Just over 190 km from Colombo, nestled a little way off Haputale, is Idalgashinna — a small and sleepy village tucked in the hills. When we say 'small and sleepy', we mean it, because stepping off the train leaves you with nothing but views of a few scattered buildings, lots of pine trees, and rolling hills and valleys.
There's a small petti-kadey (a small road-side shop) a small walk off, and it's stocked with your everyday biscuits, murukku and bites. The Idalgashinna mountain looms in the distance and has a wall of fog continually curling up against it. Apparently it looks beyond stunning if you reach its peak in time for day break.
However, having left Colombo Fort at about 6 AM, we jumped off the train at the Idalgashinna Railway Station at around 2.30 PM. Idalgashinna's at a height of approx 5,300 feet, so the heatwaves which were wrecking Colombo and half killing us weren't as bad there. The winds were fresh and nippy, and the weather slightly warm but not enough to break a sweat. Perfect conditions for a long walk, which was what we were there for.
The hike's incredibly straightforward, really. Nothing to climb or stumble over, just follow the rail tracks until you hit the Ohiya Station some 8 kms away. Yes, that's a bit of a long walk, and yes, it takes all of three hours.
However, you're walking in near-complete isolation, with nothing but acres and acres of pine and eucalyptus forests around you, with the occassional shrubs peppering the way.
You also get the excitement of walking through 13 (or 14, I lost count, sorry) tunnels, in which you can hear the bats clickety-clacketting above you, and where the walls are slimy and damp and moist. You need to keep an ear out for incoming trains, because if you're caught in the tunnel when one's coming you need to scoot into one of the manholes in the walls of the tunnel (if you can find one), or turn around and run as fast as you can back out.
Because seriously, most of the tunnels didn't look like they had enough space to hold a person and a train both, without a layer of skin (in the very least) being skimmed off the former.
When you finally reach the Ohiya Station, you're accosted by friendly greetings from literally the only two kadeys in the area. They can make you a nice cup of tea or coffee, which you can have with the milk biscuits you purchase from the aforementioned kadey.
If you want to spend a day or two in the area, you can book a cabin by calling +94 575 680 398. It's extremely basic but clean, with beds, a clean bathroom with running hot water, and stunning mountain views over the back balcony area.
The aunty and uncle there can prepare you a very hearty meal (or all three meals), at Rs. 150 per person (and it's absolutely worth it), with veggies and greens fresh off their garden.
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