Climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka
Dalhousie, Sri Lanka Day 4, 2am: got a rude shock when someone (must be V, I thought) switched on the lights in our Blue Sky Guesthouse room. The annoying alarm is ringing in the background. I burrowed back under my thin, porous blanket, but even then the strong gushing sound of water outside was apparent. Damn, was it still raining?
Thankfully, the deceptive sound came from the waterfalls nearby, overflowing from a night of heavy rain. We suited up and stepped out into the cool air, making our way towards the trail to Adam’s Peak. December marked the start of pilgrimage season, so we were amongst many others – mostly local pilgrims dressed in white.
Adam’s Peak – or Sri Pada, meaning Sacred Footprint – had been the contention of various religions for centuries. As a conical peak that distinctly rises above this region’s mountain range, it’s said to be where Adam, Buddha, St Thomas and even Lord Shiva set foot on earth. For us, it was simply one of the must-dos for travellers to Sri Lanka which promised breathtaking views at the summit.
The climb is not for the faint-hearted though. The steps upwards start fairly gradual, but get exponentially steeper – and monotonous. Each time we stopped to catch our breath and look up, the string of sparkling lights leading all the way to the peak never failed to intimidate, yet excite us. The pilgrims who overtook us effortlessly – especially those with kids or of the same age as my grandma’s – had the same effect of powering us forward.
There are many shops lining the trail up, but we finally stopped at The Last Tea Hut. Strategically located right before the last flight of steps to the peak, it didn’t take much for the owner to convince us inside for a cuppa’ hot tea, since it was still awhile before sunrise and we would freeze up there so early. It felt good to take shelter from the chilly winds, but only after we left did we realize there was yet another hut further up, where monks were giving out free dhal curry.
When we reached the summit and saw the number of people already squashed at the best spots, there was a tinge of regret staying so long at The Last Tea Hut. Nevertheless, we took our shoes off and squeezed through the crowds (excuse me… oops, sorry!) to sit among them. With my butt perched uncomfortably on the cement steps, shoulders literally rubbing with complete strangers’, I stared over the artificial metal fence blocking half my view and tried to ignore at the corner of my eye, the blinding light from some street lamp, while the sound system continuously blasted and permeated the whole place with, I suppose, holy chants to cultivate a more atmospheric pilgrimage.
It wasn’t exactly the experience I would imagine climbing 5,500 tormenting steps for, but as always it is still beautiful to stand above a sea of clouds watching the skies light up (even if it was too cloudy to see the sun come out). We waited for the crowds to disperse before exploring the rest of the temple atop the summit. Without the articifial fences nor the crowd, the view on the other side seemed much better.
Going down was equally painful – although more enjoyable since the route naturally became more scenic when we could actually see our surroundings. We stopped to admire ribbons of waterfalls flowing through different shades of canopies, as we strolled back to our hostel in a leisurely pace.
Trip at a glance (Adam’s Peak)
(LKR1,000 = SGD1.00)
2nd Class Train from Kandy-Hatton: LKR70
Car from Hatton-Dalhousie: LKR1,600
1 Night at Blue Sky Guesthouse/4pax: USD50
Sumptuous Lunch at Blue Sky/4pax: LKR1,800
Sumptuous Dinner at Daddy’s Guesthouse/4pax: LKR1,850