Categories Life Changing Experiences Recent Discoveries Sri Lanka Top 10

Adam’s Peak Trail – A Monsoon Memory

Monday, April 21, 2014
Adam’s Peak Trail – A Monsoon MemoryLike0

I lost my wallet at the airport in Sri Lanka at arrival. And here I was planning this trip to be a holy one by climbing Adam’s Peak. I realized I had lost it when I had reached outside the airport, meeting the team for the first time. It has been 24 hours since my last sleep.

I ran back inside so fast that it took a couple of seconds for security to notice some crazy woman was running inside the airport, the wrong way, (going back to immigration), I had no idea what was going on behind me. I just ran across the halls, jumped on top of the barrier, climbed the wrong way up the electric stairs and I could only hear my heart beating so fast (with my flashy orange-red backpack), praying that this can not be the start to my so called spiritual journey. I skidded into immigration office when I see 2 deputies laughing and smiling at me. Not sure if it was actually at me or with me, but nevertheless, the look in their eyes, had told me, they have my wallet. I dropped to my knees. “Thank you god!” I look back, every security guard were after me, running towards me like a pack of wolves. They still had no idea what was going on. I just closed my eyes and just smiled. They escorted me back outside making sure I don’t run away.

Being back in Sri Lanka made so much sense. A beautiful place, untouched, just out of war up north, it’s our third time here and we still had so much to see! We planned to climb Adam’s Peak SriPada in October but never made it there because we had not planned the road trips properly. This time, this trip was dedicated to climbing Adam’s Peak, it was Travel Junkie Diary’s 1 year anniversary. The full moon in Libra. The Lunar eclipse. A holy mountain. Made perfect sense!

We met our friends at the airport. Teddy from Lebanon and Shehan from Sri Lanka. It was our first time attempting to climb Adam’s Peak. We were all excited and nervous and heard plenty of rumors.

Adam’s Peak {Sripada} is a 2,243 m (7,359 ft) mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is well known for the Sri Pada, i.e., “sacred footprint”, a 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) rock formation near the summit, which in Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of the Buddha, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Islamic and Christian tradition that of Adam, or that of St. Thomas. So many stories along the way, legends and tales of people reaching the summit, some who never made it and some who stayed cursed by undermining this holy mountain. The stories were incredible.

We drove for 5 hours to reach Hatton and stayed in a guesthouse called Mandira Strathdon Bungalows until 11pm, we drove then one hour to reach the base.

We started our night climb at 12am. At that time, we have been awake for 36 hours.

Regular maps have few surprises, this one had no map. It was a climb to the top at a positive elevation, it was about 8 degrees Celsius and got to -2 at the summit. Pilgrims come from all over the world to climb the peak on pilgrimage season which is from December to April. They walk barefoot, carrying children on their backs and would stop for sleep breaks. It confused me how they can just fall asleep, in the cold, even standing up. Mothers climb holding their children in their arms, barefoot. Some carrying a bag of rice on their shoulders. I bowed to them.

Elderly men and women, 60+ are held by their sons and daughters and stop to breathe, if it’s their last breathe, then it would be on this mountain.

Father & Son - Carrying him on his shoulders while he climbs 5,200 steps barefoot.
Father & Son – Carrying him on his shoulders while he climbs 5,200 steps barefoot.
View from down - Only half way up.
View from down – Only half way up.

With so many breaks, we reached the summit in 4 hours and 20 minutes. at 4:30 am. There were many times I wanted to give up but there was no choice but to keep on moving up. There were so many times I felt desperate to get off the mountain, but there was no choice but to stay and keep moving up. “Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory” – Ed Viesturs.

So many thoughts crossed our minds, forgetting the reasons why we started this. Each and one of us. The climb took everything in us, each step up was harder than the next one. Then, it would get easier when we laugh about it, but then again, the struggle kept our focus straight. The chirping insects, the sound of our footsteps. If you look up, you can see the sky so clear and the stars, everywhere! Even clearer than a desert night. I only wished our camera took better pictures! Every step up they would tell us we have 2 km left. After 30 minutes, we still had 2 km left. That’s the thing with Sri Lankans, they need to have a better understanding of KM versus minutes. It’s always 2 km left!

Eventually, in the dark, we could smell the burning flames of the candles and burning aroma around the temple. We heard the chanting of the Buddhist, we knew we were close. The hardest part were the last 100 steps. Handrails were placed to segregate the ones going up and down and to hold on better as the steps become steeper and more likely to fall. With an elevation of 60 degrees, we finally made it, took off our shoes, and offered our prayers and thanks.

Outside the temple, people were scattered around and sleeping on the floor, others waiting for the sun to rise on the east. It was 4:30am, -3 degrees. We were cold. Excited and tired.

