According to a chap briefing a bus party in my hotel last night, Sri Lankans say you’re a fool if you never climb Sri Pada but you’re also a fool if you do it more than once. I think I’m safe.
Lest today’s blog should take a negative turn (heaven forbid!) let me say straight away that I’m glad I climbed Adam’s Peak / Sri Pada. It is one of SL’ s quintessential experiences. I’m also pleasantly surprised that I completed it without being totally knackered.
The Guide Book is full of warnings of the exhausting nature of the climb and recommends starting at two am for a dawn about six. I leapt blithely out of bed at one thirty and was soon under way.
It was of course very dark, but the path up the mountain was clearly visible, like a string of pearls lying on black felt. The village shops were going strong, but to start with there didn’t seem to be a lot of “pilgrims” going up, though quite a few seemed to be returning. That changed, however, once the ascent got properly under way.
I dislike crowds. For me, one of the joys of hill-walking is escaping from people, particularly people en masse. A cheery “Hello” passing another walker is OK, but that’s about it. Scottish hills – even tourist traps like Ben Nevis or Cairngorm – do not generally have 15ft wide concrete paths, mostly stepped, all the way up. Nor are the paths lined with stalls selling tea, soft drinks, sweets, cuddly toys etc. Neither are there probably unsalubrious toilets with people charging for entry. Add in the literally hundreds (possibly thousands) making the trip, the smell of incense, the Buddhist chanting and the streetlights and you’ll see it’s a very different experience from a day on the hills in Scotland.
On the way up near the top, I passed an American lass clearly in need of encouragement. I told her the GPS indicated just another 200metres of ascent. “Oh, just a few seconds” was her reply, clearly not familiar with metres. “Just 80 storeys,” I clarified. “Oh God, that must be more than the world trade centre”. “Certainly more than that now” was my rather tactless comment and I continued on my way as she was saying “They blew it up.”
The book was right about it being a hard climb. The steps were real killers, with each step generally being just too high to take in your stride. But, for me at least, the timings were way out. I was at the top about 4am, having taken a smidgen over half of what the book said. Even two hours before dawn, the place was packed. I decided I wasn’t sufficiently interested in seeing a painting of a replica of what’s reputedly the Buddha’s footprint to take my shoes off and join a long queue. It was chilly on top and my long sleeved top was soaked with sweat from the climb. My fleece and waterproof jacket came in handy, but I rapidly felt that waiting two hours to see the sunrise – two hours during which the unappealing concrete environment would play host to increasing numbers of people – wasn’t worth it. So down I went, passing lots of people I’d passed on the way up, including the bus party mentioned above.
I arrived back at the hotel just as rosy fingered Dawn was accepting she really did have to get going, so I grabbed one or two clear shots of Sri Pada from below. It looks lovely from a distance.
Of course, I’m now left wondering how to pass the rest of the day. In many places, one could stroll along a boulevard, possibly wander round a chateaux or just sample cafe life, but these attractions are in short supply. Maybe the hotel receptionist will have suggestions.
Well, she did have a suggestion and I went to Forres!
It’s part of the Moray tea estate. It was a pleasant walk of about 5km each way along back roads surrounded on every side by regimented rows of tea bushes. Here and there were little squads of local ladies picking tea leaves. Some of them smiled and waved. One on the road let me take her picture when I asked, but her companion scurried away, head down. At a quick glance you might have mistaken the landscape for Scotland. I know that sounds unlikely and it wouldn’t bear close inspection, but a loch, hills, trees that just might be distant pines and a lot blaeberry (tea) bushes. I walked along to the tea factory but didn’t enter as a) it looked deserted and dilapidated, though it’s very much in operation and b) I’d have ended up having to buy tea. If they had seized their marketing opportunity and sold cold drinks (iced tea?) and ice cream I might have made a different choice.
On the way back some guy from the local radio station insisted on having his photo taken with me beside the Moray Estates sign. I did wonder about getting the photo emailed to MFR back home, but explanations all seemed too difficult to be worth the effort. Besides I never listen to MFR unless there’s the possibility of a snow day, so it would have been a bit of a cheek.
About 10mins from my hotel the heavens opened and I was forced to take shelter in a local hostelry.
I think I’ve exhausted the local attractions, so I’m looking forward to getting on the road / rails again tomorrow for Nuwara Eliya and World’s End. What was I saying about these death cults a few days back?