After hours of putting one foot in front of the other, stomping up stairs, I was nearing my goal. I was in southern Sri Lanka and a holy pilgrimage had pulled me out of bed in the middle of the night. I was surrounded by the faithful, making their climb to the top of Adam’s Peak in duty to their deities. But the only absolution I sought, was with the rising sun. Soon, the darkness began to break and shapes came into focus across the hazy horizon. The eternal battle between night and day waned, as fiery light shattered the blackened battlefield.
My legs were aching as I lunged down to take two steps at a time. I’d been climbing stairs since 2 am with only a few samosas to keep me going. Thankfully, the descent was easier than the climb, because leaving Adam’s Peak behind wasn’t.
My memory is of a rising sun splashing colours across the sky like a drunk Jackson Pollock while the sounds of Buddhists banging on drums and clanging bells rang in my ears, I stopped to look around me. Beside me, in front of me, and behind me were hundreds of people all with sunlight and smiles beaming off their faces.
We live our lives through moments that fleet instantly into memories. When we stop to soak in our surroundings, take time to absorb it all, the moment we’re in becomes a memory, marked in time and in thought.
Together, we shared that moment that is now my memory. They were on the final steps of their spiritual pilgrimage, while I was just beginning my Sri Lankan adventure.
Arriving at Delhouse in southern Sri Lanka, our plan was to hike to the top of Adam’s Peak. This is the site where Adam is meant to have been hurled from heaven and landed on earth. It is also believed to house a footprint of Buddha. It is an important pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka and attracts thousands of locals on the weekends.
We didn’t fully believe how many people were rumoured to tackle the track each weekend, so at 2 am we set off with high hopes of reaching the summit quickly. As we neared the beginning of the trail a steady flow of people were coming down from the peak. We started our 5000 steps to the top and within an hour and a half were within half a kilometer of our goal.
As we turned a corner, we were met face to face with a massive line packed with pilgrims. People waited patiently for their chance to make the summit. After waiting for over an hour in line, light was beginning to creep into the sky. We knew that if we didn’t move fast we wouldn’t make it to the top on time for sunrise. So, with many sorrys and avoiding eye contact, we hopped the railing and ran to the top. We were able to wade through the crowds and find a perch overlooking the valleys and mountains below.
The sun came up with an explosion of colour throughout. In every direction it played a different trick on the textures of the early morning sky. We listened to bells, horns and drums pound out prayers from Adam’s Peak and looked over the world.