We walked through the temple, not really knowing where we were going but it was easy to follow the crowd and they directed us to the bell. They say you need to ring the bell only once if it is your first time. We did not know of this, so we just kept ringing while others looked at us and then at each other.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Adam's Peak
Adam’s Peak

Pilgrims were everywhere, very few climbers like ourselves. There was no room to explore. There was no strength. Did I really want to explore more? I don’t think so. We all just wanted to sleep. We were so exhausted we were not able to really see around us properly, we were just little people clustered in with Sri Lankans.

We took shelter on the steps and at 6:30am, the sun rose on the horizon of the east. It was the best thing we have ever witnessed in our lives. Watching the sun rise, patiently, for an hour, catching every single move it makes, watching the sky fill with different colours so slowly. It was peaceful. You learn the real concept of patience. I have never seen anything like this, it was quiet, I needed quiet. We all did. Quiet of the mind. The silence of everyone’s mind while the Buddhist said prayers as the sun rose.

I needed quiet. I prayed for quiet and stillness. It’s so quiet here that you can almost hear people’s dreams.

We never really wanted to leave but we were cold and tired.

Ring the bell once if it's your first time - The moment where you make a wish
Ring the bell once if it’s your first time – The moment where you make a wish
Burning Flames as a Symbol of Prayers
Burning Flames as a Symbol of Prayers

When you get lost in a really strange place, nothing is more comforting than finding a friend whom you trust and can show the way. It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. You do not need a sixth sense for it. It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. ‘I am watching you — are you watching yourself in me?’

Most travelers hurry too much…the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, and not to much factual information.

To tune in, without reverence, idly — but with real inward attention. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or both, there has been times our legs could not take another step up or down only because they were so steep and we were afraid to fall asleep from sleep deprivation. I questioned my faith, we questioned our strength.

Was I looking too hard for answers? But we made it. We all lost something up there, or maybe we just intentionally left it there.

It was 7:30 am and we began our descend. 42 hours no sleep as of then. We were wrong to think going up was tough. Your legs become jelly. You have no longer control over them. You can fall asleep while walking. You can pray the end is near. But you still have to climb back down. This was the toughest part of the trip. It is because of the descend that makes us think twice about going back up or not. My knees would give up on me and so did my back as we were really racing down before the sun comes up to the peak. It was hot, it was by far the slowest pace we ever walked down. We would ask how far we have left, “4km”. Another 30 minutes would pass and it was still “4km”. I could not let go of my backpack, it was the only thing keeping me balanced. I would occasionally feel a hand grabbing me from the bag when I almost tip over. My husband. Just when you think you can’t take another step down…you do. The human body is a miraculous thing when you have a strong mind. It can endure so much when we have no choice.

Sunrise 6:30 am
Sunrise 6:30 am
Sunrise 6:42 am
Sunrise 6:42 am

There was no life altering moment at the top of this sacred peak but we had made it. We had climbed thousands of steps determined, we had reached the top and we had seen views that not everyone gets to see.

So, you see, my heart is held forever by this place, I cannot leave. Would I do it again? I don’t know! At the time I would say no. Now, we all just want to go back and stay longer.

The 4 of us build a strong friendship. We started off as complete strangers and today, we hold something so close to our hearts.

We now speak every day and already planning our next trip!

One thing we would surely do next time, is get a guide with us. There is so much history, legends and tales behind every corner and every stop that we did not get the chance to hear the stories. We would occasionally stop and ask the pilgrims, but again, we had to respect their silence and meditation whilst they climb.

10:30 am. Back at base camp, we looked at each other and helped each other get into the car, we couldn’t feel our legs. We had to drive 7 hours to get to Bentota. That marks 54 hours of no sleep. We passed out in the car. There was silence again.

Another chance for us
Another chance for us
Going down Adam's Peak
We’re stronger together
The stairs at the top of Adam's Peak - Rails have been placed to hold on because of it's positive elevation
The stairs at the top of Adam’s Peak – Rails have been placed to hold on because of it’s positive elevation
Temple Wishes
Temple Wishes

 

The bridge taking us out of Base Camp
The bridge taking us out of Base Camp
Backpackers waiting for sunrise on a roof top
Backpackers waiting for sunrise on a roof top
Our view going down Adam's Peak
Our view going down Adam’s Peak
Tea Plantation Labors climbing to the top of Adam's Peak
Tea Plantation Labors climbing to the top of Adam’s Peak
Adam's Peak trail
Adam’s Peak trail
Adam's Peak Mountain
Adam’s Peak Mountain
The Historic Temple on Adam's Peak Trail
The Historic Temple on Adam’s Peak Trail

*Photo Credits to our dear friends Teddy Habchy and Shehan Fernandez

Discover Shehan Fernandez on Flickr here

His Instagram account here

 

Adam’s Peak Location

Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka’s fourth highest mountain (2244m) is located 40km northeast of the city of Ratnapura. Distance from Colombo to Ratnapura is 94km.

