his whistle and with one last loud toot we were off!
Travelled for about 2 hours through magnificent tropical scenery. The track skirted deep ravines and went through many tunnels and it soon became clear that it was a major engineering feat to put this track in. At times we felt that we were too close to the edge! Food vendors appeared selling cool drinks, pastries and wraps. Snacks were as cheap as 50LKR or about 50 cents. We tucked into our sandwiches and were not tempted as Achila had given us strict instructions not to eat train food.
As the train picked up more passengers the aisle began to fill with “Standers” reading the paper. The vegetation we were looking at was as tropical as we had seen and was right up to the track. Bread fruit trees, Macarangas, Bananas, palms of various varieties and many other tropical trees filled our eyes. Probably the lushest vegetation we had seen. By 6.30 am the standers were filling the aisles and we had descended about 500 metres. The jungle was not interspersed with rice paddies. At 6.50 am we stopped at a station packed with commuters who attempted to board and our carriage turned into a “Sardine Can” with aisle folk crushed against each other filling every available space. They clung to our seat tops as the train lurched onwards.
By 7.30am it had got very hot in the train and even with all the windows open the body heat kept the temperature too high for comfort. We estimate at least 100 peoplewere in our aisle (half a carriage) 7.40 another stop and even more packed in! As we approached Colombo outskirts we got a less flattering look at Sri Lanka passing large areas of slum dwellings. It is true of all large cities that the outskirts from train lines are not their best parts. Passed a 14 storey high rise as we approached Colombo Station. Arrived at Colombo Forte station at 8.30 am and all the “Standers” disembarked.
The train headed off again down the coast going south. To the right was the Indian Ocean just 50 metres from the track. It was a remarkable sight to see waves breaking whilst in a train. The ocean breeze was most welcome! We continued along the coast for a couple of hours and at 11.20 pulled into Galle station. We were a little jaded but what a trip! Enjoyed every moment of it and can recommend the journey. Planning to go back to Kandy the same way!
Time is a wonderful thing when you have retired. We needed time today as our train is billed as Kandy to Galle Express. Difficult to work out how they named it as it was a 6 hour journey for about 220KM. I suppose it is a bit faster than the commuter trains that stop at every station but Express is not the right description. The trip however gave us a great insight into Sri Lankans daily lives and several passengers stopped to chat to us giving us ideas of what to see in Galle.
Arrived by Tuk Tuk at Beatrice House in the Old Fort to bet met by Codi. He was most hospitable and quickly made us a cup of tea with ginger biscuits. Our room is great, on the ground floor opening out to a garden. The booking Queen Erica has done it again!