We Be Pilgrims




“The panorama from the summit of Adam’s Peak is perhaps the grandest in the world, as no other mountain, although surpassing it in altitude , presents the same unobstructed view over land and sea. Around it, to the north and east, the traveller looks down on the zone of lofty hills that encircle the Kandyan kingdom, whilst to the westward the eye is carried far over undulating plains, threaded by rivers like cords of silver, till in the purple distance the glitter of the sunbeams on the sea mark the line of the Indian Ocean” James Emerson Tennent


Climbed it.


My friend and I climbed it in the middle of the night.

Adam's Peak, Sri LankaSlim Paley photo

Starting off at the gates to “Sri Pada” (Sacred Footprint)

Imagine a place on this strife-riddled planet where Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims  all walk together, side by side, head to toe, in a peaceful, unified pilgrimage.

 Offering helping hands, sharing water, even carrying those unable to climb without aid,

Mostly in silence or in prayer…

(Ok, my friend and I complained a couple of times but under our breath and not until the very top…)

They are united simply in the spirit of the climb, not in dogma, as each religion holds a different belief about the origins of  the sacred footprint they seek to view at the top of Sri Pada.

And imagine that as each pilgrim takes this harmonious journey, usually commencing in the middle of the night, they are participating in something that  has been taking place for over 1,000 years.

We are all coming to pay our respects to

the large and distinct impression at the top of the mountain measuring aprox. 68″ long by 31″ at toes and 29″ at heel resembling a footprint.

According to Christian legend and closely believed by Muslims

(let’s hear it for the Christians and the Muslims agreeing on something),

Adam was hurled from Paradise for his disobedience and stood in penance for a thousand years on one foot at the top of Adam’s Peak, after which he was reunited with Eve on Mt. Arafat overlooking Mecca.

By the ninth century, this footprint was consequently considered one of the most sacred sites in the world..

 However the imprint was also identified by Buddhists as the Buddha’s footprint, by Hindus as that of Shiva, and later in the 1500’s the Portuguese attributed it to St. Thomas the Apostle.

Let’s just say it’s a mighty popular footprint.

ascending Adam's Peak in the night, Sri LankaSlim Paley photo

Pardon the poor quality of these  photos but I only have a point & shoot camera and it was very dark and quite cold.

The flickering thread of light you see in the distance are the  climbers going before us.

After  much research and consulting with others we decided that in order to appreciate the full Monty of the Sri Pada experience we too had to venture up in the middle of the night.

A quick trip to a men’s clothing shop to buy appropriate warm  jackets (albeit ones we would normally never be caught dead in that are now sacred garments we’ll never part with!)

An early dinner at the hotel followed by a midnight wake-up call to get layered up and ready for the 1 1/2 hour drive to the base of the mountain.

The idea is to begin the ascent at 2am to assure arrival at the summit in plenty of time to appreciate the sunrise;

“Pilgrims try to reach the summit before dawn to view the grand phenomenon known as the ‘ira-sevaya’ (the effulgence of the rising sun) puncturing the eastern horizon, like a ball of fire, casting a shadow of the mountain to fall on to the valley in the opposite direction, like a cone. The ‘ira sevaya’ is considered to mean the worship of the foot by the sun-god.”

Yo, We be Pilgrims!

Steps of Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka

Slim Paley photo

As you can see, in some places it is quite dark. The steps are rough and would hardly pass code in the United States.
It is 5,200 steps to the top. Seriously. I Shiva you not 🙂

shopping on Adam's Peak, slimpaley.comSlim Paley Photo

While tempted to shop on the way up (there’s a shocker), I remember that between my water, blanket, camera, sunglasses,iPhone, insect repellent, lip gloss, magnifying mirror and sunscreen, I don’t have a lot of room left.

It did occur to me that a green banana bought at the bottom might well be yellow by the time we reached the top.

fellow climber, Adam's Peak, slimpaley.comSlim Paley Photo

Fashion choices for making the pilgrimage up Sri Pada really run the gamut.

Although some fellow “pilgrims” appeared friendlier than others, It all felt very Jean-Paul Gaultier inspired.

Nearly there…

“no, don’t say that one more time.”

No, seriously, we’re really almost there.

