5200 steps up
5200 steps down.
That is the effort required to reach the top of Sri Lanka’s mythical Adam’s peak. And what is the amazing reward at the top that inspires such feats of endurance? Fog.
The peak is sacred to several religions, and is the top pilgrimage destination in Sri Lanka. Some say that the foot-shaped indention at the highest point is Buddha’s, as he left the world having achieved enlightenment. Some say it is Adam’s footprint, his first after being cast out of heaven. Hindu’s say it belongs to Shiva. Whomever’s correct, it now become a local requirement for all faiths.
The long march up the mountain begins around 3am, in order to make it to the top for the awe-inspiring (sic) sunrise. I set off on the hike with a few others from my hotel, and we all quickly realized we were in over our heads. Stairs to me are an odd form of exercise. The most I usually climb in a give day is maybe 50? I had thought I was in pretty good shape, walking several miles a day during this trip and being generally more active then I have ever been. This activeness did not of course involve stair climbing. Then again, doing any type of physical activity 5200×2 times would surely wear me out.
The path was lit with fluorescent lights, and these soon became our inspiration. “Just one more light, just one more and then I’ll rest.” The trail of lights snaked it’s way up the hillside ending in the unbelievably high up finish line. Over-priced tea stalls popped up every 500 steps or so, and my companions and I took full advantage of these (supporting the local economy) to rest our weary legs.
Worse perhaps than the physical effort that the 5200 steps require is the emotional effort. Nothing is quite as humbling and demoralizing as being passed by 80 year old women while you try to lift you leg just one more time. Luckily for me I have an impenetrable ego, and was able to simply write this off as “Not being accustomed to the altitude.” A handy excuse I regularly fall back on.
The home stretch, the last 1000 steps before the top (ie. the half way point), has the handy assistance of a guard rail which quickly became our pull up bar as the steps grew more and more vertical. The top itself is capped with a Buddhist temple, and the footprint guarded in a small room and covered with a white sheet. Turns out, to see the actual foot print you must give a sizable donation and then the guards quickly life the sheet to give you a peak. Or so we head, none of us being willing to make the donation required. There is a bell at the top as well whivh pilgrims ring once each for the number of times they have made the accent. You can imagine that the sound the large bell made echoing in the hills as I unloaded my full exhaustive effort upon it.
So why did we start the climb in the first place? Well, we had all heard that the views from the top were amazing and the sunrise over the hills to be awe-inspiring. Of course, that would be on a clear day. As our luck would have it we instead got nice thick cloud cover for the last 200m or so and therefore could only see a few feet in front of our faces. They were right though, this view did in fact bring tears to our eyes, or maybe it was the thought of 5200 steps down…