Stairway to the Cloud Pyramid

Oct 26, 2016

There’s a paved trail to the top of Adam’s Peak, my wife, Kattina, is telling me. The trek up the mountain should be easy, she says, trying to convince me to make the climb. But my Rough Guide to Sri Lanka is warning otherwise, stating the hike “can reduce even seasoned hill walkers to quivering wrecks.”

The trail is basically a 7km staircase with a 2km elevation gain – around 5,500 steps in all.

When Kattina adds that she wants to begin climbing at 2am and hike overnight, I’m convinced she’s lost her mind.

“There’s this cool natural phenomenon that happens at the top,” she explains.

“Right after sunrise, you can see the mountain’s shadow floating in the clouds.”

“You want to climb a mountain overnight to look at a shadow?”

“Yes.”

“Can’t we see the shadow in the afternoon?”

“No. You can only see it first thing in the morning.”

Kattina and I are different breeds of travellers. My thrills come from connecting with people. Hers come from connecting with nature. I challenge myself by wandering through foreign places, trying to communicate with strangers whose cultures I don’t understand. She challenges herself by slogging through jungles, kayaking through rapids, and now, climbing a super-steep mountain in the frigid middle of the night.

“It’s a pilgrimage site,” she says, playing to my interests. “You’ll be hiking with religious pilgrims, Dave. Think of the stories!”

Adam’s Peak is sacred to four major religions. Buddhist legend suggests a 1.8m rock formation near the top is Buddha’s footprint. Tamil Hindus believe it’s the footprint of Lord Shiva; while Muslim and Christian scriptures say it’s where Adam set foot when he was exiled from the Garden of Eden.

I’m drawn to the idea of all of these religions coming together in one sacred place. “Fine,” I relent. “I’ll go.”