Hey everybody!! I am sooooo excited to share this part of my journey in Sri Lanka with all of you. Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) is probably one of the most vigorously challenging adventures I have ever done in my life. There was a bit of trepidation leading up to the ~10,400 step (~5,200 each way) climb; nevertheless, I am happy to report I did it!!! I am still standing and still sore five days later.
Before I get into Adams Peak, there were some pretty fascinating sights which took place on the way to Hatton, which was our respite in the middle of tea country.
Take a look at this wild elephant!! There is an electric fence which deters wildlife (like ginormous elephants) from walking into oncoming traffic. Not the everyday sights we see on the Beltway, right?? These wild elephants inhabit the area around Uda Walawe Lake and stroll around this area. These smart creatures know tourists and locals feed them enticing fruit like mangosteen and sweet bananas, so they mosey on over for their easily obtained snacks.
Our drive continued through Balangoda and over a mountain south of Hatton. The journey took us to a memorizing place full of mountainous evergreens, which I was surprised to see. Among all the perpetual greenery, the sound of waterfalls filled the cooler air, which was a pleasant change from the constant sticky hug in Yala.
These are sap extractions from the evergreen trees. Upon closer look, the sap follows cuts in the tree and trickles down into the shell of the coconut for later collection. Yup the coconut makes its appearance again. Interesting, right??
The Central Province Sri Lanka is breathtaking. You are mostly at an elevation of 3,000 to 5,000 ft (certainly not the highest in Sri Lanka), overlooking the cliffs from your moving vehicle, on narrow roads that wrap around and through the mountains. The tea plants are abundant like grass carpet. The air is so clean here!! Inhale: Ahhhhh…
Tea estate workers are tasked to collect at least 20 kg (44 lbs) of tea leaves each day. It is customary for them to pick and weigh the tea leaves once in the morning and once in the afternoon. These happy ladies were weighing their afternoon leaves outside Balangoda. The estate workers were surprised to see me hop out of our van with my camera; however, that shock quickly turned to joy because of the pleasantries exchanged in Sinhala (the mother tongue of Sri Lanka). Although the tea estate workers are Indian Tamils, they speak fluent Sinhala as well. I think this moment between all of us made our day! I was definitely cheesing it up with them!
Hatton… finally!! Honestly, we didn’t feel the 4 hour drive. The gorgeous scenery, the beautiful culture… 4 hours seemed like 30 minutes.
We arrived at this charming boutique hotel, Craig Appen Bungalow, which originally was a colonial home built by the British in the 1890s situated atop flowing hills and vibrant flowers. Craig Appen Bangalow could very well be situated in the England countryside, that is until you hear Madhuri Dixit’s “Dhak Dhak Karne Laga” in the nearby village (my all-time favorite Bollywood song) and see the sporadic palms trees in the rolling hills. Oh and your butler (that’s what he said he was) cooks any Sri Lankan meal you want. Actually, any cuisine for that matter. Those of you who know me won’t be surprised that gotu kola sambol and moju (fried brinjal pickle) accompanied our designed rice and curry menu. This is a different place – I like different.
After dinner, we had some much-needed shut eye since our wake-up call was at 12:45am! We began our moonlit morning at just after 1:00am, arriving at Adam’s Peak at about 2:15 am. With plenty of water and snacks in our backpacks, we started our ascent to the summit of Adam’s Peak.
About 45 minutes into the steady climb, I was sweating profusely. My mind was going crazy staring at the steps to nowhere. The non-existent top from that vantage point made me wonder: How much longer?
You see, the steps are not all the same. Some of the steps are 2 feet or more in height, sometimes 10 in sequence. It’s tough and my body was going into shock, especially since it was so early in the morning.
“Lady, what the heck are you doing up at 2:30am in the morning climbing these steps? Get your a__ back in bed!!” Yeah, my body said something to that effect.
Rick, our guide/driver Asanka and I thought it got easier as the ascent continued. Asanka was craving a hot tea, but unfortunately he would have to go without (during peak season, there are several shops open on the trek to the summit). I don’t know, at that moment I wanted a lot of things and a HOT tea wasn’t one of them!! A helicopter lift to the top? YES. A HOT tea? NO.
As we approached the top, I looked up and saw the temple/sanctuary sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Christian sects who believe that the footprint (measuring ~6 ft long) is respective and significant to their faith. YAY!! I was almost there!! I could practically touch it. And then Asanka said there were 500 more steps to go… I joked and told them I couldn’t do it and I would meet them back at the bottom of the small 7,500ft hill. Hey, a little humor kept it fun.
All of the whining, mostly (OK, solely) from my end… was worth it. We completed our 2.5 hour climb with 30 minutes to spare before sunrise: Enough time to rest our legs and eat our munching material, while marveling at what we had just done.
The sunrise, Adam’s Peak and surrounding mountains made me feel so small. This is when I realized every step to the summit was worth it.
Unfortunately, we were not able to visit the temple. During off-season, it is closed. Historically, they opened the gate almost daily at 6:00am for pooja (a Buddhist offering) but just implemented a permanent closing during off-season (from Poya day to July).
I would tell you because the temple was closed this is just another reason to visit again but that would be a lie. I did it once and that’s enough for me. There is a saying in Sri Lanka… If you don’t climb Adams Peak once in your lifetime you’re foolish; however, if you climb it more than once, you are stupid. Asanka has climbed Adam’s Peak 16 times. We laughed so hard. Well, he’s excused; he’s a licensed guide in Sri Lanka.
Let the descent begin!!