Adam’s Peak: First Sunrise

Returning from a day trip in the tea country around Talawakelle, our train broke down somewhere between the highest and second highest train stations in Sri Lanka. Stranded and freezing on a pitch black mountain railway, we sat in our solitary passenger car (with just one other person) wondering if we were going to make it home that night. We had plans for New Year's Eve the next day and it was quickly looking like they would fall through. After waiting for a couple more hours on the track, our train was once again inching its way closer to our home in Haputale. Our plan was back on. We woke early after a near sleepless night of shivering in our damp bed to catch the 7:45 train to Hatton where we would then catch a bus to our final destination of Dalhousie- the starting point to climb Sri Lanka's holiest mountain, Sri Pada (Adam's Peak). We thought it would be pretty cool to watch the first sunrise of the new year in such a spiritually important place. We had originally intended to climb the peak a couple weeks earlier when we were first in the hill country, but the relentless rain altered our plans. Climbing the mountain in the opening hours of 2013, seemed like the next natural choice. We only were able to catch a short couple hours of sleep before we woke again just before midnight to watch the locals shoot fireworks from the rooftops over their village- Adam's Peak with its illuminated path to the summit off in the distance.

The illuminated pilgrim's path up Sri Pada

At around 2:15 a.m. we began our climb. The weather was perfect. It was a clear and calm night and the moon was bright- only four days since the last poya and the kick-off to the Adam's Peak pilgrimage season. The first kilometer was a leisurely stroll through the village- past kiosks and vendors of all things kitsch (stuffed animals, plastic toys, cheap religious trinkets and statuettes, and everything else useful when climbing a mountain). Then the relentless stairs begin. Just under 6000 of them and in varying sizes and condition. After about 2 1/2 hours on the stairclimber, we reached the top. It was about 4:45 a.m.- we were sweaty, and it was freakin' cold on that peak. The worst part was that we still had an hour and a half wait until the sun came up. We put on every warm layer we brought, wrapped ourselves in our sarongs, and waited, shivering, for the first sunrise of the new year. By 6 a.m., the top of the mountain and the temple perched upon it was packed with worshippers and sunrise spectators.

View from Adam's Peak just before sunrise

Just before sunrise the clouds started to roll in, which obscured the actual sunrise itself but made for a more spectacular scene. By about 6:45 we were well cold and it was time to get moving. 6000 stairs down. To be honest, we never found the climb up all that difficult at all- the real challenge was the descent. After about 4000 stairs our legs were losing their integrity and the knee-wobble started to set in. It was pretty cool however to see the scenery that we didn't get to see during the darkness of the night. It was still clear and you could see for twenty kilometers in every direction. By the time we reached our guesthouse though, we were exhausted. We quickly made the decision to move to warmer climes and to a place where we could wait out the inevitable pain coming to our legs, so we packed our bags once more and took the next bus out of town. Three buses and eight hours later, we watched the first sun of 2013 set over the Indian Ocean. We were back on the beach… for a few days anyways.

View on the way down

 

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