Sri Pada. Sacred footprint.
Footprint of the Buddha, to the Buddhists - Adam to the Muslims + Christians, and Shiva to the Hindus.
Located in the Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka, the mountain stands at an elevation of 2243m. A small group of us, new friends from all over the world left for the trek at 2am - following a very long, uncomfortable train all day, arriving at the guest house well after dark.
(I would highly suggest doing at least a little prep before embarking...)
The entire pilgrimage took around 8 hours to complete. Seven kilometres, and 5500 steps. The trek is filled with backpackers, tourists, locals and monks all hoping to see the sunrise from the peak. The steps are worn in, steep and uneven, but the various tea stalls and prayer flags along the way will take your mind off your exhausted legs, if even for a moment. Fresh out of my YTT, I focused on my breath, and on the mantra of Ganesh, remover of obstacles (seemed fitting, metaphorically, and quite literally) - Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha - over and over again, running my mala beads through my fingers. One step at a time.
Finally making it to the top just after 6am, celebrating the victory and letting the significance of the journey sink in. Sipping fresh chai, the sunrise washes over you. As the sun came up the air got warmer, and it's time to descend after about 45 minutes relaxing at the top.
Going up was difficult, but even to this day I don't remember it being unbearable. There was never a point going up where stopping seemed like an option.
Going down was the worst pain I have ever experienced. Legs completely seized up and there was no way to get down the steps gracefully. I sobbed the entire way down, all 7km's, every single step, fully body sobbing. I'm sure aside from the excruciating physical discomfort, it was a cocktail of exhaustion, hunger, making it to the top, and all the emotions that come with travelling for just over 2 months consecutively.
This trek was half way through my two week, spur of the moment stop over in Sri Lanka and I spent the following week taking unidentified pain killers from the local pharmacy and lying on the beaches. I will always remember my Belgian friend Sofie half laughing at me/half encouraging me to make it up the 15 stairs to the hotel room we were staying.
*If you are visiting Sri Lanka, and are interested in the pilgrimage - I highly suggest doing some (read: lots of) stair workouts before you leave...