Jon Lewin

CLIMBING THE HOLY MOUNTAIN

Jon Lewin
CLIMBING THE HOLY MOUNTAIN

Our journey began in Hikkaduwa at 7am. Banana leaf-wrapped Sri Lankan lunch packet in hand, we made our way to the train station. The three-hour train ride to the capital is stunning – the track pretty much runs alongside the coastline. The train was packed as usual, and although there was no chance of getting a seat, the doors remained open, so we took up our usual spot, perched on the edge of the open door and watched the picturesque coastal landscape rush by.

Once we arrived in the capital, we hung out in the station, chatting with a few locals who were keen to practice their English, before boarding another train to take us on the next leg – Columbo to Hatton. This journey was even more breathtaking than the last, and is ranked as one of the top 5 train rides in the world. It’s not hard to see why; the views were outstanding as we gracefully moved through the rolling hills of the central highlands. Once in Hatton, we began the final part of our journey to the small settlement of Dalhousie, which lies at the base of the peak. 

Located in central Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak (or Sri Pada in Sinhalese) is a 2243m high mountain. It is deemed holy by many different religions and it holds a large footprint protected by a temple at the summit of the mountain. This is thought to be the place where Adam first set foot on the earth and many Buddhists believe that this footprint is of Buddha himself and where he took his first steps to enlightenment.

Climbing this holy mountain is no easy task, as there are 5,200 steps to the summit. These steps are very irregular in shape and size, and it takes between 2-4 hours to get to the top. I recently undertook this mission with some good friends, and although extremely hard work, it was sensational in every way.

We started the mammoth climb at 2:30am in pitch darkness. I thought it was going to be easy as I’d been surfing 2-3 times a day for the last 4 months, and my fitness levels were pretty good. After about 2 hours of climbing, it became apparent to me that this was not the case. As with climbing any mountain at high altitudes, the air gets thinner the higher you go, and I had to take a break to catch my breath. While sitting and taking a much-needed sip of water, I saw three elderly ladies and two young children powering up the mountain with a very determined look in their eyes. It was then that I realized that this mammoth task was all in the mind. If they could climb at that pace, so could I. We powered on through and reached the summit half an hour later. We’d started the climb in the early hours of the morning to get to the top for the sunrise. We were just in time and joined hundreds of others, tourists and locals alike, to see the first rays of light shoot out from the horizon.

There is a Buddhist temple at the summit, along with with many shrines catering for the different religions that visit this holy mountain. As the sun rose, the sound of drums and what sounded to me like some form of Sri Lankan bagpipe bellowed out. It was an amazingly spiritual experience; one I will never forget. The sunrise and views from each side of the peak were spectacular.