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Trekking Sigiriya

We had it all coordinated. Claire and I would be arriving in Colombo in the morning, her from Dublin via London and I from Paris via Dubai, with less than 1 hour difference between our arrivals. We would then meet our driver and began our 7-day roadtrip around Sri Lanka before arriving back in Colombo for our friends’ wedding.

However, Fate had it for both of us to be delayed due to technical difficulties. Things got slightly complicated here. Her delay was in London, mine outright in Paris. Having no idea how long each our delays could be, not to mention if I’d be able to catch my original connection flight, our best solution then was to contact each other after landing (while praying that our phones actually worked on roaming!). Whoever got there first would wait for the other – the wait could have been up to 3-4 hours. In the mean time, we had to wake Eve and Pras up in the middle of the night so they could contact and inform the driver in the morning (while we were airborne) that we were not a pair of no-shows, merely late.

Our flights still came in with about an hour difference, although in reverse order. Nonetheless, we had lost approximately 5 hours of time – that was half a day wasted. After withdrawing some money from the ATM (nope, we didn’t have any local currency with us) we bought ourselves a local mobile SIM card to use and tracked down our driver to truly kickstart our tour.

Our first base would be Dambulla, some 130km away from Colombo. While that distance didn’t seem all that far, it still took us about 3.5 hours to get there! By then (about 5.30pm) it has also started to get dark. There was nothing else we could do. We checked in to a hotel, grabbed some dinner at the hotel’s restaurant after a failed exploration walk along the main road near the hotel to find something appetising, and called it a night.

An early start the next morning was on the card. After breakfast, we were on the road for Sigiriya aka the Lion’s Rock, site of an ancient palace and rock fortress. It’s essentially a smaller version of Ayer’s Rock. I won’t bore you with the historical details of this site (here’s the Wiki) but back then, we needed some help. We were introduced to a guide (it’s terrible but I can’t recall his name now) who informed us that there were a couple of thousand steps to climb to get to the top of the rock, but first, we’d need tickets.

As we were not visiting the other two main ancient sites to really benefit from the Cultural Triangle pass, we paid for individual site entry fee. It was a whooping US$25 per person. No such thing as a couple of thousand rupees entry fee for us. This would not be an unique experience since we would encounter this practice one place after another. While we understood the premise of charging foreign visitors a price they could afford (I mean, if you’re going to fly all the way to Sri Lanka, then you are relatively well-off in comparison to most locals), we felt the prices could be made somewhat more reasonable. Afterall, plenty of (young) travellers nowadays would still have to scrimp and save to get there.

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We were led across the moat that surrounded the garden complex at the foot of the rock. First, we would encounter a series of three gardens – the water gardens, which the guide claimed to still function to this day and natural fountains that jet water into the air during the rainy season when water is more abundant; the boulder gardens, which boast a number of naturally carved formation including two entrances beneath the symbolic gesture of welcome; and the terrace gardens, which was fortified with bricks with their positions of placement carved into the hill.

Up we walked, one step at a time. Guide books have warned visitors with vertigo to be cautious about taking on Sigiriya, but for us, the view unfolded as we went higher was just magnificent. With a stream of visitors all moving in the same direction, at times, there wasn’t much room to allow us to pause and took things in at leisure without fear of annoying someone behind us who was eager to forge ahead. We continued till about halfway up, before being guided to see the frescoes painted onto rock surfaces and were told anecdotes of the lady with an extra arm, with a gratuitous nipple, of different race representation, and even of their own Mona Lisa gaze. Descending from the site of the frescoes, we were then introduced to the mirror wall which sadly, no longer shiny enough to reflect the souls passing through in front of it.

We took a little pause at the site of the Lion’s paws, which in the past would have a sculpted lion’s head over it, mouth wide open to give way to the path for visitors to enter into what would be the grandeur of the King’s rock-top palace. With the sun beating down on us at that point, some huffing and puffing was inevitable. Luckily a few photo stops here and then helped to buy some breathing time before marching on. It must have been hell in the past for the servants who had to carry their overlord up these steps. Supposedly, the two guys at the back of the palanquin would need to be much taller than the two in front, still strong and muscular of course, because the King would not have been pleased to be seated in tilting position. I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like coming down. Tilting downward could risk forward projection if one of the servants accidentally lost his footing, although I doubt he would lived long after that to tell of his tale in any event.

The view from the top of the rock was amazing. Well worth the walk up, and we could now see why the King loved it here as his palatial home during the rainy season (he moved to his other palaces at the garden levels in the dry season). View of the land miles away can be seen (and therefore oncoming attacks could also be observed, making it a good defense palace too), and the gardens at the lower levels can rightly be appreciated too from this vantage point. We could have lingered here a while more, except we have a schedule to push on.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t think the trek was particularly difficult and I’m far from the fittest person around. It took us a couple of hours to visit Sigiriya, including the time to queue for tickets, trekked up and back down, listening to a sales pitch (we shouldn’t have stopped really) and settled our “tips” with the guide.

Ps: would you rather I post the pictures in between the text, or put through a pictobrowser like this entry? Let me know!


All posts in this series:
Sri Lanka: Ceylonese Tales
Sri Lanka: Trekking Sigiriya | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: Cave temples of Dambulla | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: Cultural evening in Kandy | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: We sort of saw Nuwara Eliya… | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: Morning hike at Horton Plains | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: A room with a view in Ella | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: Tissa, Yala and safari | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: The southern coast | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: The old fort of Galle | Flickr Photoset
Sri Lanka: Roadtrip ended in Colombo | Flickr Photoset

Category: Asia, Sri Lanka, Travel

Tagged: , , ,

6 scribbles & notes

  1. m3d says:

    wow…its really quite lucky that u and claire can meetup at sri lanka airport without much ‘hassle’

    nice first stop but yeah…pricey…so even if an asian go…will still end up being charged USD25

    my vote goes for photos in between text hehehe ;)

    • Lil says:

      well, if you can’t speak the language or look local, you’re on the foreigner’s price, asian or not. and check out the next post – it’s with photos in between. better? ;)

  2. Chloé says:

    the “view from the top” is absolutely gorgeous!

    tricky question re: pics. will keep you posted ;)

    • Lil says:

      the actual view was even better – that photo didn’t do it justice ;)

      and do compare with the other post re pics positioning and let me know :)

  3. sila says:

    gorgeous pics! love the lion’s paws, the mirror wall (how blue is that sky?) and the cobra photos. :)

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