A mere five minute drive from our hotel, ‘The Secret Ella’, followed by a scenic ten minute trek along old and somewhat dilapidated rail tracks that are littered with grazing cows and surrounded by thick jungle, brought us to one of the most beautiful bridges in Sri Lanka, The Demodara Nine Arch Bridge.
Also known as ‘Ahas Nawaya Palama’ (9 skies bridge), the bridge is located between the Ella and Demodara railway stations at 3100 feet above sea level and is indeed a marvel of engineering from a bygone era. Constructed by the British and officially commissioned in 1921, the bridge was built without the use of any steel. With bricks, cement and large cubic stones as the only raw materials used in its construction, the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge is a truly unique achievement in engineering, another secret of Ella. At 300 feet long by 25 feet wide, this massive bridge connects two land masses. It is a sight to behold and lends a certain ethereal old-world charm up-close and a visual spectacle when viewed from afar. Arriving in time to see what must surely be one of the slowest trains in the world emerge from the tunnel onto the bridge will transport you back in time to an era when crossing the Nine Arch Bridge was one of the top highlights of rail travel in the country.
The locals of the area are ever present at the bridge and while LT’s photographer was scouting the best angles for a shot of the bridge, I was approached by a very curious 10 year old boy from the local village, who promptly informed me of the very sad fact that he had recently lost his mother in an accident. Soon after, he began bombarding us with a plethora of questions. We took an instant liking to this charismatic kid and had no hesitation in following him when he offered to show us a secret ‘short-cut’ back to our hotel. We should have known better. This short-cut turned out to be a near 90 degree path up the side of a mountain, with virtually no foot-holes, leading to injuries being sustained to Team LT (me). The view from this steep path, however, was magnificent, truly the best angle from which to view the bridge, and when coupled with the opportunity to put a smile on a grieving child’s face, this arduous climb turned out to be the best part of our day.