TRAVEL DIARIES . LONG HAUL |
One of the most memorable moments of my travel was climbing Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress, and discovering an incredible 360-degree view.
The lion rock
Sigiriya is one of the most valuable historical monuments of Sri Lanka and is referred by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World. This ancient palace and fortress complex has significant archaeological importance and attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is probably the most visited tourist destination of Sri Lanka.
The fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains.
It was designed in the form of a huge stone lion, whose feet have survived up to today but the upper parts of the body were destroyed.
Sigiriya originates from the word Sihagri which means Lion Rock.
As you make your way through the gardens, you soon start to get a proper glimpse of Sigiriya…
It is magnificent and rather impressive to see from afar.
The Water Gardens
The gardens of Sigiriya are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world.
They are located in the western part of the rock and are with a complex hydraulic system, which consists of canals, lakes, bridges, fountains, as well as surface and underground water pumps.
In the rainy season, all channels are filled with water, which begins to circulate through the whole area of Sigiriya.
What you need to know
The hike up is not quite as scary as it seems from afar and there is a halfway point for you to catch your breath
The last part of the walk uphill actually has stairs so it’s fairly easy though if you suffer from vertigo, don’t look down.
It takes a little over 1 hour to get to the top. More if there are lots of tourists around.
There are over 1,200 steps to the top.
If you feel out of breath or tired, stop for a while to catch your breath.
What do you need to take with you?
Comfortable shoes but not flip-flops
A bottle of water or two – trust me, you’ll need it in that heat.
Have a good breakfast or lunch before your climb as you'll be burning calories and you cannot do that climb if you're hungry
Wet wipes and tissues – you’re gonna sweat and it ain’t gonna be pretty!
Make sure you’re wearing light clothes
Sunscreen – there is no shade at the top and nowhere to hide from the sun.
The start is fairly easy…
After a while though, my lack of exercise started to show and stopped for a little breather.
You can definitely feel some effect in your calves and thighs as you climb
At some stage, when you look down, you start to get a sense of how high you’ve climbed…and how much more is still left.
What you'll see on your way up
Some walls of Sigiriya was almost entirely covered by frescoes and eighteen have survived to this day. The frescoes are depicting nude females and are considered to be either the portraits of Kasyapa’s wives and concubines or priestess performing religious rituals.
Despite the unknown identity of the females depicted in the frescoes, these unique ancient paintings are celebrating female beauty and have incredible historical significance.
Sigiriya Mirror Wall
One of the most striking features of Sigiriya is its Mirror wall. In the old days it was polished so thoroughly that the king could see his reflection in it. The Mirror wall is painted with inscriptions and poems written by the visitors of Sigiriya. The most ancient inscriptions are dated from the 8th century.
Halfway up, there is some sort of plateau where you can catch your breath. This is a popular photo hot spot and there are some monkeys running around without a care in the world.
After a few minutes of rest, back to the climb for the final leg.
At the top
When you reach the top – along with all the ecstatic climbers I felt drawn to raise my arms up and celebrate the achievement, very happy but also in shock at how unfit and sweaty we all are.
The view up there is absolutely incredible and worth all the sweat.
I am taking a minute to let is soak in...
Sri Lanka looks quite as amazing from up here and you soon start to realise why King Kasyapa decided to build his palace high up here.
The very fact that a palace was built high up here is so impressive. An entire village was built high up on a hill and so everything they needed to survive (including their fellow villagers) was all around them.
It’s nothing short of incredible.
I had seen lots of photos of the rock and even aerial photos before my trip but I am still hugely impressed by seeing the site in person –it was so much more than I’d expected.
Eventually, I had to start to making my way down…
Even though it went easier than the climb, legs started to turn jelly at some point and got a little scared when I tripped and slipped a couple of steps. Everyone on the stairs got a little scared too, and I heard a couple of ooooooohhhh and aaaaaaahhhhh when I managed to catch myself back.
At the bottom, Malinda my driver-guide was waiting for me with a bottle of water and his usual big smile.
For a moment I looked back at the rock, almost in disbelief that I'd just climbed this amazing place
On that same day around lunch time, I had the amazing opportunity to be emerged in the nature and culture of the traditional Sri Lanka and explore the rural village of Hiriwadunna.
The tour began with a bullock cart ride through the village to a manmade reservoir.
After a short boat ride, we arrived in a rural vegetable plantations and traditional village house, where I enjoyed an authentic Sri Lankan lunch.
This small secluded village had no electricity and no running water.
I have been amazed to see how the village women prepared a traditional meal with only handpicked vegetable from the plot. Preparing coconut milk straight from the coconut freshly picked from the tree, making rice from scratch by separating the rice seeds from the husks and straw.
They suggested me to help out and I proudly accepted. It made them laugh seeing a white city girl like me having a try at the Srilankan traditional food preparation and I happily shared their excitement :-)
I think they loved me for that!
These are of course not the most flattering pictures of me but who cares really... It was fun.
That meal made with all the fresh ingredients picked straight from the garden was absolutely phenomenal and I a have also learned to eat the traditional way ....with my hands (which was quite an experience.
The food in Sri Lanka is more diverse than any other Asian cuisine. With influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, and English, Sri Lankan food is unlike anything you’ve ever had before.
Oh! and they also showed me how to make a roof out of coconut leaves.
I have ended that amazing and unforgettable experience with a TukTuk ride back to civilisation.
Next: Safari in the Kaudulla national park
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR