Before arriving to Sri Lanka, The Lawyers Without Borders told us we needed to climb Adam’s Peak at sunrise if it was a scavenge.
Lo and behold, it was.
I’ve only hiked one other mountain (volcano, technically) at sunrise, and it was an amazing experience. But man, it was tough hiking the cone of a volcano in the dark. And there were so many people in the group we had to keep stopping, and I grew angry in my impatience (who wears heeled flip flops on a hike?), and it was freezing at the top, and I looked like death in all the photos–but the payoff was worth it.
So, I was expecting this to be the same, but it was a totally different experience.
To begin: I could write an entire blog on the car ride TO the base of Adam’s Peak. We were in a taxi van driven by two Sri Lankans who spoke very little English, and I questioned whether or not the driver had actually ever driven stick-shift before. And I’m not a car person, but I can guarantee whatever is meant by the word “shocks,” this van did not have them. The road was swerving and bumpy and there was speeding and sudden stopping and changing lanes of traffic to narrowly avoid oncoming cars*, and it was late and dark and I was exhausted and knew I’d be waking up at 2:30am to begin the hike–it was a rough ride.
We did, however, careen straight toward the mountain face, breaking to a halt only a moment before contact so our drivers could point out wild pig. (Twice.) But! Thanks to them, Mark and I were able to split points for documenting the most animals in Sri Lanka.**
*standard practice here. Individual lanes are not a thing.
**Here is our exotic Sri Lankan Safari Guide:
- GIANT SQUIRREL
- bigger monkey
- wild pig
We arrived to the base of the peak at 11pm and were asleep by 11:30pm. It may not surprise you to hear that those three hours of sleep went by quickly. At 3:00 a.m., we began our ascent.
Given our keen sense of direction, we ended up on the wrong trail, which is an impressive feat given that the trail was paved and ablaze with 24-hour lamps. No flashlights were needed; there were shops and restaurants and craft stands the entire way up; an endless stream of people were coming down as we were ascending, which was a curiosity given the hour; it wasn’t only for tourists–many locals, including hunched-over 90 year olds were making the pilgrimage, barefoot–AND, not kidding, nursing mothers. In two hours, thanks to my “I wait for no man, woman, or nursing mother” attitude, we climbed 3,100 vertical feet, and then had 45 minutes of bracing the wind with sweat-drenched clothes as we awaited dawn. People piled in and I felt justified for not stopping; the gate to the top closed once it reached maximum capacity. Unfortunately, the view from the summit was obstructed by giant gold bars, but without further ado… Sunrise:
We ran down 48,583,842 steps*** and then haggled with a seven year old boy to buy five of his bracelets. (He referred to me as “Madam,” and tried to charge me 150 per bracelet when the sign clearly said 60, but then his math gave me a total price of 250. We gave him 300, which seemed fair).
Visiting the botanical gardens and realizing my iPhone’s camera is legit.
***estimated, based on my level of soreness
Creeping on these adorable kids:
Fiiiiine. I did ask permission before taking their photo. And then I got one with them.
Then there was my friend Sethumi, whom I met on the train, and we exchanged notes for two hours. She’s nine and her “ambision is to be teacher.” Meeting her was definitely a highlight of the trip.
Lastly, when we were in the park completing scavenges (or rather, walking in circles), we met a group of guys who were so friendly and helpful that we all got selfies and exchanged Facebook info.