Night walks up Adam’s Peak
The climb to Adam’s Peak summit, in central Sri Lanka, is nothing short of magical. From the 2am awakening to the mystically perfect shadow of an imperfect rock, this experience is sure to trigger a swirl of positive emotions.
In the heart of Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak stands tall at 2,243 m. Also known as Sri Pada – “sacred footprint” – for a foot indentation at its summit, it is one of the few spiritual places in the world that holds sacred meaning in all religious traditions. Buddhists believe it to be the last place on Earth that the Buddha visited before leaving for the Hereafter, while Muslims and Christians ascribe it to where Adam set foot for the first time as he was exiled from the Garden of Eden, and Tamil Hindus attribute the footprint to Shiva. But find your own meaning in it. If anything, you will prove to yourself that you can walk up 5,500 steps and achieve anything you set your mind to. Let the peace fill you after the effort, when you finally sit, quietly watching the sun rise on a breath-taking landscape.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Maya Angelou
The climb is arduous, but the people on the way are what make it so worth it. Commune with the locals, take in the unifying spectacle of people of all ages taking this journey. Girls of 6, alert and awake, will tease you with their cheeky smile as they play around you, walking up and down and back up again, sauntering lightly while you struggle to keep your pace. But then you’ll catch the eye of an eighty-something woman, in her white dress, bare-feet, who is climbing alongside you. And you’ll think “if she can, I can”. You will find resources in yourself you didn’t know you had. And you will feel admiration for these old men and women, for these fathers who climb with a toddler asleep on their shoulder, for these disabled who push on, for these little ones who follow their eldest, for the faith that brings them altogether in arduous but peaceful communion. It is love. Strong and palpable. The common belief that they are accomplishing something big together. Love and smiles all round. A lot of kindness and compassion. As you reach the last 100 m, where the path gets narrower and the crowd thickens, join in the chanting of the pilgrims who sing to give each other strength. The voices will lift you up, rising in the night air, your heart swelling with so much love for these people who shared this journey with you. Then find your spot at the very top and wait for the sun to rise…
No matter how thick the crowd is, silence will spread, in awe of this precious moment. Here, at the top of the world, one can only feel as if they’re hanging between sky and earth. Embrace this moment of pure serenity, as you’re floating above the fog. Feel this sensation that eternity is frozen in a second rise in your soul, this belief that life has a mystical sense, that such a moment is sacred.
You might feel yourself in awe of nature’s tranquil beauty, slowly awakening. Find your inner calm, listening to the monks chanting for the morning ceremony in the shrine to Saman, a Buddhist deity and guardian of Sri Pada, charged with protecting the mountain top. Silence will fill you, and you will find yourself forming an unspoken bound with the people sitting next to you in this profound moment. So much can be shared in silence. A quiet moment with yourself, yet shared with others.
At the back of the temple, at just about 7am, as the sun finishes its ascent over the horizon, the rocky Adam’s Peak projects its shadow over the valley. A sign of the divine? Its uneven silhouette meeting the hilly relief of the surrounding landscape traces a perfect pyramid. Pilgrims take it to be another proof of the sacred spirits inhabiting the place and it certainly raises questions…
Finally, before starting your descent back to the world, ring the giant iron bell, once for each of your ascents. Its echo over the valley will fill you with pride and deep joy for what you just experienced. Pride for pushing yourself and making it to the top, which will give you a sense of deep wellbeing and strengthen your confidence in your own self, in the universe, and in life’s endless possibilities.
The things you want to know
– The Makara Torana arch, that marks the entrance into the sacred sphere of the mountain is in the village of Dalhousie, 34km south of Hatton so this is where pilgrims start from.
– Climb between December to May if you don’t want heavy rain, extreme wind, and thick mist to spoil your journey
– The sun starts rising at 6.30am so you want to reach the top at 6 to find a good spot. No missing the show… Setting the alarm at 2am for a 2.30 start should leave you plenty of time if you don’t mind a bit of sport. Allow more time if you want to take it easy and make the most of the stalls that line the path. Open all night they will meet all your needs, from that much-needed 4am shot of chocolate to water to tea or coffee. We still wonder how they bring all these supplies so high, on foot…
– Avoid weekends –including Sunday night-, where the crowd of pilgrims is so thick that it will be harder to reach that place of inner quiet. No kidding, we’re talking rush-hour thick. For any New-Yorker, Londoner, Berliner or Parisian, you know what we mean. Avoid!
– Pack dry layers, to change from your wet clothes while you wait for the sun to rise. Yes, you will sweat. You’re walking up 7 km of stairs…
– Watch your step on the way down. Believe it or not, this is the hardest bit
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