From Kandy, we had hoped originally to catch the train to Ella and have one night there before heading to Adams peak. However, we didn’t know that you could prebook this train and we missed out on tickets, so a quick think saw us plan a new route. Our new plan took us up to the Tea Plantations and the sleepy town of Maskeliya. To get there was relatively easy – a bus to Hatton and then a connecting Bus to Maskeliya, the journey taking around 4-5 hours.
Makseliya turned out to be a great choice. Only a 2o minute Tuk Tuk from Adams peak, the town served as a great base for the hike. The people in the town were the friendliest we had met so far, every kid waving at you like crazy and wanting to ask you your name. The adults of the town took a similar interest but would usually just smile and give you a small wave of acknowledgement.
Our Guesthouse for the two night stay was called Madrusha. It sat nestled into the side of a large tea plantation and had a certain older world charm to it. The owner was away when we first got in, so we dropped our luggage off, accepted the offer of a rice and curry dinner for 3.50aud each and headed into town to look around and grab some supplies for the climb.
The town was nothing remarkable, but with two well appointed supermarkets we were able to get all the food and drink we wanted for the climb for around 3aud. The dinner at the guesthouse was also a pretty good idea as there are only two more eateries in the town.
We got back to the guesthouse around 630 to find the owner was now home. We discussed with him which night would be best for the climb and decided to do it that night. He felt that leaving at 2am would work well for us if we wanted to climb and be guaranteed the sunrise. We teamed up with another couple and organised a Tuk Tuk for 2am. Sleep was hard to come by, but both Stu and I managed to get at least a couple of hours before our alarm forced us to shake our sleepiness and ready ourselves for the hike.
Adams Peak is a climb that consists of no less than 5000 stairs of varying steepness. Most people set off for the peak around 2am like ourselves to give them ample time to reach the summit by sunrise (620 am when we went). Stu started the climb with speed. His ability to take two stairs every time I took one saw him leave myself and the Czech couple we started the climb with in the dust. The Czech couple decided they wanted to take it a little slower, so I ran ahead to catch Stu and did my best to keep up (though I definitely slowed him down!)
The climb was brutal.
Every time you thought you must have made it up almost the whole way, a quick look up would show you just how wrong you were. Sweat dripped off you and your legs were pretty much on auto pilot by the time you hit the 2000 stair mark. Many locals openly laughed at all us foreigners as we sweated it out, trying to get up a quickly as possible. For the locals, the Pilgrimage was something they did slowly, often taking the whole night to get up, resting often and sharing food with family – I imagine to them our need to beat the stairs in such a physical rather than spiritual way must have been puzzling.
Stu and I pushed on, taking short breaks every few hundred stairs. We could have taken our time though as we hit the peak after only 2 hours, leaving us a chilly 2hour wait for the sunrise at the peak.
I quickly pulled on thermals, sweat free shirt and jumper and a scarf but was barely warm enough. Stu did put a fresh shirt on, but the cold didn’t seem to get him at all so I soon also grabbed his jacket and popped that on too.
The sunrise at the peak was beautiful. To one side of you the sun illuminated misty valleys of tea plantations and lakes, on the other side a sea of multi-colored clouds.
As the sun rose, a procession of white clad pilgrims headed into the temple to give the mornings offerings and people clamoured to touch the food as it passed. After the sun was fully in the sky it seemed time to make the knee shattering journey back down.
Heading down in the first rays of daylight meant that every turn you got to was so beautiful that you wanted to stop and pause. Taking our time to get down, Stu and I both tried to take in as much of it as we could while ignoring the pains in our knees. (You’d think we were 100 the way we hobbled down due to our useless knees!)
By 9am we were back to the base of the mountain and more than ready to head home. A few yummy treats from the Bakery opposite the bus shop, lots of water and a shower were had before we had a quick nap after what was a morning full of beauty and more exercise than my last bum had seen in years.
That afternoon we took it easy. Apart from a short walk through the tea plantations and venturing into town for some Kottu, we laid low, playing cards and drinking tea. The owner helped us plan out the next section of our journey – a gruelling 13 hours of travel to get to Tangalle. After planning our journey and a few TV episodes in bed we fell into a decent -if often interrupted by people getting up to climb at different times during the night – sleep in preparation for the long next day.