Adams Peak

Monday 25 March 2013 – Dalhousie.

I think I managed to sneak a couple of winks in before my alarm went off at 1:50 am, though I was woken by the neighbours going out at 1:30. It is that sort of town, all the early morning noise is from people going out walking rather than people coming home.

The reason for the early start is to walk to the top of Adams Peak for the sunrise. Most of the path is well lit and there are always people going up and down all day and nightand this is the time to do it.

I met up with Benne and Galya at 2:15 and we started the walk up to the village and finally on to the path. There are no photos for a while as it was dark, though it was a clear sky with an almost full moon.

Just after the start of the path we crossed over a small river and arrived at a T intersection, we saw a couple of guys coming down the road from the left so started up the path, assuming it was the correct way. We assumed wrong. After about ten minutes of walking gradually up the hill I realised that too many things were wrong, mainly that there were no people and no lights. I said we were on the wrong path, but as we were kind of going in the right direction we agreed to carry on further. Soon enough we could see the lights of the real path below us and decided to duck a small track in the tea fields. We had used up over half an hour and had gained approximately two hundred metres – sadly not vertically!

We split up soon after hitting the main path. Benne wanted to make sure he was at the stop for the sunrise and Galya was not going fast enough (though she did make it in time) I wasn’t bothered either way so stayed with Galya for most of the next hour until we caught up with other groups of westerners doing the walk. I felt uncomfortable leaving her alone prior to that, though I am sure it was perfectly safe.

For the first hour the path was not overly steep though there were many steps between long sections of a gentler gradient, but the higher up the more steps there were and the steeper it got. The final three hundred and fifty steps were quite steep indeed and I took a few rests on the way. The surface is mostly good, some parts are very rough and on the lower section there were a number of large puddles, though I only managed to stand in one of them, thank goodness.

There are also numerous shops selling snacks and drinks, or full meals if that was what you wanted. Things got more and more expensive the further the shop keeper had to carry his   goods. I had not eaten as I did not want to risk any urgent need for a toilet stop on the way so was relying on Milo drinks and water. At half way this cost me 160 rupees, closer to the top it was 300. Demand was high !

There were a lot of westerners climbing and at the last cafe before the top I stopped for coffee, which was made with tea instead of water – yes it was foul, but it had caffeine. I met a kiwi couple there and chatted to them for a while before climbing slowly and with heavy breath to the monastery at the top. It took me just under three hours, including getting lost and I caught Benne at the top.

I was totally drenched in sweat by the top, I was expecting it to be colder up there than it actually was and I all I needed to put on was my long sleeve shirt. I obviously carried too much stuff up. Though it did speck with rain just before sunrise so I did used my jacket, mainly because I had humped the thing all the way to the top.

I walked around and had a brief look round the outside of the temple. There was a lot of people up here, but nowhere near what it would have been like last night.

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The sun started rising just after 6:00 am and we had to jostle for a spot facing east. The sunrise was not very spectacular at all, I had seen some photos from one earlier in the week so was a wee bit disappointed with my luck, but it was still lovely and the atmosphere was nice so I have no complaints at all.

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As soon as sunrise was done I left, Benne wanted to stay up for a while and visit the monastery but I wanted to start down before the crowds got to the narrow stairway, I was hungry and wanted coffee, as well as the opportunity to stop when I wanted to take photos.

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Just below the steep section I ran into the kiwi couple again and stayed with them all way back down, nice to have some-one from home to chat to about some of the things happening in NZ.

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Walking down in the early morning light was very nice, the scenery is fantastic from up here and as it was cloudy it remained a did not get really hot, enough to get a good sweat on though!

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After an hour and a half of descending we were through the entrance gate, past the big Buddha, past one of the many shops selling plastic crap and I was back to my guest house.

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I grabbed a much needed shower under a pathetic trickle of water before hitting the restaurant for breakie and coffee… just after 8:00 am…

It was a good start to the day, an awesome walk to a very spiritual and much loved place.

I did not do much else for the rest of the day, I watched one of my all time favourite movies “Fever Pitch”, wrote a blog post for the previous day, did a load more washing and dozed. Situation normal really. I was lucky with the weather and got my clothes and shoes dried before the rain came. When if finally did arrive it rained fairly solidly for the rest of the day.

At 3:00 Benne, Galya and I walked down to the neighbouring guest house as they had beer, we had a celebratory glass or two and some fries – very yummy. We chatted for a while and then they left and I had a final glass and contemplated life before leaving too.

Dinner at the guesthouse was a quiet affair, we were all tired, though I still managed seconds of rice and curry!!

I vant to suck your blood. !

Sunday 24 March 2013 – Dalhousie.