“Shhuuh uup”

60 more steps…


Here it comes…

The music now is a MUST;

  click on arrow

the summit of Adams Peak, slimpaley.comSkelator Hands at the ready…

Sunrise, Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, slimpaley.com

Rising through the heavy duvet of clouds tucked around the shoulders of the mountains

Here Comes the sun…

Sunrise, Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, slimpaley.com


Sunrise, Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, slimpaley.comSlim Paley photo

Dawn breaks casting a surreal orange glow upon the faces of the weary climbers huddled out of the wind below the shrine.

Sunrise, Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, slimpaley.comSlim Paley photo


Slim Paley photo

Some of our fellow pilgrims

Sunrise, Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, slimpaley.comSlim Paley photo

At last the sun breaks free and starts to cast the shadows

Slim Paley, summit of Adam's Peak, Sri LankaWhere’s Waldo? I mean Slim??!

Slim Paley, summit of Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka.Slim Paley photo

Of course we had no appreciation of how high we actually were until morning came

Slim Paley photo

Top of the World Ma!

Slim Paley photo

Adam’s Peak rises 7,360ft. from the central highlands of Sri Lanka and can be seen by sea rising above the horizon 80 miles before the coastline comes into view

 summit of Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, Slimpaley.com


We were filled with the glory of achievement and excited to make our way down, making the silly assumption that it would be much easier than the ascent.

We were SO wrong. Coming down was brutal. The constant jarring impact of your foot against the unforgiving stone steps was no fun.

I thought if I should ever so much as see another step for the rest of the holiday it would be too soon.

It took us over 3 hours to come down! We walked sideways like crabs for the next 3 days, explaining to anyone and everyone that we had


Naturally most of the shops were closed up.

We managed to find a few that were open and got awfully excited when we thought this was FUDGE.

Flies or no flies, that moment of “Fuuuuudddggge” that pranced across my brain was so exciting while it lasted.

Alas, not sure what it was but it wasn’t fudge-still I did consider buying it to put in my left shoe…


.And all up and down- Yay Us!!

 Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, Slimpaley.com


Can I tell you how lovely it was to come back to this welcome at our cozy hotel nestled in the tea fields (and be carried up the stairs?!!)


Are YOU in the mood for Adventure yet?!


For more information on Adam’s Peak click here; Sacred Sites






  1. Absolutely amazing! Miss Slim, You should be a travel writer, seriously- i’m sitting at my kitchen table in suburban SC, (wondering what to make for dinner) and it feels like I took a mini trip across the world. Thanks so much for posting. I’ve so enjoyed this adventure!

  2. How was your 4th generation phone reception? Wonder if roaming charges apply. This is one of the very best of Slim, and I am gobsmacked. I’d get those hiking shoes bronzed.

  3. AMAZING! I’ve been looking forward to your posts after your trip, and this one delivered! Thank you so much for sharing. I just love reading your blog!

  4. I am with your roark’s kid. That looks all too familiar.
    What a spectacular adventure… Welcome back and thanks for sharing .

  5. Wow…the highest I’ve ever seen the sunrise is Haleakala on Maui…and we drove up! Ha
    Thank you for sharing what must have been a spiritual and beautiful experience, Slim. You should be proud of yourselves!

  6. Spectacular! Thanks for sharing your incredible photos! We didn’t have to do the hike to get the scenery…Nice work on the pedometer too.

  7. Wow, what an adventure, and lovely pics. I’ve never been inclined to make my way to Sri Lanka but you’ve really put the bug in me, I’m gonna *have* to climb Adam’s Peak! Wonderful post, thanks for sharing Slim.

  8. It was all worth it (don’t you love how I speak for you?) just to see the sun rise. Amazing beauty.Not sure I would have made it, although you are lucky to have made it considering some of the looks you were getting, haha.
    Thank you for sharing. Stuning.

  9. What a fantastic thing to read and experience through you. I got tears & chills with George and the rising sun. Thank you for taking us along on your journey.

  10. Hello Slim- Wonderful post…what a breathetakingly beautiful spiritual adventure. Loved the George Harrison song…perfection! Thank you. Loved the humorous bits as well – true Slim Paley style!! Best, Stacie

  11. Oh my my…… If tears came to my eyes at the rising of the sun, I can only imagine the wonder of being their in person. Thank you- thank you- thank you!
    And to think when we were in Sri Lanka in ’73 we didn’t know about this opportunity.

  12. What a story! the pictures, the music and the writing.
    You are such an inspiration Slim!
    It is now on my list…

  13. Fantastic post, I am ever so teary eyed at the amazing beauty you have just shared. also the comments of us all getting along, and of course your sense of humor always appreciated. Well done.

