It took between five and six buses to get to Dalhousie, the starting point for the climb to Adam’s Peak. On the whole these endless journeys are entertaining. On these alone I witnessed a man selling balloons that make a noise when released. He then proceeded to demonstrate it on the moving bus by releasing them to the bemusement of all as they whizzed wildly out of control. Then there was the man with the photo album containing pictures of him trapped under a rock surrounded by a crowd of people and later receiving a trophy. He received less money from the passengers on the bus. Lastly there was the lady who after handing out magazines proceeded to do a rap for twenty minutes at the front. Unfortunately though buses on the Indian subcontinent also have a dark side. Half way through the journey, an ‘express bus to the airport’ carved the bus I was in up and slammed on the breaks. Promptly two guys jumped off and charged towards our bus. The conductor searched around for somewhere to hide. He sized up the monk (who sat in his specially reserved seat) or the only white face on the bus. He cowered behind me. I recalled stories of fist fights and baseball bats. I took a deep breath as they through themselves aggressively onto the bus. Thankfully a verbal outburst, and a lot of pointing, was all that was in order, with one of the guys acting as a restrainer (whilst still having his say). Everyone on the bus sat in silence, watching, giving the eerie feeling that it was an all to common event. Almost as soon as they had left the bus and sped away, our conductor got straight onto the mobile. I have little doubt that he was organising his own retaliation.
Finally I arrived none the wiser as to where Sri Lankas most important pilgrimage site was hiding. The clouds clung to the valley. Full of optimism though we were on the path at 3am the following morning with stars across the sky, hoping to make the top by sunrise. It’s one of the strangest climbs that I have ever done. With a Buddhist temple on the top it’s visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. The dominance of Buddhism is slightly confusing considering many suggest that the footprint at the top can be attributed to Adam on his first entrance into the world and even Lord Shiva as well as Buddha.
To help the older pilgrims they’ve installed those dreaded things called steps. All 5,200 of them, as well as lights all the way up the path. You pass various statues and temples as chants echo out from the speakers. Despite the pleasant atmosphere, the steps were a killer. Not to be deterred though we made it to the top in under two hours, an impressive time even if I say so myself.
When the sun finally rose it revealed a range of mountains full of mystique as the clouds clung to the valleys below. Whilst the tourists got snapping the monks and pilgrims went about the serious work of music and prayer. It was quite a sight from the top which made the torture of the steps worth it. On trudging back down we made use of a natural pool of water in the stream for a swim. It was freezing!!! By 9am I was back in bed. Job well done!