Tuesday, March 4

adam's peak

The various religions of the world can't seem to agree on exactly who stamped their footprint on the summit of Sri Pada, but Adam seems to be winning the naming game.  Pilgrims of Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist and backpacking traditions flock to the summit for sunrise, a steady three-to-four hour climb illuminated with street lamps during the drier months.  Many locals sleep rough in concrete shelters on the way up, while the tourists leave their guesthouses around 2 am to join the parade. Barely twenty metres goes by without a crude tea and snack aid station, and a rest half way for sweet tea and fresh roti bread is an essential element of the journey. Despite being a UNESCO site, the waste management practices are appalling, and the stench of raw sewerage and the cascade of rubbish beside the path raises the question of who is responsible for maintaining and preserving the holy mountain. 

Close to the summit the pace slows, as a human traffic jam ascends the final steps to the paved lookout and ugly silver painted concrete temple housing the holy "footprint". Huddled against the dawn cold, hundreds of cameras and iPhones snap the first rays of the sun, then the crowd rushes to the west to witness the shadow of the peak cast on the surrounding landscape. The descent is fast and punishing on the legs, and three days later our muscles were still moaning. 

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