The pilgrimage was quite loud last night, there were drums echoing around the hills all night long and a bunch of people chanting from, I guess, the top of the peak from about 5:00 and then at 6:00 the loud music kicked in. My guide book says the path up the hill is free from the ubiquitous loud music that South and South East Asians like so much. My book is out of date!

Visually the day started beautifully with a nice blue sky and by 8:00 when I went up for breakfast it was quite warm as well. We watched the crowds coming down the hill through Benne’s binoculars and I was really pleased we did not go up this morning. As we were eating breakfast some of the people who did go up at 2:00 were coming back in and they said it was packed, the monastery on the peak was so full that a lot of people gave up trying to get to it.

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Breakfast was not too bad, though I have never seen butter substitute in a sachet before…

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It was quite hot in the morning but we were told that it would cloud over around eleven and get quite cool so we waited until then to go for a walk down to the lake. I went with Benne and Galya, a Bulgarian girl who joined us last night and will walk to the peak with us tomorrow morning. We started down the road past a bunch of buses from all over the country waiting to collect their returning pilgrims.

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And then all of a sudden it was raining, and soon enough it was absolutely hammering down, luckily we found this shelter to huddled in while dodging the water running through the many leaks in the roof. Benne was the only one wise enough to wear a jacket.

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Once the rain had stopped we continued on the way but started to get conflicting information on just how far away the lake was from the various people who stopped to ask us where we were going. In the end we decided to walk back up to the guest house and get some facts – as well as a rain coat for me and my umbrella for Galya. Benne decided he didn’t want to walk so just the two of us set off again – and soon it was warm and sunny.

It only took twenty five minutes to walk down to the lake in the end. Past a reasonable size water fall.

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And the river that fills the lake.

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We found a path down through the tea fields that led to the lake shore, the lake is a man made hydro lake and there was a short section of what was probably the old road to Delhousie on the shore line. The lake looked lovely.

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We walked along the shore line for a few minutes, but it was getting obvious there was no easy way back up to the road, so we crashed up through some bush, before a final section of tea field – stamping heavily on the way to scare off any snakes that might be lurking in the bushes.

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What the stamping heavily did not ward off was the leeches and I found one on my foot when we got to the road. I tried to burn it off with Galya’s lighter, but had no luck – and I wasn’t keen to burn myself by getting the flame too close, so I decided to leave it and either let it fall off or drop some tea-tree oil on it when I got back to the guesthouse. OK, it was a small one…

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I am fairly sure a reasonable amount of that sun tan on my leg is dirt !

As we started up the road towards the guesthouse, me in bare feet due to the leech, the sky just let loose again, lucky we had rain gear this time so only got moderately soaked.

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I took another photo of the leech just before I dropped some tea-tree oil on it. It was definitely looking full. The oil made it let go of my skin and flicked it off with a fingernail, a nice arc of MY blood flew out of it as it shot off my foot. Though it did not hurt I was glad it was gone, funny that.

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I did very little with the rest of the day, it rained for another hour or so so I just sort of hung out in my room, listening to music, attempted to upload yesterdays post, read etc etc. I wasn’t really in a mingling mood. Though I did go up and join Benne and Galya for dinner on the roof at 7:00. After eating we all agreed to meet at 2:15 am tomorrow to make an assault on Adams Peak.

The view of the hill.

Saturday 23 March 2013 – Dalhousie.

I was not really tired last night so blogged until just after midnight and then read until 1:30 am until I was ready for sleep. It turned out to be a really noisy night with dogs barking till the wee hours and then almost immediately the birds took on the task of ensuring an all night noise fest. I sort of slept but was on the laptop doing emails by 6:00, it was good to catch up on a few rather slightly overdue replies to friends and family.

As is the norm for me I declined breakfast as Benne and I were going to be doing a couple of bus rides to our next destination, the village of Dalhousie at the foot of Adams Peak, four or so hours away.

We took a tuk-tuk back to the Muslim Hotel bakery so Benne could get some food and then we walked over to the bus station, which was not where I thought it was, but a few helpful Kandy locals put us on the right path and we got there just before the bus to Hatton was about to leave. There were not many people on the bus so we managed to get our packs up the front next to the driver and sit a few rows back to keep an eye on them.

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As it was a Saturday towards the end of pilgrimage season I fully expect the bus to be very full but surprisingly we had a three seat row to ourselves almost the entire two and half our journey to Hatton. It was quite nice to not be squashed in for a change.

At one of the many stops this guy came on to sell teach yourself English books. This is quite common on the inter-city buses, along with beggars and people selling food and drink.