  14. I’m so glad you are back, I’ve missed you! Enjoyed the post, very inspirational especially with the music!! Can’t wait to see more.

  15. Gorgeous post. Perfect juxtapositioning of the difficult, stone steps with the spectacular vistas. Great example that if you focus too much on your present difficulties, you’ll miss the beauty that is all around you. And – wow- you looked so beautiful in the midst of the crowd! Thanks for taking these photos and posting them.

  16. Fascinating account……it made me relive my Everest ambitions all over again….the pictures are amazing and truly breathtaking. I love your spirit, zest for fun adventure and the way you embraced a local tradition and just “went for it”…..fantastic post! Thank you sharing and safe travels home.

  17. wow, this is one of my fave blog posts ever read….just loved it…
    the pictures , the music, the story are all fascinating and beautiful….

    you are blessed to have experienced an amazing trip like this….

    i adore the blk/wht photo of the people at the top of the summit….what a beautiful union of so many different types of people….and what a beautiful journey for each….

    i would love to go there one day!

    thanks so much for sharing……


  18. Splendid post Slim! The music was a nice touch. Loved the thought of Christians & Muslims achieving a common goal, and very proud you didn’t succumb to putting the ‘fudge’ into your left shoe.

  19. Wow, I’m impressed and wowed. Way to go. I’m happy to be an arm chair traveler on this one.
    Glad you’re back and entertaining us again.

  20. Yay you, indeed! Thank you so much for sharing such a fabulous adventure. So beautiful. My bucket list grows longer with every post…

  21. Exhilarating, gorgeous, thrilling!

    Can I just add as 20-year former resident of San Francisco…that never failed to impress me how a smallish city with every religion, nationality, POV, place of origin, etc. on earth….and everyone gets along. The City named for St. Francis follows his creed, ‘Lord make me an instrument of your peace’ etc. Wish it could be like that more everywhere.

    I love making pilgrimages. This was thrilling just to read. Agree, you ARE a travel writer! Congratulations!! Bet your boys think Mom is 1000% cool. And thanks for sharing.

  22. What a trip you’ve been on. Thanks for sharing. I especially laughed at the Christians and Muslims getting along part.

  23. Such a great post! The last image was amazing – and shows just how high the summit is. 5000 steps is a LOT, especially in the dark. Well done you guys! I’m so impressed. And yes, descending is always more difficult on the knees. We have a 1000-step climb here near where we live and it’s difficult enough – although the elite runners do it in 7 minutes.
    I really want to go to Sri Lanka now! Look forward to seeing your pix of Galle too. (If you feel like posting them).
    Janelle McCulloch

  24. Wow–am I alone in never having heard of this famous place? This was one of the most interesting posts I have ever read on any blog-Wow. I commend you and your friend for making this climb–it is not like running a marathon-IT IS STAIRS_UNEVEN ONES at that! WOw!

    • Thanks Linda. Isn’t that one of the great things about reading blogs- finding out about things or places you might not have heard of otherwise? Love that!

  25. I’m holding out for the funicular.

    (And not just any funicular either. I’m waiting for one with a martini bar.)

  26. Awesome from many ‘viewpoints!’ Miss you, Slim. That last photo shows a unimaginable precipice…must be thrilling to each of you to realize such an accomplishment. Thank you for allowing us along…so-to-speak!

    Just wondering…magnifying mirror?…survival signaling device, just in case???????!!!

  27. Sri Lanka is way on top of my list of nexts!!
    I remember first getting to know your blog when a friend of mine shared your post on your trip to Bhutan mere weeks before I was making that same trip, and visiting the Eagle’s Nest for myself. My husband chuckles now when he hears music coming from my office, because he knows that means I’ve clicked into one of your music attachments and am enjoying one of your blogs. And, he also knows YOU ROCK!, because you go to places like Bhutan and Sri Lanka!! 🙂


  28. How wonderful to open my email and see this fabulous post from you Slim! Looks like an amazing adventure! You keep us all inspired from our various seats around the world in front of our computer screens. You inspire us all! Thank you for that.
    By the way, how was the tea?

  29. Dear Slim
    Congratulations on your climb and your brilliant pics – the ones with the sun rising and the views from the peak are magical. It is such an exhilarating experience to reach the top and wait in the cold for the sun to rise. All the pilgrims were so silent and devout, there was just the sound of the wind and the ringing of the bell.

