Trains in Sri Lanka

After a lackluster experience in Kandy we were in search of greener pastures. The train ride through the central highlands of Sri Lanka is as much a highlight as the destination. With this in mind we headed to the station, bought tickets, and boarded a train.

Our last train ride, in Myanmar, was one of the most charming disasters we’ve ever experienced. We had jostled for position with monks, bags of rice, and barrels of pungent fish. As we climbed into an empty coach it seemed that this time fortune had smiled upon us. That feeling rapidly subsided at the next station where the familiar cramped, sweaty mass of humanity we remembered welcomed us when we were forced to change trains.

To be fair the scenery outside was spectacular, at least for the lucky passengers in seats, and there were no live chickens or bags of rice. However, it was standing room only and we swayed like hood ornaments for the next 3.5 hours seeing only the armpits of our fellow vertical passengers.

Valerie had the first stroke of luck.  An amiable Sri Lankan family rearranged their children and offered her a seat. Over the next three hours she was fed a variety of local foods which produced some wild puckering facial contortions and slow, closed-eyed smiles of ecstasy – much to the delight of her audience.

My luck came an hour later when a young woman’s friends boarded and she scuttled off to join them. I wasn’t offered local history lessons or an exotic buffet like Val but being able to see outside and rest my legs was more than enough to make me feel lucky.

Staring out of the  train I could see the pace of life slowing. Farmers tended to their vibrant vegetable patches. Women washed clothes under thundering waterfalls. Tea plantations stretched as far as the eye could see. Singing men and women with baskets and improvised sun hats lined the hills, plucking ripe tea leaves off of dark green bushes. Suddenly our choice to come to Sri Lanka was feeling like a very good decision indeed.

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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