Tour of Sri Lanka – Dalhousie (Adam’s Peak) & Kandy
I have a confession to make. There I was, complaining about the poor internet speeds in Sri Lanka, when it becomes apparent that I had actually picked up a virus on my memory card whilst in India and transported it on to unsuspecting Sri Lankan computers! Sorry about that.
On my travels I had been persuaded by other travellers to take the 7km hike up Adam’s Peak, one of the foremost pilgrimage sites for Buddha fans in Asia. The sunrise looked amazing from the video footage that I saw, making the tiring 5500+ step climb a worthwhile experience. I arrived in Dalhousie already feeling weary after scenic, yet long and uncomfortable train and tuktuk rides. The village at the base of the peak is little more than a few guest houses and shacks made out of corrugated iron and wood, held together with hope. The shops all sold the same things and I decided to purchase some bananas (energy food) and a rain coat as the weather had really taken a downturn. “You have good height!”, a shopkeeper shouted at me as I walked past. I wish that could help my ascent in some way, I thought.
After checking in to my guest house, I realised that I may have made an error. The White House is little more than a few wooden huts with basic facilities. My room had no sink and a traditional hole in the floor ‘toilet’. But no worries – I had to wake up at 2am anyway. What could possibly go wrong?
After being woken by noisy neighbours before 2am, I dressed for the climb feeling a terrible sense of foreboding. 7km is a long way. Up! I noticed that my bunch of bananas seemed smaller. I was sure that I had bought four… weird… When I picked up my bag I saw a half eaten banana, munched on by a rat whilst I slept. Ugh, I thought I’d heard squeaking during the night!
It started to drizzle as I began the ascent with a couple who I’d met the night before. Nevertheless, we still made good pace in the semi-darkness; the lighting was barely adequate in places, but enough to avoid hazards and to skirt around elderly climbers who were risking an aneurysm for their faith. Around the halfway point, the ‘heavens’ opened. We managed to take shelter in a dark shack which was soon populated with at least 50 other climbers, desperate for shelter. Despite the downpour, there was more resolve than negativity. Everyone knew that the weather could change quickly at the summit, nestled in the clouds.
Eventually we continued our ascent, in a constant light rain and wind, which grew stronger as we rose higher. Nearer the summit the steps became steeper and the temperature had really dropped. Why did they make it so hard? These Buddhamentalists are masochists, I thought, wondering if my legs would keep going. At the top there was no feeling of elation, as we all waited in the storm, praying for the big man to just give us a glimpse of an amazing sunrise, as we wandered around the temple with ice-cold bare feet. Then, the mist magically cleared… For less than 10 minutes. But it was better than nothing. The descent was no less painful, but it did offer us some good views, in between clouds. Not what we were hoping for. But it was still a worthy achievement; it’s hard to predict the weather at altitude.
Once I’d checked out of my rat refectory, I began the journey to Kandy. On the train I met a young German girl called Julia who I ‘buddied up’ with to look around Kandy after checking in to our guesthouse. “The shower is perfectly safe, as long as you don’t touch the shower head”, the owner explained, pointing to exposed wires. Understood. We took refuge from the rain (again) in a *****TOURIST TRAP ALERT***** traditional Kandyan dance show. Surprisingly, it was actually very entertaining and impressive. It seems that the male dancers can easily get away with wearing their grandmothers’ jewellery if they can perform back flips whilst dancing to drum beats. It somehow worked.
Over breakfast the next day, the guesthouse owner told us that many people had lost their lives in floods across Sri Lanka. And it was still raining. There were landslides on the road all around Kandy. We were determined to see as much as possible, in spite of the rain, and had a look at the Temple of the Tooth. This houses a tooth taken from the ashes of Buddha’s cremation. But you can’t see it, you can only see where it’s housed. Good enough for me. We also looked around a few smaller temples. At one we were ‘blessed’, in my opinion against our will, by a Buddhist monk. I would like to go on record now by saying that he will be the first and last man who I allow to run his fingers through my hair and stroke my face. He barely touched Julia. He didn’t even try to hide his disappointment at the modest donation that we gave! He’d met the Dali Lama don’t you know… We ended the day by getting soaked up at the big Buddha statue overlooking the picturesque town. Of course, our views were slightly obscured by clouds. This damn rain is starting to get to me. My only souvenirs of Sri Lanka so far, are a rain coat and umbrella. It has to stop raining soon or else we will need to travel by ark.