The last 20 steps. A spiritual diary of Leyann Smili at Adam’s Peak.
Adam’s Peak (official name Sri Pada) is a spiritual mountain in Sri Lanka, seeped in ancient Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Islamic traditions.
The mountain is popular among locals and travelers alike – but with 5000 steep steps to the summit, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Those up to the task usually start their climb at around 2AM to avail of the spectacular sunrise at the summit.
Firstly, let me start by saying that not only is my heart beating really quickly while typing this blog post for Travel Junkie Diary, but hiking Sri Pada was by far one of the best experiences of my life.
And that’s not because I haven’t had good experiences. I am grateful for everything I have had the opportunity to experience, as I have done my fair share of traveling myself, my fair share of exploring, and have experienced my fair share of adventure… But I don’t mean solely in terms of physical travel and exploration.
I’ve had my spiritual moments… Through an inspiring conversation with friends, with strangers, through reading good books, yoga, meditation, music, prayer, tears, heartbreak, sadness, friendship. Love…
And to me this is also considered traveling. I truly believe that it doesn’t take a plane ticket to another part of the world to find that happiness within you. The universe does not prioritize those who can afford to travel…
Because it knows that to truly find peace and happiness you have to look within, and there are many other means of travel that a person can make use of to feel a happiness that is not temporary.
And Sri Pada taught me exactly that. It wasn’t that feeling of being in a new country, which is an adrenaline rush on its own, and usually a very exciting feeling…
It resembles the feeling you can get after a good yoga session, the feeling after completing a project you have been working on for years, the feeling of accomplishment but not in a competitive manner. That feeling you get that helps you to truly love yourself, appreciate yourself, appreciate everything around you and feel absolute beauty towards yourself and others.
And I only started to appreciate this feeling recently. I believe it usually happens after going through something difficult in your life, because you can only truly appreciate a good feeling if you have experienced a bad one.
The realization of this feeling all started on this mountain. Of course it wasn’t the first time I had felt it, but it was so powerful that the impact was greater than any other experience I had gone through. It was something I never wanted to let go of. I wanted to climb the mountain again the next day just to get it back because even the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka didn’t do it for me; which says a lot given how astonishing they are.
Why I felt this way is probably what everyone reading this is wondering, and with good reason. Honestly, if I had to put it in one sentence it would be that I was forced to live in the moment, and that happens very often when you get out of your comfort zone.
Maybe I don’t get out of it often enough, maybe this is the beginning of a more exciting life for me – of more adventure and risk-taking. Whatever the reason for this great impact, I want to feel it over and over again. I want it to be a part of me; I want it to be permanent. And I am yet to figure out how to do that, but I trust that it will eventually come to me.
We were prepared to start the hike at 2AM on this cold December night, and we were in an area four driving hours away from anything approximating civilization.
We stayed in a very humble hotel called Punsisi Rest House. It was the closest hotel to the start of the mountain. I got there and was automatically freaked out. What if someone walks into the room in my sleep? Why are there only two pieces of furniture? Why isn’t it sparkling clean?
This is when I realized that I was approaching it the wrong way and that I was acting really spoiled. I didn’t want to eat anything, or use the shower, or sleep on the bed…
And I hated that. I hated that I couldn’t just relax, feel at ease and just let loose. I am no more human in a nice resort than I am here. Yes, I am probably a more pampered human (insert laugh here) but I am not in a better place spiritually. I wanted to accept that insects might bite me, that I might not be as clean as I usually am after a shower, that the food was not ideal for me. I wanted to just accept all of that. After all, it’s all part of the experience, and it definitely added to it positively.
The people in the hotel, let alone all of Sri Lanka, were absolutely beautiful. By beautiful I mean everyone is extremely accommodating and friendly. They are all so happy, so happy with everything they have, so happy to see you. They were extremely hospitable, kind and helpful. And of course, nothing matters more than being surrounded by good people.
You are probably wondering why I have put a lot of emphasis on the hotel, and that’s because that was a big part of the reason this experience was a life-changing one. The hotel itself was extremely out of my comfort zone that it forced awareness in the present moment. Something I had been slowly losing sight of…
By 2.30AM we got to the bottom of the mountain, and a monk gave us a “good luck” bracelet each and said a little prayer. I was starving, and very thankful that they were selling delicious bananas and tea close to the bottom.
It was pitch black and I kept looking at my legs to make sure there were no leech bites. It was cold, really cold, and we still had about 4750 more steps to go.
The steps were painful. It was all so very painful and the pitch darkness did not make it any easier. We hired a guide to accompany us, and he was absolutely amazing. He hikes up Adam’s Peak almost every other day of the year or something. He told us great stories about the mountain, shared a lot of wisdom with us and made the experience all the more pleasant.
We each had a flashlight to help see in front of us, and a few times I thought I wasn’t going to make it and that I would just end up hiking back down. It really wasn’t easy.
But we made it to the top after about 4 hours, and although the final 100 steps were absolute torture – the last 20 were the most exciting steps I have ever taken.
I was just running and running like a little child, and when I got to the top I took my shoes off and couldn’t stop laughing. We got there in time for sunrise, which was the goal. That in itself is a remarkable moment.
I can’t really put this part into words, and I hope the pictures will do it justice (they actually don’t), but the fact that it was so difficult to get up there made it the most spiritual experience that I have had to date. Or perhaps it’s the fact that it was a pilgrimage, or maybe it was the good energy on the mountain, or the incredible views. Who knows?
There’s also a bell up there that you ring once if it’s your first time, twice if second, and so on. But I rang it one too many times, and hopefully that means I’ll be doing it again.
The hike down is when it all sunk in… We had made it! And the pain in our legs was even worse on the way down but it didn’t matter to us because this time we could actually see everything around us. The fact that we were hiking up this piece of heaven on earth but couldn’t see it before sunrise made me smile so much. It’s like our day-to-day life; there is so much beauty around us that we tend not to see. We have our eyes closed sometimes and all it takes is a little awakening.
This is why my heart was beating fast at the start of this blog post, because I am extremely excited to be sharing this beautiful experience with you.
Good to know – Tips
The peak pilgrimage season is in April, and the mountain is most often scaled between the months of December and May. During other months it is hard to climb the mountain due to very heavy rain, extreme wind, and thick mist.
Packing light is key. I recommend waterproof clothing because it usually rains and being wet is not ideal in the cold. Long socks to avoid leech bites. Insect repellent spray for the hotel. Bring your own shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc.
Stayed in Punsisi Rest House
Mode of travel in Sri Lanka We hired a driver from Indigo Ocean Travels, and he hired the guide for the mountain for us as well. I highly recommend the driver we had, he was really great. His name is Thilak and you can ask for him when you call or email. Otherwise I am sure all the drivers from the company are excellent. Call Raja: +94777065438
The Arab traveler Ibn Batuta and Marco Polo have both visited Sri Pada.