Adam's Peak (Sri Pada) is Sri Lanka's 5th highest peak in the at 2243m, but it is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage.
Every religion seems to have their own reasons to worship this mountain: -
Buddhist: - there is a depression at the top which is claimed to be the sacred footprint - of Buddha himself.
Muslim: - they claim the footprint is that of Adam, who first set foot on earth and had to stand on one leg in pentinence until his sins were forgiven. Hindu: - they claim the footprint was created by Shiva.
Christian: - the colonial Portuguese claimed that the footprint belonged to St Thomas, the founder of the religion in India. Generally, it is essentially considered a Buddhist place of worship and has been a place of pilgrimage for over a thousand years.
Pilgrimage season starts on Durutha poya day which falls in January time - this poya marks the first of Buddha's 3 legendary visits to Sri Lanka. The season ends at Vesak poya in May, which is the most important poya day celebrating 3 main events - Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. During the season thousands climb the mountain and the trail is illuminated with little tea and rotti shops all the way up. We climbed it by night leaving at 1.30am so that we would be up by sunrise. So I bused it up to Colombo to meet in with the others and we got a driver to take us to Dalhousie which is where you start the climb.
We had booked a room to try and get a few hours sleep before the climb but didn't really get much sleep. The climb is a steep 7km and it looks quite daunting from the bottom. I had been told by others that it was practically steps the whole way up and it is - many steps that are very steep! We paced it quite nicely to get up in plenty of time for sunrise allowing tea stops en route. It is very cold and windy at the top - the first time I have had to wear a jumper and a jacket since I have been here as well as my walking boots.
The crazy Sri Lankans climb up in their shorts and t-shirts and flipflops or bare feet so when they get to the top they look completely miserable with chattering teeth. They did find all of us in our proper climbing attire highly entertaining though, but we were warm and dry! It is really quite dangerous seeing some of them climbing in their bare feet up and down these really steep steps carrying children on their shoulders or supporting their grandmother who can barely walk because quite often there is no railing to hold on to and you really have to concentrate on your footing. A lot of families do the climb over a couple of days because there are several shelters for camping out in - which looked really uncomfortable and cold.
As well as the footprint at the top and a couple of temples and shrines, there is a bell for pilgrims to ring and you ring this bell for every successful ascent of the mountain you have made. When we were there a lady who looked at a guess about 50 proudly rang the bell 32 times!!
The quite unfortunate thing for us was that it had been a really clear night all of the way up to the top and it clouded over just as it started to get light.
As the sun started to rise, the resident Adam's Peak monks started drumming and there were breaks in the clouds. Looking down at the surrounding countryside was pretty spectacular and the way the clouds clung around the lower hills.
Due to the cloud, it wasn't possible to see the shadow which lasts for about 20 mins on a clear sunrise, which is known as a Buddhist mystery because although the peak is quite an irregular shape, the shadow appears as a perfect triangular shape.
After the sunrise, we started to make the descent, which due to the steep, continual downward stepping motion makes your legs turn to jelly. It wasn't really painful, more just worrying because your legs started to feel quite useless and like they would buckle under you quite easily so you just had to really concentrate on making them work.
Although I was obviously disappointed that it hadn't been a clear sunrise, I really enjoyed the climb. It was certainly the first time I have been able to buy a cup of tea ten minutes from a summit before which was very pleasant. The crazy guys that run the tea shops near the top must have legs of steel bringing their supplies up!