A step too far? Not this time.

The first time I was in Sri Lanka one of the challenges I faced was a little mountain in the centre of the country called Adam’s Peak. 2,243 metres high and surmounted by a Buddhist temple, it is a major pilgrimage destination for both tourists and Sri Lankans alike. The idea is to climb up overnight in time to see the sun rise over the plains and the perfectly triangular shadow cast by the peak.
The first time I attempted this (less than a week after I arrived in the country and after a rather late night partying in Negombo) a group of us set out in a van, confident that the driver would safely take us to the start of the trail. This misplaced hope was swiftly adjusted once we had experienced a three-point turn over a precarious drop, careered backwards down the mountain when the van stalled and been offloaded in the dark to find the beginning of the climb ourselves. It was only once we had begun our ascent that we discovered that we were not on the regular tourist path, or even the slightly longer alternative stairs, but the hardcore pilgrim route. This meant minimal lighting, precarious footing on a barely defined path and a long, long, long way to go. After a few hours I was cursing each new corner we turned; by the end I was literally dragging myself up, one step at a time, by the handrail. I missed the sunrise and as for the symmetrical shadow, this was obscured by the hoards of pilgrims crammed against the railings; however, by that point I just didn’t care, I was so exhausted. Then, of course, we all had to get back down, a long process collectively including rain, dehydration and a sprained ankle. In all, we walked pretty much constantly from 11pm until 4pm, on very little food and no sleep – an achievement, but not necessarily something I wanted to repeat in a hurry.
So five years and a few hikes in Montana later, I decided it was time to attempt the peak again, this time via the easier route (only about 5200 steps this time). Oh, what a difference! We set off at around 2.30am, passing through multiple temple archways and up well-lit, well-defined steps. The main pathway was lined with tea shops placed at regular intervals, giving me a great excuse for multiple breaks. I felt great about the climb, especially as we actually overtook quite a number of people on the stairs. We reached the final tea stop (just 18 stairs from the summit) well before sunrise, so the race for the top was preceded by a leisurely drink and some chunks  chocolate. Sunrise witnessed and requisite photographs taken, we rambled back down with the group of nice American students we’d met along the way, to be welcomed with a nice big breakfast by the motherly owner of our guest house, Green House.  
Definitely  a far nicer way to tackle the trek to the peak.


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