It was 6 am and there was not another person in sight. The first rays of dawn split the thin vapour of clouds and I could see all of Sri Lanka light up before my eyes.
The pink sunrise illuminated the beaches and jungles to the south, grew north to the towns of Hatton and Kandy in the distance, then rested on the ghostly shaped peak on which I stood. I was at the top of Sri Pada, a 2,243m-high conical peak, regarded as the holiest mountain on this tear-shaped island. It was the perfect place to begin a thrill-seeking Ceylonese adventure.
t had been a tough climb. I had started in complete darkness three hours earlier in the one-street village of Nallathanni. Only a few days before, I had never heard of the place, but that was where the train conductor advised me to spend the night. With the help of a cheap torch bought at a local guesthouse, I had picked my way through thick jungle foliage inhabited by elephants, wild boar and leopards – as well as leeches and other nasties – before passing beneath temple arches overrun by creepers and finally making the long ascent up countless knee-shaking steps hewn from rock. It all seemed very Indiana Jones-like – especially as the only human footfall had been mine. It couldn’t have been farther from the hullaballoo of the capital Colombo, 140km to the west. ...more