    I’m the mad lady who climbed in high heels. Also, I wore a light summer sleveless dress so at the top was frozen. Our men were all properly rugged up and wearing good climbing shoes. My girl friend who joined me in our crazy last minute decision to climb with the guys, was a doctor from Pakistan and had brought a pashmina which she shared at the top.

    You are so right about how hard it is to go down, much worse than going up. It took us almost twice as long, probably because of my high heels. By the end I was almost crippled. Like you I walked like a crab for about a week, especially going up and down stairs. When we got back to Colombo and I went for my weekly visit to the beauty salon (wonderful beauty salons, Asian and European massages with great products and even better prices) my regular beautician almost cried when she saw the state of my feet. By the time we got down from peak, the blisters had burst and my feet were like two pieces of raw meat.

    But it was one of the best and most beautiful and memorable experiences of my life, as I’m sure it will be of yours, one you’ll remember forever. And it’s very rare for a short term visitor to climb Sri Pada, so you’ve done something really special and remarkable.

      • Thanks SP, it was crazy. I did think of taking the shoes off but the steps were quite rough in most places and I thought it would be worse barefoot (also saw a viper close to the path at one point which doubled my resolve not to remove shoes). Was much younger and madder then – it’s almost 30 years ago. Couldn’t do it now. I admire your photos so much and have a question – what sort of camera did you use? Was it an Apple i-phone (it looks like an i phone in one of the pics) or was it a proper camera? My husband and I are going off on another European holiday soon (France, Italy, Vienna and Budapest) and have been thinking of getting a new camera or phone to take with us. I thought a phone camera like the Apple 4 might be good as it is so light and multi-purpose but our son says it doesn’t have a good enough camera. What do you recommend? What did you use? Looking forward to more posts of your journey. Best wishes. Pamela

  30. Hi Slim, Welcome home, alive I might add. This was more fun than I have had watching the likes of Rick Steve , from my armchair, ev-aaah. Just amazing, and soooo Spiritual. Wow! That did it, I’m getting back on the Stairmaster, as I would be dead as a doorknob about a quarter of the way up! what a fabulous experience, and beautiful. Plus, you are quite right, why can’t we all just get along? Truly moving, thank you so much for sharing!

  31. #1. Isn’t Asia amazing? Beautiful people with spirituality a part of their everyday lives… Many of them live and breath it…. sigh…
    #2. The stairs…. hahahahaha… My wonderful hubby and I did a trek years ago in Nepal and had the same “non-code” stairs. We were younger and properly equipped. What looked easy from across the valley turned into a real workout. An amazing and fabulous experience.
    #3. Wonderful blog… great choice of George Harrison…
    #4. Love the clothes bit… now a cherished item! Absolutely!
    #5. The rawness of the photos really captures the experience.
    #6. BTW, am running the Ojai to Ocean Half Marathon in June… at age 67…. come cheer me on!

  32. While by myself at the computer while scrolling, I had an audible “gasp” when the sunrise appeared on my screen. The photo with the “drifts” of clouds is spectacular as well. To be in the presence of such a sight would be “awe”. Your humorous honesty in words and personal fortified tenacity is inspirational to us all. Slim – you are a one-of-kind special woman. Someday, one day, a day forthcoming – I am going to meet you personally on your book tour! You know in your heart & head it’s in making. xoxo

  33. Ahh I love it!! Reminds me of hiking to an isolated monastery on a barely-populated island when I was studying in Greece… this hike will be one I MUST do sometime in my life! Can only imagine what it must have felt like physically and spiritually… even though I was let down that it wasn’t fudge at the end (thought the same thing when I saw the picture). Gorgeous photos and great perspective as always, thanks for sharing! x

  34. I’m speechless….Slim, you did it. And if you didn’t start the climb as a pilgrim, you certainly became one by the time the sun came up. xxx

  35. I have to adventure like this vicariously through you – thank you for such illuminating reporting. Adventure on!

  36. This post wins hands down the best of blogs ever! Congratulations on completing your remarkable journey.

  37. Welcome home Slim!
    What an spiritual adventure.
    If I’m feeling emotional after reading your post, I can only imagine what you must have experienced!
    Thank you for taking the time to share with us.
    Hope your feet are now getting the rest (and pedicure) they deserve.