Reaching the base camp of Adam’s Peak

The best and shortest route is through Ratnapura however there are two different routes.

The season and Timing

The pilgrims season to Sri Pada traditionally starts on the full moon of December and ends on the full moon of April. During the first half of the season the night ascent isn’t crowded. However during the second half of the season, the ascent gets crowded more and more on each passing day.

Night ascent in the season

The greater part of the track leading from the base to the summit consists of thousands of steps built in cement or rough stones. If your are lucky, the track might be lit with electric power lines, the night ascent is safe even when accompanied with kids. The track having night rest stops and wayside stalls and kiosks that serve refreshments, the goal is not in only reaching the summit. It’s the path you take to reach up. Giving you time to reflect and pray.

Day ascent in the season

Alternatively, you can climb up during the day, stay overnight at the summit, enjoy the spectacle of sunrise in the next day and then descend. The daytime affords the opportunity to climb at a leisurely pace, have plenty of time to enjoy the views all round, see the sunset and secure the best place to observe the sunrise in the morning. Just make sure it’s not too hot.

Pack & Tips

Pack light. Don’t wear your heavy clothes at the bottom, keep them for the top otherwise you will be shivering in your own sweat. Wear long socks to protect yourself from leeches. Get a torch light and a blanket if you reach the summit early. You will be sleep deprived, you will be tired at the top, it gets very cold. Make sure to stand at the spot you will see in the images. Not on the steps only. Go east on the rooftop. After that, go west and watch the shadow and the clouds. We started at 12am and reached at 4:20, it was recommended to start at 2am, we just needed to be on the safe side. At the end, just be glad you made it. Be warned, going down is extremely hard and if you have any knee or back injuries, its preferable you do not attempt this. Thunderstorms during monsoon months May-July and Sep-Nov.

Trail End: Sripada (Adam’s peak) Total Length: 12km

Elevation Gain: 1850m (Elevation at Trail Head: 400m | Elevation at Trail End: 2250m)

_DSC0452

 

In the words of Edmund Hillary when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. “because it’s there”

Accommodation

There are loads of guest houses along the way, we stayed at Hatton Mandira Bungallow. A beautiful gem in Hatton. 1 hour drive from base camp.

 

Boulder Gardens (0km from Kalawana) Rainforest Edge (0km from Ratnapura)
Mahoora – Yala (327km from Yala) Tientsin Bungalow (0km from Hatton)
Summerville Bungalow (4km from Hatton) Castlereagh Bungalow (5km from Hatton)
Norwood Bungalow (8km from Hatton) Ratnaloka Tour Inns (0km from Ratnapura)
Martin Lodge (0km from Ratnapura) Mandira Strathdon Holiday Bungalow (0km from Hatton)
Mandira Dickoya Holiday Bungalow (0km from Hatton) The Peakrest Hotel (0km from Hatton)
The Blue Magpie (0km from Ratnapura) Green Shadow Nature Resort (0km from Ratnapura)
Aberdeen Range Holiday Home (0km from Hatton) Lake Serenity Boutique Hotel (0km from Ratnapura)
Carolina Beach Hotel (0km from Chilaw) Governor’s Mansion (0km from Hatton)
Elnara Resort (0km from Ratnapura) Bopath Fall Rock Chalets (0km from Ratnapura)
Mahoora – Gal Oya (7km from Ampara) Mahoora – Sinharaja (0km from Ratnapura)

Travel Junkie Diary

A bohemian traveler

12 comments

  1. stickyrice14 says:

    I really thoroughly enjoyed this post. I did the same pilgrimage myself and there were so many things mentioned here that I could relate to, it totally took me back. The photos are amazing as well.

  2. Teddy Habchy says:

    Waw, I can ensure you that these words are brilliant and truthful!
    I am living the dream again now 🙂 thank you

  3. Bassi says:

    I see you succeeded in making many of us want to try this climb 🙂
    Enjoyed reading your very interesting and inspiring encounter!

  4. Rayan says:

    Such an inspirational write up! Definitely something I want to try!

  5. Allison Heckins says:

    Love your words. Fantastic work! How can we join you for your next travel? You mentioned somewhere you are flying to Tibet and Nepal next…is there a way we can join you?

  6. Saif Al Hajiri says:

    Mind blowing! What a STUNNING place and an inspirational write up! On my bucket list now!

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