Background & Facts
Located high in Sri Lanka’s hill country, Adams Peak sits nestled into the vast rainforests and tea plantations. Soaring 7359 ft above sea level, this famous pilgrimage site is home to the footprint of Buddha, which is located at the peak of this incredible mountain. The footprint itself is not exactly impressive, but I promise you that the mesmerizing night sky, extraordinary sunrise and mystical rainforest is! Not to mention the 360° view of the beauty that is hill country.
It is said that Buddha’s footprint is a symbol of his descent to Nirvana, the final goal of a Buddhist. When you reach Nirvana it is said that you have done all that is required of you and you can peacefully rest in peace with no reincarnation. The feeling you get when you reach the top of Adam’s Peak is a nirvana in itself. This undeniable sense of achievement and relief is one that personally I have never felt before. You feel as though there is nothing more to do, but to sit, reflect on life and watch as nature opens your heart to its incredibly beautiful glory. What better way to rest your tired legs and feet!
It is accessible from two towns, your level of fitness will determine which option to take! The quiet town of Delhousie is the preferable route with a 7 kilometer hike awaiting you. Delhousie has various guest houses and hotels where you can get a decent nap before you begin your journey to the peak. With so many on offer it is easy to negotiate a good price, however if you are staying during peak season it is advisable to book in advance as rooms will fill up fairly fast. With fresh roti and kottu stalls scattered through this village you won’t go hungry and will also allow you to pick up something sweet to give you the sugar rush you will need during the climb! Another option is to start in Ratnapura. This option is a lot longer, giving you nearly twice the distance to face! However a good option is to climb the route via Delhousie and go down via Ratnapura in order to take in the wondrous scenery!
After an adventurous morning of tending to turtles in a small hatchery located in Hikkaduwa, I travelled back to Ambalangoda to pack and prepare for the journey ahead. Choosing the warmest jacket I had, rain jacket, headlamp and a hefty supply of snacks I believed I was ready – but nothing would ever prepare my body for what lay ahead. We began our trip at 2pm on Friday afternoon, arriving in Delhousie an exhausting 7 hours later. After meeting with various other volunteers we knew from our program, stocking up on fizzy drinks and a well deserved meal of roti, we decided to catch a few hours of sleep before we needed to leave. We had not chosen our accommodation wisely, settling for the last available triple room in Wathsala Inn, which is where the other volunteers were staying. We faced rock hard, damp beds in a freezing, damp and musty room with no working shower. Needless to say when we rose from our broken and uncomfortable three hour sleep we were far from ready to hike!
After meeting the other volunteers out front at 2am, a few stretching exercises and a quick snack of a few crackers, we walked through the pitch black town of Delhousie to the start of the trail. Due to the fact that we embarked this journey out of season we had only our headlamps and torches to light the way. We began our ascent, powering through the first couple of hundred steps with determination and motivating each other with powerful words. We honestly did not think it was too bad! We could do this, easy peasy! Little did we know!
We had reached just over the 1000 step mark. I was really struggling. My chest was burning, my feet were bleeding, I was drenched in sweat, afraid to stop walking in case my quivering legs gave in and I toppled back down the mountain. “How can it be this hard?” We said to ourselves. I hike all the time, I run miles and consider myself to be fit! I began to fall behind the others – eventually I was so far behind that I was alone. I couldn’t see or hear anyone, just the panting of my new companion – a stray dog. I didn’t care at this stage, I didn’t want anyone to see my tears.
I remember talking to myself when the exhaustion fully hit. “Why would you do this to yourself?”,”Just keep going”,You can do it”. As much as these words were pushing me to continue, there was nothing more motivating than the sights and the sounds. At one point my body physically and mentally gave up, I collapsed onto one of the 5831 steps and looked out. I was in the middle of what felt like nowhere. I saw nothing but the full Milky Way stretching its way across the magnificent night sky. It was at this point when I looked at my new companion, let a tear fall and continued on up. Being accompanied by this little miracle, who barked every time I sat down and whimpered every time I cried, I knew I could do it. He was my guardian angel guiding my path, forcing my up, he would not let me give up. Whether my body wanted to or not!
I finally caught up with the other volunteers in the last tea shop before the top. After a warm cup of sweet tea – we had gotten the sugar rush and the drive to finally finish this exhausting climb and little did we know we really needed that boost for the next part! The last couple of hundred steps stood hand in hand with iron railings. The reason for this – it is practically a vertical climb of some of the steepest steps that I have ever encountered. Despite my body screaming every bit of the way, I made it. I will never forget the feeling of relief, accomplishment and wonder that I experienced at the top. Needless to say the view from the top and from the way back down made this all truly worthwhile, even though I could not walk for a week. I have also developed a slight fear of stairs!