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Sri Lanka: Adam's Peak

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Adam's Peak > Sri Lanka > Asia

[Visited: March 2019]

Adam's Peak, at 2243 metres the fifth highest summit of Sri Lanka, is a sacred place for Buddhists. It is also known as Sri Pada: the footstep of Buddha. At the same time, it is claimed to be the footstep of Siva by Hindus, and of Adam by Christians and Muslims. We read about the crowds on weekends and poya (special holidays and full moon days), and change our plans, as we do not want to be stuck for hours on the flanks of the mountain. We are lucky with the bus connections from Kandy, and arrive at Nallathanniya just in time for dinner, and manage to sleep a few hours before our alarm clock kicks us out of a deep sleep just after midnight. The owner of our guesthouse has advised us to start early, as he thinks there will still be plenty of people going up, and we do not want to miss the sunrise on the top. When I ask him about taking a torch, he takes me to the far end of our balcony, and points up. It turns out that the entire path is illuminated in the season.

Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Shrine topping Adam's Peak

There are not many people around when we cross the small river, the official start of the trail. We walk through a temple, where we are greeted by several men and a monk, who present us with a book in which previous visitors have left their names and the money they donated - a clever way to make us pay. It looks they have invented contributions themselves to make other visitors pay more. It somehow takes away a little of the sanctity of the mountain. We wonder how many more of these tricks await us ahead. It is a little crazy to see shops selling all kinds of paraphernalia open for business, the shopkeepers sleepily waiting for customers to buy their Made-in-China plastics. While still quite level at the beginning, the path is narrowing, and has turned into one long stairway not long after we passed the brightly lit Peace Pagoda. Supposedly, there are more than 5,200 steps to climb. Some steps are steep and high, some are easy. The higher we get, the more people we pass. Some of them are trying to sleep on the stairs. Some are coming down limping, supported by their companions. It makes us wonder how we will feel in a few hours, on our way down the mountain.

Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Some of the more than 5,000 steps on the way up the mountain

When we realise we are less than fifteen minutes under the summit, and have several hours left before sunrise, we take a break and hot tea at one of the many places. When we finally arrive at the summit, we take off our shoes, and slowly climb the last stairs in a thick crowd. This brings us to the holy shrine at the summit where monks guard the footstep of Buddha, and make sure no one takes pictures and moves on after seeing it. We soon realise that there are no good views of sunrise from the top, so we walk a little down the stairs where, surprisingly, hardly anyone else sits. The sky starts to clear, slowly but surely a new day is being born from the darkness. Orange and red clouds make for an overwhelming view, and we finally get to see the landscape as the light of the new day lifts the darkness of night. First we see contours, then they slowly turn into reservoir below, the islets in it, the mountains surrounding us, villages. Even though the views are sweeping, the first people try to make their way down, thus clogging the stairs. When the worst is over, I take my shoes off once again, and walk to the shrine where I only find worshippers in prayer. On the other side, I find scores of oil lamps burning, and a great view of the mountains to the west, piercing through the clouds. The shadow of Adam's Peak is projected on the landscape below, and moving towards me as it unveils a table mountain. A bell sounds: prayer is over. It is time to descend, under the prayer flags, back to Nallathanniya where we find a bus back to Kandy after a well-deserved breakfast.

Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Early morning light over the mountains and reservoir to the east of Adam's Peak
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): The shadow of Adam's Peak projected on a mountain to the west
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Reading a newspaper at the shrine of Adam's Peak
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Sri Pada, the footstep of Buddha (or Siva, or Adam) at the top of the mountain
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Clouds enveloping a  lower mountain seen from Adam's Peak
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Praying people at the top of Adam's Peak
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Oil lamps at the shrine on top of the mountain
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Prayer flags over the trail with the Peace pagoda in the background
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Sunrise seen from Adam's Peak
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Statues of elephants topping a bell at the sanctuary on top of the mountain
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Shop in the middle of the night
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): Peace pagoda in the middle of the night, close to where the stairs start
Picture of Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka): During the season, the path to the top is illuminated

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