Great Sri Lankan railway journeys – and not an ex-Cabinet minister in sight!

The day dawns after a chill if not slightly-bordering-on-cold night to a spectacular start to a new day. Whilst everything has already been more than expected, there’s only so much tourist stuff one can take on a cricket tour and I’m probably reaching that point soon. But with the 2nd test starting tomorrow, we start the journey to Kandy.

It’s a relatively short hop so a morning resting is most welcome before venturing out on the train from Hatton to Kandy across even more tea plantations, uplands and greenery. The distance is c60km but will take just under three hours, and alight at the station before Kandy as parking for the tour bus is a challenge at Kandy station. A brief city tour awaits – assuming the travel arrangements all work – before we are despatched to our hotels. But that’s in the future.

An early morning train to Kandy

The group is travelling light as our luggage is being taken on the coach…and hopefully the logistics will work, if not someone else will get all my newly and neatly laundered clothes (if Mrs Agnew is reading this..,please note!).

Any train journey is a voyage of discovery even on Network Rail so Sri Lanka railways should be no different, and I’m not disappointed. The carriages are adequate, the rolling and rocking a little heavy but we are also climbing for most of the time, as well as doubling back on ourselves as the shortest way is also on the railway equivalent of a hair pin bend. We are on time – or thereabouts bearing in mind that this train started its journey only just after breakfast and we’re well past lunch time. Numerous officials in very smart dress are in attendance on and off the train (in fact every official is always smartly dressed as our school students come to that – not something seen every day in the UK).

One different aspect is that trespassing on the track is a normal activity and I took the opportunity to do just that…not crossing by the footbridge! I have evidence! Another difference is the at-seat buffet service- street hawkers (duly authorised) – sell their wares on a regular and frequent basis but at significantly lower prices! On board wash rooms are cleaner than on Southern or Greater Abellio or whatever but are of a slightly different style. Photo available on request!

The outside views continue to be spectacular as the train rolls along stopping for the occasional station. There are only a few trains each day on this route (from deep in the hill country to Kandy and then Colombo) but train is still busy – tourists, back packers, locals et al – but not the extreme overcrowding elsewhere in Asia; and no, I’m not hobnobbing in first class!

Clear pride taken!

There’s no TV crew or retired politician in sight presumably as there is little of interest on this line or didn’t Bradshaw reach this part of the Empire but how difficult can it be to sit on a train and chat…and no I’m not wearing garish clothes!

We arrive at the station one stop before the main Kandy station – a sort of Clapham Junction but much smaller – to take our journey into the city centre. Platforms here tend to be at ground level whereas the carriage floor is a few feet higher. Hence embarking and disembarkation is not as swift requiring passengers to step down or up. This means that the group takes longer than an allotted time to disembark and the train moves off with someone in mid flow! Fortunately messages got to the driver and no damage was done but that’s not the sort of thing on Network Rail.

Arriving at the hotel, am glad to report that Sri Lanka cricket are true to their word regards compensation- fruit and wine on arrival are excellent and the suite they’ve upgraded me to is probably bigger than my first property in the UK.

But there is news of the cricket in that Buttler could well move to #3 and swap with Ali but it seems that the compensation package offered by the Sri Lankan board could be enhanced even more by the ECB and if so, I may spontaneously combust with excitement! But more later, if it happens!