Adams Peak - Where Adam Landed on Earth

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
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Trip End Jun 11, 2014


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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, March 24, 2014

The mountain known as Adam's Peak is only Sri Lanka’s seventh highest mountain but is the most famous and most spiritually significant to several religions. Its importance is because of an indentation on its top that takes the form of a large footprint. Muslims consider it to be Adam’s footprint, the place where he landed on earth after being cast out of paradise. To Buddhists the mountain is Sri Pada and the footprint is Buddha’s on the spot where he left earth to ascend to paradise. Hindus believe the footprint to be that of god Shiva and (not to be left out) some Christian sects consider it to be that of Saint Thomas (the doubting apostle) who brought Christianity to the Indian subcontinent.

So if this is Adam’s Peak that begs the question "Where’s Eve’s Peak?" Where did she land? Why didn’t she get her own peak? If she was in fact by Adam’s side when she landed on earth after being cast out of paradise, how do we know the footprint isn’t actually hers? Or is it just sexism? Such deep questions to ponder on the nighttime hike up the mountain for dawn at the peak!

The road to Adam’s Peak was through lush countryside in Sri Lanka’s central highlands past tea plantations and numerous waterfalls. Only there wasn’t all that much water in the waterfalls; guide Tikiri told us that Sri Lanka was experiencing one f its worst draughts in memory with almost no rain in months. While the northern hemisphere winter months are normally the drier season in Sri Lanka, the island isn’t strictly monsoonal and experiences significant rainfall in the drier months as well, resulting in the lush tropical vegetation rather than drier monsoonal forest.

Our accommodations for the night were in Dalhousie, the pilgrim’s base and start of the hike. The climb to my room was quite a hike in itself – 170 mostly tall concrete steps up the hill to my bungalow. Make sure not to forget anything in your room that you’ll need! I ate dinner as it got dark around 6:00 in the evening, took a diphenhydramine (sleep aid/allergy pill), and went immediately to bed after settin my alarm for 1:30 A.M.

This was one top Sri Lanka sight on my tour I wasn’t overly enthused for, a three-plus hour trek up about 1,000 meters (3,300 feet ) to the peak at 2,243 meters (about 7,300 feet) in the dark, mostly up paved steps, with hundreds of pilgrims and a few other tourists too. And for what? To see the sun rise? I can see a sunrise any clear morning of my life. Anyway, I set off by myself at about 1:50, a little before the others in my group.

Ugh, this reminds me of Mount Sinai! When I worked as a tour leader in 2004 in Egypt climbing mount Sinai, supposedly where Moses received the Ten Commandments, was on many of the itineraries. It also involved getting up about 2:00 A.M. for a long hike up to the peak in the dark for sunrise. What is it about sunrise on a mountain that is such a religious experience? Or maybe it’s just that hiking in the dark is what beats the daytime heat. Anyway, I like to say I climbed Mount Sinai more times than Moses and came to dread that part of my job after the first few times I did it.

The first part of the hike involved a significant hike along the peak’s base past numerous Buddhist shrines. Although numerous religions have a story about Adam’s Peak, the pilgrims visiting it are overwhelmingly Sri Lankan Buddhists. Anyway, the route changed to concrete steps for the long slow climb to the top, a way illuminated in its entirely and looking like a glowing snake ahead on the way up.

The last stretch to the temple at the top was steep enough to require hanging onto the railings and using some arm power as well as leg. And then I was there and had to take my shoes off for the last steps to the top to stand for what felt like ages in the chilly darkness. I was the second one from my group to the top and felt quite pleased with myself for my relative fitness!

At the top was one of those experiences of too many people crowded into too small a space, packed like sardines all staring towards the east.  First light on the horizon; hope I don’t get pushed over; orange and red mixing with the shades of blue; hope I don’t get crushed; sun’s about to come up; not sure I can get my hands back down after raising my camera above my head for photos; sunny glow above the horizon; Ok it’s over and everyone scatters like roaches.

Inside the temple enclosure was very crowded with pilgrims, and the line to observe Adam’s or Buddha’s or Shiva’s footprint, housed under a little shrine, was long and slow moving. I had breakfast more than Adam on my mind, though. The shadow of the pyramid shaped peak on the misty hills below was quite mystical.

The upper stretches were quite a people jam on the way down, but once I escaped the crowds I made good time on the easy footing (compared to a dirt trail) steps and got back to the guesthouse in little more than an hour. A breakfast with lots of fresh watermelon and pineapple rounded out my happy mood and sense of accomplishment of hiking Adam’s Peak. I was really glad my earlier lack of enthusiasm for the climb didn’t keep me from doing the pilgrimage. I feel so fit too – yeay!
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