Wednesday 20 March 2013 – Sigiriya.
As I had arranged to see the rock in the afternoon I did not rush around too much in the morning, barely moving at all to be perfectly honest. I had organised with the guest house to join the other guests for a 7:30 breakfast which was as huge as I expected. Though this was the first breakfast where dhal and roti were on the menu, along with a small omelette and toast. I did the Ugandan thing and rolled my omelette up in a piece of roti for a role eggs. Very nice. It was a great breakfast, even the coffee wasn’t too bad.
I sat around chatting to an America/German couple – there are a lot of German tourists in Sri Lanka, more than any other nationality from my experience so far. We talked for a couple of hours, they have amazing jobs in video journalism and documentaries based out of Bangkok and I was deeply envious of their travel and journalistic opportunities. Just before ten, my young German friend Benne turned up at the guest house to stay the night and we agreed to do the rock together around 3:00. This left the rest of the day for doing not much which was very much alright by me. I got to finish yesterdays blog post, though was unable to post it as the internet sucked. I also managed to get another good load of washing done, staying two nights in each place means I have been able to really keep on top of laundry which means my lack of clothes is not too much of a problem…
So that was two thirds of the day done ! At 3:00 Benne and I walked from the guest house to Sigiriya Rock. The walk to the park was about a kilometre and it was very hot, Bennes thermometer said it was 37.1 degrees. There is a tourist elephant walk in Sigiriya, not something I particularly agree with, but I did enjoy watching this elephant enjoying a soak in the river. When I walked past in the evening people were washing their clothes in the same spot, hmmmm.
From the road there is a further km of walking around the side of the palace moat, I loved this sign warning against bathing, the sign in blue behind advises there are crocodiles….
The ticket for the site is 30USD which is really expensive when you consider 30USD gets you unlimited three days across all the many Angkor sites in Cambodia. This is one day access only and a bit steep in my book.
Out first visit was the museum, semi-interesting, a vast building with a large number of staff that were all sitting around doing nothing, except one got up to point to the no photos sign. We were sort of laughing at the place by the end of it. Sad really – one should not laugh at museums… But they could have housed the collection in something far smaller.
Sigiriya Rock is riddled with caves and overhanging shelters so has long been a feature in Sri Lankan history, possibly back to pre-historic times. Though it is ‘officially’ dated as a home to monks as early as the third century BC. Though the main attraction for tourists and local pilgrims alike is the ruins of the tenth century palaces/monastaries as well as the cave paintings. Much doubt still lingers about the exact purposes of the site either religious or royal !
We were not in a major rush to go through as it was quite warm so we took our time wandering through the various ancient gardens below leading up to the rock – which turned out to be a major mistake !
We also watched a couple of girls doing silly jumps in front of the rock for the camera, so had to do the same.
I took a side trip off the main path to look at some of the ancient and more unloved cave paintings, possibly dating back to the fifth century – there is the top half of a female figure.
While I was doing this the monk march I ran into yesterday started passing us by and there ended my zen like experience of the rock. I got very frustrated with such a huge amount of people, at least five hundred, slowly marching through the single file path ways. It took ages for them to pass. Apparently it is an annual month long march for world peace through Sri Lanka by Buddhists from a variety of nationalities. All it did was piss me off, I was not very peaceful…
Benne waiting paitently…..
I was not so patient – I know, many of you are shocked as I am always so tolerant ! So I wandered around a bit.
There are two ways up and down to the base of the final section of the climb, though I wanted to see the rock paintings so had to go where the monks were, along a narrow path and up and then down a spiral staircase.
Once the monks had finally passed through the narrow section Benne and I went and climbed the spiral staircase for a look at the wonderfully preserved cave paintings. The latest theory is the images are of Tara a bodhisattva (enlightening being) and an important figure in tantric Buddhism – surprisingly!
From the frescoes cave we walked up to the start of the climb to the top of the rock. The entrance to the final staircase was supposedly through the mouth of a lion though all that remains now are its feet on either side of the staircase. I was really keen to see the feet, but when we arrived there were still too many monks around. So we bashed our way up a narrow metal staircase to the top of the rock.
The views were spectacular from the top and there were a large number of foundations from the buildings that were built here fifteen hundred to one thousand years ago. I would loved to have spent some tome here relaxing, enjoying the views and some peace. However the place was packed with monks, monks and more f*cking monks. One can be cynical about monks when they are using their iPhones to take photos of each other doing the Leonardo De Caprio pose from the Titanic movie on top of the rock.
After a quick “munchee munchee” – which seems to be Benne’s favourite thing – eating, I spotted the monks looking like they were about to leave so we hot footed it over to the exit and we managed to get there quite early in the stream. I got to the bottom and managed to get a quick snap of the lions feet, which I somehow managed to get half out of focus, but they quite cool.
You can see from this photo why I was keen to get down before them, it could have been a long wait otherwise!
I started down the main path to the exit but Benne stayed to take a couple of pictures and we ended up being separated from then on. I got to see the cobra head cave, which was sadly not that interesting.
I stopped and waited for Benne for a while, and tried to get a couple of selfies. Though my camera seemed to be attracting way too much attention from the local strays to be able to get a good one. So I gave up and walked back to the guest house.
I decided to take a bike and ride the ‘1.25kms’ to the beer bar to buy a couple of cans of lager to go with dinner. This turned out to be close to 2km and by the time I had gotten beer it was a pretty dark ride back up a dodgy unlit highway with no lights on the bike. I rode fast – and won’t do it again either. The next day as Benne and I were heading out of town we passed a funeral of someone killed riding a bike on that road…
The beers were welcome though, nice and cold and I was dripping by the time I got back to the guest house, in time for a shower and a brief lie down before dinner. Benne and I were joined by two young Lithuanian brothers who were travelling together, it was an interesting night – I have never met Lithuanians before.