August 14, 2022

Riding the Podi Menike Train from Colombo to Hatton

It’s 4.45am and I could do with some more sleep. However, I am up and about, showered and ready to leave home – destination Colombo Fort. I suppose I need not have woken up that early as it only took me a mere couple of minutes to get to the station, get my ticket and make my way onto the Podi Menike.

The train itself is a tad old-fashioned, however I’m booked into the First Class carriage and this is somewhat more modernised – television screens at intervals with a movie playing throughout the ride, charging ports and the comfort of air-conditioning. Trains came into existence sometime in the 1800’s when my little island was under British colonial rule. At the time, the carriages were used to transport tea from the plantations to the city of Colombo – today, thankfully, many locals as well as foreign travellers find it a convenient mode of transportation to many parts of the country.

The Podi Menike is scheduled to leave Colombo Fort at 5.55am and although I’m told there can be delays, we left the station on the dot on this particular occasion. The estimated time of arrival to Hatton is 11.25am. This can tend to vary however as there is the possibility of longer stops and some delays throughout the journey. There are certain bumpy areas along the way and the ride could be a little longer than expected but, I do think the views make up for it.

If, like me, you wish to get some great photos and videos of the changing scenic views, you’ll need to get seating on the best side of the train. Seats on the right side of the train are great and you could also walk over to the entry and exit doors for some extra instagram-worthy snaps along the way.

I would also recommend having some snack or breakfast bars and water with you even though shorteats and water are sold during the journey. I say this because morning tummies can tend to be temperamental and it’s always better to have your own reusable water bottle instead of purchasing a plastic non-reusable one instead. Consider your gut health and the environment.

Did I mention the views? Oh, the glorious views! I don’t think I can unsee them when I think about the train ride now. There’s something quite ethereal – a scenic sort of elegance – to the mountainscape, the high rises and low slopes of the valleys, the forestry, the paddy, the tea. You could almost reach out and feel the freshness of the air, the crispy cool breeze. On this particular day, there was sunshine during pockets of time, and mist and rain during others. It felt like setting foot in a different time and place both at the same time. A newness for the senses to feast upon.

The many photos and videos do not do justice to the reality of the experience however. Escaping the city and entering the highlands is quite something else – not something that can be translated through imagery and content but rather through emotions and sensitivities within. That’s how I felt. It didn’t matter that I felt sleepy. It didn’t matter that the journey at times felt longer. It wouldn’t matter to you either. Trust me on this one and experience it at least once.

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Images courtesy Unsplash