Some guidebooks say five thousand steps, others say six thousand… No matter what the actual number is, let me tell you, it’s a hell of a lot of steps to the top of Adam’s Peak!
Adam’s Peak is no gentle slope, measuring 2,243 metres in height, the mountain is sacred to Buddhists and boasts a beautiful Temple at its summit. Monks clad in orange robes greet and bless pilgrims at the beginning of their ascent – wishing them well for the spiritually and physically grueling upwards journey. Climbers often follow the track during the night, arriving at the peak in time to witness a glorious sunrise. Sometimes pilgrims will see a shadow is cast across the surrounding mountains - a spectacular sight if the sky is clear! Tea houses mark the pathway with purplish blue lighting and pilgrims can ward off the cold with cozy cups of tea or milo and steaming chickpeas for protein (and inevitable muscle repair!) A local dog may even befriend you on the way up. One energetic mutt made fools of us all, bounding up the mountain in front of us with remarkable ease!
Completing the climb itself is quite an achievement. It’s a big enough effort to acclimatise to the blistering cold and it’s one of the only places in Sri Lanka where you will need a scarf, gloves and jacket! People descending the mountain have an expression of accomplishment smeared over their faces. Those still hiking stop to stretch and massage their muscles intermittently. Some even carry sleeping children or elderly relatives up the mountain. It is touching to see families supporting each other to achieve such an incredible feat.
A thick guiderail lines the upper half of the climb. Trekkers’ legs jiggle like jelly under their own weight. The pain is often so excruciating that it feels like your limbs might turn to stone. At the top, the air is crisp, yet thin. Worshippers pray and await the sunrise in the frosty night. A serene-faced monk blessed me and tied orange string around my wrist. I wore the red dot on my forehead with a humble sense of pride. The pilgrims ring a large bell once for every time they have completed the trek. After I rang the bell for the first time, a feeling of triumph washed over me while the metallic sound rang out over the breathtaking valley.