So we’ve reached a dozen days of excessive eating and drinking. Most days, there were at least 2 curries and latterly, I’ve slipped in High Tea between lunch and dinner (sandwiches, pastries, cakes, scones, jam, cream) as well. As a result, I’m feeling like I’m wearing a sort of summer-weight wetsuit with a layer of that Amazon air-pocket stuff underneath.
When the Americans at dinner announce they’re getting up early to climb Adam’s Peak, our interest is piqued (peaked, poked and pricked too). Nice easy mountain before lunch, we think, and we’ll create a scone-deficit big enough to handle today’s cake-fest.
Adam’s Peak is a half-hour’s drive away and is 5831 steps up to a temple housing Buddha’s footprint (Sri Pada in Singhalese) and then it’s 5831 steps back down to whatever cream tea you’re lucky enough to have waiting for you. Bish, bosh and – indeed – bash. So off we go, me, Adam and the girls, giving the Americans (Laine and Laine’s son who’s name escapes me but it’s something functionally weirdly American like ‘Package’ or ‘Rent’) a lift in the Hiace. Laine and Laine’s son (I’m just going to go ahead and call him Tank) have both done Iron Men challenges and exude health. I hate them already* but then they drop the T-Bomb: they ‘are Trump supporters’. Note the present tense. Note the verb ‘support’. I could just about cope with the past tense and the verb ‘vote’ but not this. NOT THIS. I fix on the road ahead and let Adam loose on the circumscriptive questions.
‘Fiscal responsibility and tax reform, you say? But do you actually think he’ll be able to achieve those things, given the way things are panning out in Washington right now?’
Whereas I would’ve gone straight in with:
‘How does it feel to have gone from the Promised Land to a global laughing stock in 6 months?’
As a result the ride to Adam’s Peak was perfectly pleasant. We get there and the Americans say they’re going to run up, so they set off at a light jog. We then spot them up ahead, very much walking, indicating not so much that they’d run out of steam very early on, but that they wanted to put a healthy distance between the British bird with her own ecosystem of boiling Trump rage, and themselves.
Then we began to climb. It was going really well. We get to a kind of way station, where a jocular, wiry looking guy wearing a badly stitched outfit about 8 sizes too big for him saying ‘Police’ on the back was sort of sitting on a wall and leering at us and we asked him how far. ‘Two hours!’ he said with glee. We thought we’d done at least two thirds of it. The problem was, it was so foggy/cloudy that we couldn’t see up or down or round about, only the steps in front of us and behind us.
Alice is seriously flagging by the time we get near the top. The only reason we know it’s nearly the top is that they put a handrail in because most of the 20-odd thousand pilgrims that climb Adam’s Peak each year are probably close to cardiac arrest by this point. They’re usually old and infirm (hence why they’re doing it – to get the Big B’s blessing to get better already) or they’re helping somebody climb who’s old or infirm (our driver Vijay and a mate literally carried an old lame woman up once – incredible).
Jims has had a second wind and is crazy-legs craning it up with me in hot pursuit. Turns out I like climbing, a lot. It’s one of those weirdly satisfying things – the monotony, the constant ascension, the ever-nearer climax…. And I’m spent. When we get to the top, the temple with the footprint in it is chained up – it’s low season, so not enough pilgrims to warrant a full staff – but we are undeterred. We tie the white cotton, that I was given at the bottom, to the gate and bestow it with our wishes/prayers/thoughts. Then we start the descent.
Be Silence, it said. Believe me mate I haven’t got the energy to chat. The way down is both easier and harder. You’re with gravity but your knees are getting hammered. The steps also feel waaaay deeper. Some of them feel like stepping off a table each time. I’m seriously impressed that the girls managed it. WONDER WOMEN.
I forgot to mention that we passed the Americans as they were on the way back down, but – NOT THAT FAR FROM THE SUMMIT. Iron Man? Pah. I’ll concede they could’ve been constructed from something approaching Stainless Steel. Tank in particular looked like he had quite a bit left in the … tank. But he’s a teenage boy so whevs.
My girls rang the big Buddhist bell at the bottom and the echo rang out across the now sunny jungle. I swear it sounded like the voice of god himself, saying WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. Do you hear that, Trump supporters?
All in all it took us 2 hrs 30 mins to summit and 1 hr 30 mins to get back down. We fall upon High Tea like a sinner takes Communion and me and Adam suck down a bottle of chilled Rosé as though it’s Barley Water. Sometimes I think I’m stuck in an endless cycle of detox and retox. And it’s bloody great.
*I didn’t actually hate them.