Sitting high up on one of the little hills which border the Ella-Demodara Railway track, you get a stunning view of the railway line snaking its way across a viaduct and disappearing into a tunnel.
The Rail Hike
While not as scenic nor as long or popular as the Idalgashinna rail trek, the Demodara to Ella line isn't half bad, and provides some stunning scenery in its own quaint way.
If you're a beginner to the hiking scene and don't feel like you can take on mountains and 10kms of trekking, this is a good place to start: it's just about 2 or 3 kilometres and takes you only one and a half hours (with multiple photo-stops) to walk through 🙂
Plus point is that you also get a couple of tunnels to walk through, filled with hundreds of bats whizzing in and out and strong with the smell of guano — a true adventure, if you like! More importantly, it sets the atmosphere for some amazing sights, especially when you reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Bridge in the Sky
Known as Ahas namaye paalama in Sinhala, the Nine Arches Bridge is made completely of stone — as in, there's no steel involved at all. From what I've heard, it's known as the Ahas namaye paalama (the bridge of nine skies) because of the view you get when you stand beneath it: nine portals through which you can see the sky as you look upwards.
Standing at the ends of the bridge, there's honestly nothing much to see without being at a vantage point, so we suggest climbing one of the hills and perching yourself on top. If you've hiked from Demodara, climb the hill to your left; there's a tiny signboard saying there's a cafeteria atop it, where you can get fresh juices and whatnot.
Run by an elderly lone uncle (his family's all dead, he said), this cafe is the epitome of Sri Lankan hospitality. 'Cafe' is a rather fanciful name for it, as the place is a half-constucted building with a bit of woodwork and whatnot — but, there's also a wooden bench balanced on the edge, and a couple of planks swung across two bits of land with a small drop at the bottom. Both offer great views of the railway, and the uncle is an added bonus — he serves up the most delicious fresh juices, and even though he said he didn't have any food, managed to procure some aappa/pancake combo with some killer miris sambol which made us very, very happy.
He also gives you a rundown of what times the trains run through, so you get to wait for it.
It's kinda really cool, honestly.
The End of the Walk
There's a signboard on the bridge, which, depending on how you angle yourself and take the photograph, looks like you're at a tropical version of Platform 9 3/4. All you need is a brick wall and the Hogwarts Express to complete the experience.
Also, the tunnel at the end of the bridge has some unexpected bits of graffiti.
How to get there: You can either get the Nightmail to Demodara, or the Superline Coach to Badulla, then hitch a bus to the Demodara Railway station. The bus ride from Badulla to Demodara (at like 5.45 AM) takes about half an hour.