Mounting Adam's Peak

Trip Start Oct 31, 2009
Trip End Feb 25, 2010

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Where I stayed
River View Wathsala inn

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, January 8, 2010

To break up our journey from the Cultural triangle to the hill country - which would have otherwise been a 9 hour odyssey - we added another night in Kandy to our itinerary.  This was spent doing the dull 'chores' of any long trip away:  laundry, essential shopping and scouting out good guesthouses for the upcoming weeks.  In the evening we decided to waver our prejudices against cultural music and dances (that they are all basically the same and a bit naff - sorry to any fans...) and watched the famed Kandyian performers do their thing.  A couple of back flips and some fire-walking aside and our opinion was regretfully not changed.  We really did try...

The next day brought us our first experience with the Sri Lankan train system.  Er, quite different from the vast, relatively efficient Indian network it seems.  The train rocked up (literally wobbling on the tracks) about half an hour late and everyone on the platform piled on to the tiny 4 (4!  for a major train line!) carriages.  We managed to bag a space by the open door which gave us the benefit of taking turns in sitting in the door way with our legs dangling over the side.  The beautiful views definitely helped compensate for what would have otherwise been a pretty dull, uncomfortable couple of hours (approx 30km traveled in all this time)

We got off at Hatton and were immediately met by a bus to take us to our destination for the night - Dalhousie (the namesake of a place visited in India where we stayed at the dreaded Hotel Spring.  needless to say we were hoping for a more joyful experience in the Sri Lankan version...).  This was pretty much a gringo bus - everyone heading to the same destination with one thing in mind:  making the pre dawn ascent up Adam's peak.

Adam's peak itself is a very important shrine for many Sri Lankans - there is said to be a footprint made by Buddha himself protected by the monastery on the top of the mountain.  Between January and before the end of the dry season every day and night many Sri Lankans make the pilgrimage up the 5000(ish, and no, I didn't count to check) steps to the top of the Peak.  This is what we had come to take part in.

Things were not looking good when the peak clouded to invisibility in the afternoon and the rain set in.  It was still raining when we went to bed - our alarm set for a shockingly early 1.30 am wake up call.

When the alarm rudely awoke us the first thing we did was check the weather - the walk was set to be about 3 and a half hours, mostly uphill (and then the same down again) and we were not sure we would be dedicated enough tourists to get soaked for the experience.  Thankfully the air was dry and we could even see the moon and some stars through the gaps in the cloud.
We were off.

The first km or so takes you through the town of Dalhousie.  Hawkers are even up at this hour flogging woolly hats for the early morning cold and all manner of energy giving sweets.  The path itself is lit by street lamps the whole way up, so you can see from the bottom the path you will take up the mountain - the uppermost lights float intimidatingly high above us at the bottom.  Countless tea stalls balance precariously on the slopes as you climb - we decide to stop for 15 minutes every hour or so to get our breath back and prepare ourselves for the next onslaught of steps.

The final 1500 steps (amused stall owners on the way up keep us informed of our progress) are pretty much vertical.  Luckily there is a handrail and I reach the top by literally hauling myself up with my arms, my legs being pretty much useless by this point.

The top of the peak and the monastery is buzzing with tourists and Sri Lankan pilgrims.  We make our way through, paying our respects, before finding a good place to watch the sunrise.  It is about 5.30am and in the far distance below, the horizon is getting brighter.  Our hard efforts are rewarded by the most spectacular dawn.  There is just enough cloud left above us in the sky to catch and turn pink for 360 degrees around the hill top.  The peak is the biggest mountain in the area so we get a total birds eye view of the lake below, and the other hills.  Dalhousie twinkles in the distance.  The view the other way looks remarkably like an ocean - there are rolls of cloud beneath us looking just like foamy waves, with hills peaking through like rocks.  At about 7am the sun rises above the clouds and we are treated to an interesting phenomena - the shadow of Adam's peak falls on to the cloud below us, in a PERFECT triangle.  We do indeed have the photos to prove this (and the ones of the peak in daylight to show how weird the shadow really is).

The walk down is just as much hard work as going up; the knees taking the strain this time.  We are hugely compensated by the beautiful views we can enjoy now the sun is up.  Stunning hills, lakes, waterfalls and tea plantations which we passed oblivious earlier are now revealed in all their glory.

The hardest climb since Chamba, but it sure was worth it!
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Sylvia Williment on

Sounds really hard work. Are you sure this is a holiday?

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