This time the jet lagged that still lingers helped and I crashed in a deep sleep at 8:00 pm and woke up without an alarm at 1:30am. Outside I could hear the other people staring to move and when I got out of the room around 2:00 am I realized that I was the last.
I started walking on the village road under a sea of stars and a crescent moon looking towards Adam’s Peak that could be seen lit in a perfect cloudless night. The path to the 2840 meters peak is lit with neon lights and this makes a beautiful image in the night when you can see the entire way to the top. But this also inhibits: Am I suppose to get there?!!!
After I turned the first bend I started to see some of the foreigners who were walking still asleep and some cheerful Sri Lankans. From the village road a right turn brings you to a shrine where Buddhist monks have a book where you would write your name and write also how much you want to donate. Interesting! The path goes on the margin of a valley till it gets to the steps. There are 5400 steps on a path that has 7 km to the top.
walking the steps up was like a meditation. And this is probably is supposed to be. It is perfectly quite and you can hear just the whisper of some water from a spring on one side and the bips of the frogs all over. And if your thoughts drift and bring them back to what surrounds you it is so rewarding.
On the way there are places to rest and the stalls selling coffee, tea, drinks and food are open all night. The huffing and puffing is coming from all pilgrims no matter of age, race, location or gender. You continuously climb steps, one after another, and some are steep and is not easy at all. I stopped on the way like many others but in the same time I tried to shoot something in the night. I wonder how it would look on the big screen when I get home.
On the way I met again most of the people I saw the day before and exchanged jokes and cracks in the same pleasant atmosphere from the previous day. From the stalls you could hear religious chants being played. At one point a set of banisters showed up on the way, an indication that there are only 1500 steps left. We continued our ascent till a stall that displayed the sign, “Last Hotel”, all the stalls being named hotels here, where we stopped knowing that we are very close to the peak. A spirited young Brit, the grandson of a Sri Lankan, who climbed bare footed at his grandparent’s suggestion went to the top and came back announcing that there are only 10 more minutes to the top. The climb is listed between 2 and 1/2 hours to 4 hours and it took me about 3 hours and 15 minutes, So we timed and starting to get up close to 5:45 am to be there when the sun starts showing its first glows. And the effort was not in vain because after a clear night we had a gorgeous sunrise. You look at all these pilgrims, travelers and tourists how all congregated and looked at the sun and they, maybe without knowing it, were worshiping it. They worshiped the miracle of resurrection of the sun and their life. It was way more than just people watching at a beautiful scenery and here on the top of Adam’s Peak you could feel it.
After the sunrise most of the people started to descend but a religious ceremony started at the temple on top. With cymbals, drums and trumpets the priests were celebrating the sunrise and were dedicating it to Lord Buddha. I stayed with lots of pilgrims and travelers who wanted to attend and pray. From the temple top platform you can see also how right after the sunrise the shape of Adam’s Peak is projected on the back clouds in a magical triangular shape that lasts for quite a while, descending in time to the base of the mountain.
The serene atmosphere was enhanced by the puja and at its end all pilgrims were allowed to enter the top chapel of the temple where is embellished the footprint of Adam who, after he was expelled from Paradise, according to local tradition, first stepped on Earth here right on top of this mountain . But also here was Lord Buddha himself and the footprint can be also be his and it looks like a classical Buddha footprint. Remains to be determined….
Around 7:00 am I start the descent that together with stopping for shooting took about 2 hours and a half. Now you start seeing the pilgrims. Some of them old, barely moving or in crutches they made this pilgrimage, for some a last effort to gain merit in this incarnation. Going back we saw also some late coming foreigners, some young but also some older, barely moving, brought to the mountain by her daughter or even one man legged coming to beg to the returning pilgrims or monks asking for alms. There were also lots of workers climbing the mountain caring cement and sand bags with their back to be used for the restoration of the steps. Down in the valleys the tea picking women were congregated near the plantation for the beginning of the new work day.
I made it in time to the hotel but the 9:30 am bus to Hatton, the last direct one and also the only that can assure that you make the 11:00 am train to Badula decided to leave 10 minutes earlier and pass nonchalantly by the hotel. I paid for the room and planned now to have the breakfast and I went to the room to start packing and do some files transfer but when I got back to the terrace two Germans from Leipzig wanted to hire a tuk-tuk (1500Rs) or taxi (2500Rs) to Hatton and make the train and invited me to share it. I decided to skip breakfast and went to pack and quickly back I joined them in the taxi and made it in time for the train. The distance is short only 23 Km from Delhousie to Hatton but even a taxi takes an hour. However the train was delayed and I met in the station the Vermont girls who were going somewhere into the hills and started an alert conversations with the Germans who were going to Haputale.
Riding the train in Sri Lanka is probably giving you the best view about the country. The lush and diverse vegetation is with no par in the parts of the world I have seen. The immense palm trees, the huge banana trees with long leaves, the deodars and lots of trees in bloom of exquisite colors make the train ride a joy. The tea plantation around Hatton and Nuwera were replaced by lush vegetable gardens, by rice paddies and again by tea plantation. And all this on a mountain background with dense forests. The ride took about 4 hours. We were entertained by some Sri Lanka young guys who played drums and sang very nicely.
Foreigners were boarding the trains in the junction for Nuwera Elya and the World’s End National Park and we all got off in Ella.
A enterprising lady came to show me her picture of her guesthouse, Freedom Inn, and we left with a tuk-tuk and made all the arrangements. The deal was the same, 2500RS with dinner, breakfast and wi-fi. The rooms are beautiful and, like everywhere I slept in Sri Lanka, on top of each bed is a mosquito net that I use, no matter that here are no mosquitoes for the moment. But they will come….The lady also made arrangements for me with a friend of her in Tissa ( 2 1/2 hours by bus to Tissa junction) for the following night and also will arrange for the safari in Yala National Park.
In the guesthouse, that has only two beautiful rooms, there were also two French Swiss who I started to chat and latter, after I went in town for a walk, we bumped into each other and continued to chatter over a beer. When we returned to the guesthouse, the power that was off when we first arrived was restored and I went to have dinner and had a great conversation with two couples, one from Tennessee and one from Belgium over some friend noodles and dal, my first meal of the day.