The hottest rock in the world
After politely refusing the hostel staff’s very expensive offer to join them on a tour to Sigiriya we decided to go at it alone. We were told the journey would be awful, we would be stood up on a packed bus for four hours and you wont have enough time to climb the rock. All of the above turned out to be false & we had a great little adventure to that big rock up North.
We started the day chatting to a food vendor near the bus station and pointing to his various delicacies, hoping something would taste normal and somewhat breakfast like. After going back for seconds (Vegetable roti’s & spicy egg rolls are definitely the way forward even at 7am ) and enjoying a strong Sri Lankan Coffee we headed to the bus station just around the corner.
Just catch the big red bus… the food vendor said, there were about 15 red buses all lined up ready to go. We both looked at each other and laughed, we were determined to make sure this day worked out, one as it was our first proper day exploring and secondly to prove a certain tour master wrong! Suddenly about 10 Sri Lankan men came to our rescue, they must have sensed the confusion on our little lost faces. Sigiriya only had to be said once and we were frog marched to an empty bay, 7.30am sharp they all barked at us and just like that the bus arrived at 7.25 am and left at 7.30am on the dot. The bus was only ¼ full meaning we got the window seat for the whole ride. We paid the driver 130 Rupees and sat back for the 2 and a half hour journey slowly watching the city turn into backcountry and the sun rise higher.
After passing through Dambulla, we were dropped at the entrance to Sigiriya, or what we thought was the entrance. The bus drops you at the main road, right next to the rock. You can see it, great, straight past that guard then… Nope! Get walking round to the actual entrance. I mean the walk is nice and you follow the moat and maybe even get to see the monkeys swinging around in the tree’s like we did but, oh my it was hot! Sri Lanka is so hot. I have never ever experienced heat like it. Even when the Sun wasn’t out fully I was sporting that fresh out of the shower look.
It was nearing midday that meant we were just about to climb a huge rock with no shade, accompanied by every school group in Sri Lanka during the hottest part of the day. We didn’t really have a choice; we bought our tickets and joined the school children heading for the start. It’s not that the climb is hard, because it’s not and if it wasn’t for the mass of kids we would have reached the top in half the time. The heat was slowing us down. We were downing all our water & hiding under tiny bits of shade while we got our breath back. When we reached the top, eventually. In true dramatic Sophie style I nearly passed out, the heat was far too much for me and I needed to sit even though sitting down on the rock felt like sitting on a BBQ I again had no choice.
Once I had regained my strength and stopped putting on a show for all the tourists we walked around the fortress. The fortress complex is made up of gardens, ponds and a ruined palace on the top of the rock. It was designed to resemble a huge lion but all that remains are its paws at the base of the rock. Sigiriya originates from the word Sihagri which translates to Lion rock. The palace was built to protect King Kasyapa and named the new capital, he built the palace so he could view the land below and watch for approaching armies. He even built a swimming pool up there and a wall of mirrors and paintings dating back to 495 CE are still in existence on the rock.
The view is incredible. You can see for miles and miles and the land is so luscious and green. After spending as much time as humanly possible without turning into melting puddles on the top we descended hoping for some air con in the museum. The walkway fixed to the side of the rock is not for the faint hearted or the woman in front of me for that matter who clung to the railing. I had to squeeze my way round or face still being stuck up there now.
We wandered around the grounds, followed a lizard for a while and then found the museum. Wanting to learn more about the rock and hoping we would find somewhere cool we spent an hour reading about the archeology of the rock. Fascinating as it all was we had to take it in turns to read out the plaques as the other stood in front of the lone standing air fans dotted around the room.
We started the walk back to the bus stop, or at least where we hoped the bus stop would be. Turns out we made it just in time for the bus to Dambulla only 50 Rupees for this ride, we then changed buses for a direct 100 Rupee ride back to Kandy. As soon as we got on it was busy and we knew this would be our fate the whole journey back however a kind local man offered me his seat and Robbie stood up pretty much the whole way – he claimed it was cooler stood up and he was enjoying the view and the breeze, rather you than me kid!
Instead of heading straight back to the hostel, we had a walk around the lake and went to find food. Above a bakery down one of the main streets we found The Spice room. A locals hang out, quick, delicious, mystery food awaited us. As there was no signs or menu, it was pure guesswork. We pointed at around 4 dishes and hoped for the best. What we ate was spicy, tasty and bloody delicious all rolled into one for around $2.50 between us, Bargin!
Sirigya was such a great little adventure even if I did loose half my body weight in sweat. The locals refer to Sirigiya as the 8th wonder of the world. I’m happy we got to take home memories from an important place in the Sri Lankan history books.