Sri Lanka Chapter 2: Sacred Mountains to Sandy Shores

It’s sad to say but I’m writing this from the terminal at Colombo Bandaranaike International airport, soon to cap of my adventures in Sri Lanka and make my return journey to the shores of Sydney, Australia. My plane is delayed by over an hour and there isn’t that much to do in here (we aren’t even allowed to take photos out the window!) so I decided to take that time to provide you all with a final update on my trip.

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My time in Sri Lanka has been wonderful. Between exploring the ancient historic rock fortress Sigiriya, celebrating with the locals as we whoop the West Indies at a cricket match, riding the train through the stunning landscapes of the Sri Lankan highlands and tea country, climbing the 2243m Adam’s Peak in the hope of a sunrise and relaxing and snorkelling at the beaches in Matara in the south, Sri Lanka has been an endless series of surprises and delights.

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On the train to Ella

My favourite moments have got to be the train ride to Ella, climbing Adam’s Peak and relaxing at Polhena beach down in Matara. The train ride to Ella I’ve detailed in my previous post, but Adam’s Peak was special in not what I saw, but what it represented to me.

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At the top of Adam's Peak - Look at that view!

Adam’s Peak – known as Sri Pada or “Sacred Footprint” to the Sinhalese – is a 2243m high, 5500 step mountain in the middle of Sri Lanka, and a popular Buddhist pilgrimage in the high season when the weather is nice and pleasant. It was off season though, which means the entire path is unlit, it’s generally pouring down rain, you probably won’t see a sunrise and there are leeches ready to feed off your weary legs. I knew the risks and how unlikely it was that I would actually catch a sunrise, but after hearing stories of both success and failure from fellow travellers it was something I had to try. I didn’t know when I was coming back to Sri Lanka so it was a now or never situation.

So I did, and it was brutal.

The rain was relentless, the steps unending and uneven. I had to stop maybe 5-6 times not because I was tired, but because I had literally exhausted all my energy reserves and had to eat something in order to keep going. And I made it! I was the fourth one to start that night and the first one to reach the summit, and up the top I saw… nothing. Absolutely nothing. The entire peak of the mountain was enveloped in cloud so literally all I could see in every direction was a sea of white. But that was part of the risk I took, and that’s what I got. I don’t regret it at all and I’m glad I was willing to take that risk. I don’t like living with “what if?”s. The walk down was quite cool though, passing by so many mountains and waterfalls that I never knew existed on my way up.

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The endless stairs I climbed to reach the top

I wasn’t expecting much out of Matara as on paper it just seemed like any other beach town, and as an Australian beaches don’t really excite me – my favourite 5km run in Sydney goes through 5 beaches – but I was surprised! It was such a beautiful little area, with really friendly people, a nice chilled atmosphere and my love, Polhena beach – a gorgeous tropical beach with incredibly vibrant blue water and wonderful coral reefs to explore. It was my first proper time snorkelling and I was absolutely amazed. The coral was so colourful and varied and so was the sea life, with fishes of every colour under the sun and even turtles and manta rays. All right there waiting for you, just off the shore. It quickly became one of my favourite places on the island.

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Matara crew at Polhena Beach

My parents are both Sri Lankan so this is around my 6th time visiting Sri Lanka, but it’s my first time travelling on my own and really my first time properly exploring the country. For such a small island it’s amazing just how much it has to offer and how varied it all is – it’s not just beaches or mountains or tea or history or waterfalls but all of those and a whole lot more. I’ve done a lot of the island but there is still so much more for me to do, I definitely have to come back again. And you should come too! For anyone wanting to get off the beaten tourist track I can’t recommend Sri Lanka enough in terms of the sheer beauty and variety of what it has to offer. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Until the next adventure,

Lashan

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Polhena beach at sunset.

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