  38. Of course, my overriding concern, were I to undertake such a monumental task,would be—-(delicately put–overactive bladder). Are there pit stops along the way were one can stop and powder one’s nose?
    Yes—Slim–your blog is different from the tons of flotsam and jetsam out there. I have a friend who is a contributing editor for a major travel magazine and her articles do not touch yours. It’s not just your eye with the camera, but the brevity of your very astute, and more importantly, funny asides and comments. Anyone can travel and be descriptive. Not many can be funny. Time for Slim to become a freelancer, I say.
    By the way–this is the third time I’ve read it, and I have the attention span of a gnat.

  39. I had to come back as I didn’t have time to leave word the other day but I was just too blown away not to respond to this post. Truly, I don’t have anything unique to say–just add my “oohs” and sincere “bravo!”s to the long list. I do totally agree with Dabbsie–and I am AM a professional travel writer. Funny is hard and you just are naturally. There is so an article for the NY Times Travel section in here. Just flesh it out a tiny bit more when you get back and give it a try!

  40. Oh my my! Almost Heaven! Bet you could reach up and feel angel wings! How glorious it sounds and looks. Thank you!

  41. and I thought the Great Wall was a challenge. . . you are my hero! Keep stretching me, Slim. . .I am growing in leaps and bounds from reading your fabulous posts.

  42. Oh my, you took me there….I felt it all….gave me tears and smiles. Thank you for your wonderful posts. I admire you!!!!

  43. Slim I am absolutely transported by this post. Loved the pictures and music was perfect and gave me chills. I felt I was there. You really know how to create an experience. That’s why I adore your blog. This may sound strange, but you can really see the goodness in the faces of the people you photographed. I hate the cold and climbing, but now hope I too can do this one day. I’ll never forget this. Lovely.


  44. Thank you for sharing your pilgrimage! A test of endurance but surely rewarded at the peak! (Dear son lives at 7000 feet in NM so I know that is rough to exert yourself at that altitude if you are not used to it!) You are awesome!
    P.S. The fudge? Did you not see ‘THe Help.’?

    • Thanks Jayne- I haven’t seen the movie of The Help but I read the book. Thanks for reminding me of THAT part!

  45. Thanks everyone for all your lovely comments! I keep reliving the experience, just reading all your responses, and I must admit, I replayed the gorgeous music several times too 🙂

    Here’s to scaling heights to capture dreams xoxo

  46. You are very funny – loved your comment about the heavy coats you had to buy for the trek – but best part was seeing the top through your camera’s lens, and your inspired selection of “My Sweet Lord”! Forwarded it to friend who just last night said she wanted to go to Sri Lanka. thank you

  47. Coming in late to this celebration of your accomplishment – climbing Adams Peak – and the vivid spiritual (and a bit agonizing) impressions through your photos, music selection, and words.
    A DITTO’ed thank you for sharing this adventure with all of us!
    I am “within your age range” and have not made the opportunity to accomplish a trip such as this….I feel there is still time when I see the faces and ages of your fellow pilgrims. (especially the woman in the black and white photo!)
    From light and lively “fluffy” observations, to physically and emotionally demanding treks…S.P. it’s wonderful to know you. 🙂

  48. Slim, Thank You so much for your Precious Blog. I am just an ole woman in Fresno, Ca. But love to see Blogs of Good Photographers, or Travelers. Your’s is trully an Enlightening blog. Everytime I think you can’t outdo your ability to find another ‘Perfect Picture’ there you go again! Such good Subjects/Travels. Can’t wait for your next entry. Keep up the good work, Sincerely grammasam

  49. Pingback: Ten Things I Know on This Birthday « Slim Paley

  50. You have a such a great voice and such a wonderful eye. Always a treat to visit your blog and bask in the beauty you’ve discovered. And the added touch of the song, oh, that lovely song, caught me by surprise. Inspired.

  51. Well, Slim it took awhile, but I never forgot this post….so on our final (?) trip home to NYC from our year in Melbourne, I booked us to Sri Lanka and after a “mistical” stay on a tea plantation I suggested my husband needed to do Sri Pada peak….my excuse for not is that I tore my meniscus slipping on a wet marble floor last month in India……and he just did!! An experience of a life time he says, and I stayed at our little inn at the bottom and painted it from there as the sun rose. Bliss……thanks as always for inspiration! On to more of magical my(i)stical Sri Lanka!

    • Wow! and Yay for your husband!! This makes me so happy Marsha 🙂
      I’m only sorry to hear that you were not able to join him, but painting the sunrise from the bottom doesn’t sound like too bad a deal. I’m truly thrilled that my post inspired you to visit this very special place. Namaste xx

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