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The ride was mostly through some lovely hilly countryside and just after half way we hit tea-plantation country, which is the main product of the hill country area. Some of the plantations are vast with road frontages going on for kilometres. We also passed a large number of lakes as there are many that do the area. It really is quite attractive.

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We reached Hatton just before 12:00, as we are planning on catching the train from Hatton to Ella in a few days we walked up to the train station to get tickets, but they did not do reservations from Hatton which hopefully will not be a pain when we leave on Tuesday! The good news was the Dalhousie bus starts at the train station rather than the bus station so again we were able to put our packs up by the driver and get seats. This bus waited until the train from Colombo arrived and was immediately packed, there were three other westerners on the bus and funnily enough we all ended up at the same guest house in Dalhousie.

The bus to Dalhousie was a far more rickety affair than the intercity buses, and even though it is only a 30km journey it did take the full one and half hours to complete it. The road was pretty terrible, narrow very rough and it twisted up and down round the side of a couple of small lakes. The air was cool – by Sri Lankan standards, crisp and would have been fresh apart from the constant stream of diesel fumes coming in through the open windows. It was a beautiful ride though!

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Fortunately the bus stopped right out the front door of our hostel in Dalhousie, and once we checked out the rooms we decided to stay, my room is the cheapest one so far in Sri Lanka and not too bad, I loved the blanket, so appropriate for a fifty year old man!

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The best news with this room was the power point was in reach of the bed, not at the right end, but at least I did not need to sit on the floor if I wanted to use the laptop while plugged into the power. I had arranged a Skype with El, contingent on there being wifi here and thankfully there was, week but enough to have half of a video conversation with only a few ‘pardons?’ thrown in when the line was down.. It was great seeing and speaking to her again. Even though I have been travelling with Benne for a few days and have met a few other people along the way I have been feeling a bit lonely since I left London. I think this journey will be it for a while. I am enjoying myself though, the country is lovely, the Sri Lankans in the main are friendly and Benne and the other people I have met have all been great, but I am so glad I did not decide to do attempt Europe right now. That and the fact it is snowing in London again! I am looking forward to getting to New Zealand and am hoping the length of time I am on the boat after Sri Lanka is not going to be too long.

After my Skype call Benne and I went up and sat in the roof restaurant area for a while and met some of the other travellers who are here, some have just finished the walk up Adams Peak and some like us, are here to do it. There are more travellers here than I have seen anywhere else in Sri Lanka so far.

Adams Peak (Sri Pada) is the only reason people come to Dalhousie. The Peak is popular amongst travellers and Sri Lankans alike, all Sri Lankan Buddhists aim to complete a pilgrimage to the summit at least once. The Sri Lankan name Sri Pada means Sacred Footprint and it is believed Buddha left a footprint on the peak as he ascended into paradise. For Christians and Muslims it is where Adam first set foot on earth after he was thrown out of the Garden of Eden and came to Earth. Kind of the complete opposite journey!

The pilgrimage seasons runs from December until May and of course weekends are incredibly popular. Once we arrived in Dalhousie and watched the streams of buses and mini-vans arriving in town, and after talking to those who did the walk in the early hours of the morning we decided to delay our walk and do it on Monday rather than tomorrow, Sunday.

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The peak is at 2243 metres and the climb from Dalhousie is about 1200, it is popular to start the ascent around 2:00 am and arrive in time for sunrise over the clouds. The ascent is slow and steady through the trees at the base but soon gets steep – culminating in a climb of 5200 steps !!

Benne and I took a walk up to the village itself, which is basically a 500metre long string of stalls selling all sorts of stuff, from food, through warm clothes (it is cold up there apparently) and the obligatory piles of plastic Chinese made crap – balls, blow up monkeys etc – all the essentials for a two and half hour climb…

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I bought a couple of curried vegetable roti’s and some water for lunch and then walked back down to the guesthouse where I spent most of the afternoon chatting to the people coming and going.Some people are on a tighter time frame than I am and are going to attempt the walk tonight, though Benne and now have a young Bulgarian woman, Galya joining us tomorrow night.

Just before dinner the path on the way to the summit was lit up, it is lit every night during the pilgrimage season, so no need for a torch – one less thing to carry.

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I had rice and curry for dinner, it was pretty good, but as usual – massive ! They are not allowed to serve alcohol here so I bought a bottle of coke and had whisky and cokes with dinner, a lager would have been better !

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I sat around chatting for a while after dinner, we had an eclectic group at our table, one each of Canadian, Australian, Belgian, Bulgarian, German and myself. One of the great things with this type of travel is mad mix of nationalities that can end up around a dinner table, love it.

Everyone retired fairly early, some as they were getting up at 2:00 to walk and soon after the rest as everyone was tired and there is not a whole bunch to do.