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Erithna-Rajamalay Ancient Holy Path to Sri Pada – Opening Pilgrim season

Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top.

The above statement rings true for Sri Pada (Better known by Adam Peak). Standing only at 2243m,
and being one of the most-visited iconic tourist landmarks in Sri Lanka, adventurers, who typically
prefer high-adrenaline activities and off-the-beaten-tracks destinations, may quickly opt it out from
their list of adventure-packed activities/destinations. That’s what we had in mind when we were
considering Adam’s Peak during our recent trip in Sri Lanka — we were quite wrong about it.


By the religious full moon Poya day of December start the 4 months day & night pilgrim procession
ascent of the Sri Pada Season. Few days after the opening day (to avoid mass of local crowded), we
decided to scale this fourth highest most prominent peak in the country via the reportedly “most
strenuous, longest (12km from the base to the summit), and less trekked” Kuruwita-Erathna route.
The other two routes were Rathnapura-Palabathgala and Hatton-Nallathanniya. At 7.30 a.m., we
started making our way up.
The first three kilometers of the route were broad and open as the large section of it went through
the disturbed forest and abandoned tea fields. It must have rained the previous night because
certain parts of the trail were muddy. The ascent at this point was intense and continuous. Steps,
though scarce, were made to assist pilgrims and trekkers alike in the steepest parts of the trail. After
trekking for about three hours, the hot rays of the sun were beginning to take their toll on us. Soon
we reached a resting place called Warnagala Ambalama where we encountered some local pilgrims
who had come for the small temple with tiny shrine rooms for the gods of their faith and a replica of
the footprint of Lord Buddha.


Soon the trail transformed into a narrow footpath through thick, undisturbed forest. The trail was
flat for the most part and it went along the edge of a cliff with a river flowing deep in the valley.
Also, the dense ceiling of tree branches and leaves shielded us from the scorching Sri Lankan sun.
As we crossed into the borders of the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, we steadily gained elevation and
the climb became more frequent and arduous. The forest was thicker and wilder. On multiple
occasions we were fortunate enough to have spotted the reddish-brown-colored Toque Macaque
and the Montane purple-faced langur or Bear Monkey, both of which were endemic to Sri Lanka and
the second one can only be seen in this part of Sri Lanka. If we were extremely lucky — which we
were not — we might just set our eyes on the rare black leopard whose sighting in the wild forests of
Adam’s Peak was reported early this year.


Finally, around 5pm, we arrived at the Indikatupana rest stop which had a small family-run shop
selling mostly coffee/tea, soft drinks, cup noodles, Sri Lankan deep-friend pastries, biscuits and
bananas as well as a resting place so rudimentary that it had only a roof, cold cement floor and four
walls with the windows wide open letting in fresh air. We picked our spot in the rest place, rolled out
our yoga mats and sleeping bags, rolled them out on the cold, and lay down with our backs
completely stretched. Our legs were extremely tired and wobbly. Our skin was sticky and damp from
sweat. From the small shop, we could see the summit of Adam’s Peak in the distance. Although we
had only 3km left to get to the summit, the remaining trail seemed very long and scarcely
penetrable.
The night temperatures dropped to a freezing point. The eerie sound of the howling wind
penetrated the silence of the night until the pouring biting rain decide to make its entry. We looked

up to the heavy clouded night sky. A trail of lights followed the remaining distance all the way to the
top, illuminating the way of the pilgrims and trekkers and complementing the dark beauty of the
night.


At 2 am, the next morning, the rain continuously fall as we started making our ascent again. It was
pitch dark in our surroundings despite the trail of lights. We could only see clearly as far as our
headlamps. We trudged along through the rough trail marked by continuous steep climbs. More
sharp inclines conquered. More steps taken. Finally, we came face-to-face with the last 600m that
was characterized by stretches of stairs so steep that our legs were shaking as we painfully
completed another set of seemingly-uncountable stairs only to see yet another set above us.
After what seemed like forever we finally reached the top. It was about 5.30 am. There at the top we
rewarded ourselves with some chocolate bars and the breathtaking 360-degree views of layers of
mountains and forests swaddled in a veil of poltergeist-white mist. Some little warming rays of sun
broke in, and the magic of Adam’s Peak unfolded right before our eyes — the fleeting projection of
the triangular shadow of Adam’s Peak across the forests and countryside in the distance
unfortunately didn’t happen as we wish. The magic of the 360 degree scenery was eventually broken
by the beating of drums and the chanting of prayers. A troupe of monks in their bright orange robes
were performing a ceremonial procession of giving thanks and blessings.
After briefly exploring the two-level shrine, we decided to start heading down via the remote
Rajamalay route on the eastern side of the mountain, perpendicular strenuous trail of the most
popular Hatton Road staircase, where 95% of which were characterized by muddy, rocky with loaded
of roots covered by dead leaf, multiple rare endemic birds as the shinning Yellow-Eared Bulbul or the
melodic Ceylon Whistling-Thrust showing-off at certain stage of our descent. As our legs were
already painfully sore, climbing down, felt like a never-ending nightmare, the sky glossy by azur blue
finally showing off fully open view of the summit of the Adam Peak. After three hours walk we
reached the Moray Estate Tea Field set aside the small town of Nallathanniya getting closer by Tamil
Tea pucker at work before grabbing back a tuk tuk to get back to Hatton to grab our train for our
next destination.


Our experience of climbing Adam’s Peak had taught us one thing: never measure the height of a
mountain until you have reached the top. Although Adam’s Peak was relatively lower compared to
some of the mountains we had previously climbed, scaling it was, as we had realized, still tough
considering the high humidity of the place, the continuous and arduous ascents and the long
stretches of stairs. And, although the mountain could easily attract thousands of pilgrims and
trekkers annually, the Kuruwita-Erathna-Rajamalay route would offer an off-the-beaten-tracks
alternative route to those who wished to scale Adam’s Peak without bumping shoulders with other
trekkers every now and then.

Acknowledgment: Indigo Explorer, the agency that helped arrange our Adam’s Peak journey and the
rest of our trip in Sri Lanka. They stayed true to their promise of offering their clients with off-the-
beaten-tracks travel experiences. Their professionalism, efficiency and courtesy were highly
commendable.

ARTICLE & TEXT BY Ms Christy BIDDER
PHOTOS BY Lionel LONGEAU

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