Sigiriya rock

A big rock
Kimbissa, Sri Lanka


An early morning.

Off on a tuk tuk (100Rp – 50p) for only about 5 minutes up to the north of Dambulla town in order to catch the bus to Sigiriya.

There was a bus already there and waiting. We had a couple of minutes to buy a few curry filled pastries and sweet pastries from the bakery next door!

Then we were off at 7.15am. The bus soon filled up with school children enroute. We arrived after half an hour, costing 40Rp (20p!) each.

The bus had dropped us at the entrance to the famous Sigiriya Rock. This odd shaped rock sticks out of the surrounding-flat ground and is really impressive looking.

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The rock is the hardened magma plug of an extinct volcano, which has since eroded away. It is thought that during the reign of King Kassapa (AD 477–495), he had built a garden and palace on the summit of the rock. All that remains today is the foundations.

We walked around the moat, towards the entrance, with tourist busses whizzing by. We had tried to be early to beat the crowds. It’s was still before 8am. The entrance price here is ridiculous. $30. That may not sound like a huge amount of money while you are sat at home (£20). But here, when a bus ride costs 20p and breakfast equally cost 20p, it’s a lot of money.

The French gang infront of us kicked up a right fuss about the price – and added they were annoyed that after paying so much money they weren’t even presented with a map (they had a guide book in their hands…). Then proceeded to shout that it’s the most expensive site they had visited in Asia. (Well, it’s not really. There are more expensive sights – Angkor Wat is more expensive for a start…but granted that ticket is valid for 3 days). It was rather funny.

The entrance to the rock is a long sandy path, leading past old gardens, rocky outcrops and overhangs and landscaping. All very pretty. And soon the steps started. 400m to the top. c. 1,200 steps.

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Some slippery marble, some slippery concrete, others slippery metal. Surprisingly I didn’t fall over! The steps were initially heading right up into the rock face. Then we were faced with a spiral staircase.

With the views out across the horizon. Not good for a fear of heights. But at the top – some very old frescos painted onto the side of the rock. These images are famous across Sri Lanka – I recognised them from all the touristy adverts and framed pictures in the hotels! They were impressive – still very colourful despite being nearly 1,500 years old.

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Back down the spiral staircase and along the mirror wall. Apparently along here there is some very very old graffiti (of thousands of years old!) unfortunately I couldn’t spot it. All I could see was the pretty strata of the rock.

Up a bit more and we were greeted with the lion’s gate. All that is left now are the large claws at the foot of a staircase leading upwards. There is thought to have once been a whole lion here.

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Luckily it was actually really quiet, so we managed to get some nice photos before heading up the precarious looking steel steps hanging onto the rock face. But once at the top, the views were lovely. 360 degrees of the luscious green surroundings.

We thought we could spot the caves in Dambulla too. Across the top are many levels of foundations – thought to have been the palace. There was a water pool as well. Not a swimming pool, but for water storage. Again, it was fairly quiet which was great. Had a wander around the levels before the scary walk back down. Now, it was getting busy. Streams and streams of people. Lucky we missed this!!

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We had the staircases to ourselves heading up. Now you can’t see the stairs for all the people! We headed back a slightly different way. Past a family of macaques. And past huge boulders – again thought to have been the building foundations. Through a very jungle-y area, past an old temple and clambered over more rocks. We saw the cobra hood cave – well, it’s a rock almost the shape of a cobra…. And of course an obligatory row of souvenir stalls on the way out. I loved the rock!

We headed back to the road to wait for the bus. Didn’t have long to wait before one rolled by.

Slowly.

And we carried on going very slow for a while. So it took us about 50 Minutes return to Dambulla. But this time were charged 35rp for the bus – 16p! Back in Dambulla we found a restaurant for some lunch and had some fried rice.

The portions here are just huge, so we have mostly just been ordering a single portion and sharing. You get a whole mound of rice for £1.50.

A short tuk tuk ride (100rp again!) back to the guesthouse to collect our bags and we sat on the side of the main road waiting for the bus to Kandy. After 10 minutes of waiting. A guy came up to us explaining that the bus will be too full for us to get on with our bags and we wouldn’t get a seat. He suggested heading up the road a bit, back to the bus station (where we had just come from 10minutes earlier) where people are likely to have just gotten off the bus. We knew he had a point – we had seen the busses go by yesterday – with people hanging out of the doors. And of course he was a tuk tuk driver.

But for 100rp (50p) we thought it was probably worth a go. So at the bus station, we had barely arrived when we were being hurried onto a bus. With 2 remaining seats. What a bit of luck.

As we headed back the 2 minute drive (!) to where we had been earlier, the bus did fill up considerably. So in the end, a good decision.

The drive felt like forever. It was very uncomfy. The bus was packed. The narrow 5-seats-across meant the seats were small and I wasn’t left a lot of space. It took 2.5 hours of uncomfiness to reach Kandy. But at least I did have a seat!!

We arrived at 3pm. Kandy is a much bigger town. Here tuk tuk drivers tried massively overcharging again. Annoying. So after walking the line of stationary tuk tuks, we finally found one that was willing to barter to something near sensible. i.e. 200rps (£1).

The guesthouse is right next to the lake. And lovely. Even given free tea, sandwiches and bananas when we arrived. Now nice. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the lovely roof terrace and doing not a lot after the tiring climb this morning! In the evening, we went for a walk out around the lake. Pretty at night. Could hear the puja (evening prayers) at the Buddhist temple of the tooth. We had dinner from some street stalls. 3 things I have really wanted to try – kotthu (chopped up roti mixed with vegetables and spices) and hoppers (a thin pancake batter cooked in a bowl shaped special pan, with an egg cooked into the middle). And it was so good!! 75p each. Lovely and cheap!

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