The Highest Height: Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak)
If you have the tenacity and desire to climb approximately 7000 steps, schedule a pilgrimage to Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. At the summit is a human footprint formed in a rock-some say the footprint it was made by Buddha, some say by Adam.
Two of my traveling companions were prepared for the climb, both physically and mentally. What they weren’t prepared for was the overwhelming mass of Sri Lankan pilgrims who converged on Sri Pada to take advantage of a two day holiday period the full moon, or Poya (a monthly Buddhist holy day and public holiday), and a national holiday (Sri Lankan Independence Day). In addition, the months of December, January, and February are Buddhist holy months at Sri Pada, and pilgrims arrive by the bus load. The popularity of those months is also due to the drier weather in the central highlands during that period.
A true sea of humanity pulsed up and down the path to the top. The path, lit by lights that curved up the side of the mountain, was traced against the black sky and left those of us below amazed. Marta and Sharon, accompanied by a local guide, started from the guesthouse at 12:30 am, hoping to make it to the top for sunrise. Unfortunately, the peak was enveloped in a cloud early in the morning and visibility was minimal. Well prepared for the climb, with fleece jackets and walking sticks, they were surrounded by Sri Lankans with bare feet or only wearing flip-flops, women carrying their babies up the mountain, the elderly struggling with the steps, and a press of people so great that it induced claustrophobia in some. For most Sri Lankan Buddhist, though, it was a once in a life time pilgrimage for most and it was a serious commitment. Some took one or two days to make the climb, resting along the way.