There Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Trip Start Nov 16, 2007
Trip End Dec 15, 2007

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poking up from the south western edge of the hill country, the soaring summit of Adam's Peak (Sri Pada) is simultaneously one of Sri Lanka's most striking natural features and one of its most celebrated places of pilgrimage.  The mountain stands head and shoulders above the surrounding hills giving a wonderful impression of sheer altitude even though, at 2243m, it's actually only the island's fifth highest peak.
Adam's Peak is essentially a Buddhist place of worship - a depression at its summit is claimed to be the footprint of Buddha - and has been an object of pilgrimage for over a thousand years.  From the Duruthu poya day in December through to the Vesak poya in May, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims drag themselves 7km up the illuminated, stepped footpath - there are some 4800 steps, and no, I didn't count! 
The ascent is made by night, allowing you to reach the top in time for dawn, and also offers the best odds of seeing the extraordinary views free from cloud.  Slightly disappointingly, we were out of season, when the lights are turned off, though at least there weren't the masses to slow me down.
The climb was exhausting.  On advice I'd given myself three and a half hours for the hike, but reached the summit in just less than half feeling very dehydrated and light-headed - stupidly I hadn't made time to drink enough water the previous day, and regretted having drunk the arrack before bed.  At least the early arrival gave me plenty of time to recover before the amazing sight of dawn, which really felt quite magical.  The perfectly clear skies also allowed me to witness one of Sri Lanka's strangest natural phenomena.  As dawn breaks, the rising sun creates a shadow of the peak which seems to hang suspended in space in front of the mountain.  One of the mysteries of the peak is the shadow's perfectly triangular shape, which doesn't correspond to the actual - and far more irregular - outline of the summit.
The much quicker descent offered fantastic views all the way down, and was made all the better for meeting a really nice couple from Melbourne (Alex and Lana) whom I dropped off at Hatton as Karu and I head back in the direction of Nuwara Eliya.  It was the best drive yet, through mile after mile of lush tea country, past the spectacular Maskeliya and Castlereagh Reservoirs, and overlooking the crashing Devon and St Clair Falls.
I was really looking forward to a night of pampering at the "stunning and spectacularly located" Tea Factory hotel 14km east of Nuwara Eliya.  Set on a hill top at over 2000m, this five-star hotel was created out of the old Hethersett Estate Tea Factory which closed in the 1970s.  The exterior and many internal features have been completely preserved, which along with plenty of old machinery, gives the place a feel that is industrial yet contemporary.
Unfortunately, for the first time on my trip, the weather conspired to deprive me of the stunning views of surrounding tea estates as the mist closed in immediately upon arrival and lasted beyond my checkout the following morning.
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