As I was told that my accommodation, Nice Place (how ironic), is just 7km away and we would be there in 20 minutes. Well that was the longest 20 minutes drive ever (it took almost twice as long). In Colombo, if it wasn’t for the traffic you’ll be there in no time but out here, I later discovered, there are many speed ‘cameras’ (you do see traffic police ever so often) hence the careful driving. To top it off my tuk tuk driver isn’t a driver at all, he’s actually a tailor and he was doing this as a favour to his cousin, Kalum (Rusty’s main contact in this part of the country).
Checked in, quick change and out I go again to climb Sigiriya. The place where I’m staying at is between Habarana and Dambulla, and it’s close to Sigiriya, ‘Lion Rock’. The grounds of Sigiriya is spectacular, one will be awestruck by the beauty of its vast gardens. The landscaping is just so lush it left me gapping in wonder to how did they manage to cultivate it back in the day. You could spend a whole day walking past the gardens and enjoying its landscape and wild life, and this at no cost at all. The best would be to get a bicycle and cycle around the grounds.
Having a guide was nice as I got a history lesson more than what the guidebook gave me. History has it that King Kashyapa (477 – 495 AD), built this complex as he wanted to seize the power from the rightful heir to the throne, Moggallana, who is the Queen’s son. Kashyapa may be the first-born but not to the Queen, he was the first born to one of the concubines, hence he has no right to the throne. Due to the that fact, Kashyapa murdered his father and moved the capital from Anuradhapura to this place, which is more secure from attacks which he foresee coming from his brother. In 495 AD, the King Kashyapa slits his throat and the palace was giving to the monks, which didn’t last for long as the monks didn’t approve of the kings and the many frescos of his concubines all over the place. Hence the palace was abandoned.
The summer palace is beautiful, as its on ground level where it’s adorned by bathing pools and water features. The irrigation system is a clever engineering and still works till today. The water runs from the catchment area into the bathing pools, which then run out to the inner motes and outer motes when it fills up. Water never over flows but rather fills up each chamber in sections.
As we carried on, my guide further explains that on rainy days that water gushes from the top and due to the pressure in which it travels in, the king built little pressure release chambers which would create like fountains. The water rushed out and then falls back into the basin and out again from the drain at the end. This forms a fountain as the water shoots up from the pressure release ducks.
Pretty cool stuff!
The water would rush out from the holes in the foreground which creates a fountain. The water then falls back and gets into the bathing pools from the drain pipe further down.
Half way through the walk, you’ll come by what remains of the frescos of the king’s concubines. When the monks took over the scrapped away much of the frescos and then nature did the rest. Apparently each of the concubines had their pictures painted all over the rock. So there were 500 paintings of woman! And each one was distinctive and different.
After the gallery, I continued walking to the main entrance of the winter palace. The main entrance is said to have a huge lion with its jaws open welcoming people in. You would have to walk through the mouth to get to the top of the rock where the palace is situated. All that is left is just it’s paws… But before, a break is much needed under a shade.
Finally, top of the rock and my legs were actually doing pretty good! The view from the top is amazing and the breeze...ahh so welcoming. You can see beautiful lush green forest all around and the mountains. Sigiriya is in the middle of the triangle of the main cities, Anuradhapura, Polonaruwa and Kandy. Now my guide was in a rush to get me down but I insisted of seeing the whole place and sitting down to enjoy the view and take everything in. After all, I’m not the ordinary tourist who is rushing from one end to the other and I paid a heck of a lot for a painful walk up. I’m getting my moneys worth!
We exited through the snake entrance and my tuk tuk driver whisked me off to the next temple Dambulla cave temple!
Never have I ever been so glad to see more steps! NOT!! More steps… why, WHY??
Up I went regardless. The mentality is, "since I am here, just do it! Plus I paid for this."
So much for my legs doing well, after this climb, I’m sure I won’t have my legs anymore. At least it didn’t have as many steps as Sigiriya but doings these two in one day is asking for a bit much, and not taking a break was silly!
As soon as you get to the top, you’ve got to remove your shoes, as it’s a scared place that still in use hence for Rs.25, you have someone to safe keep your shoes from monkeys.
The four caves are covered from wall to ceiling with paintings and stories of Buddha. The lighting is a bit poor and some of the frescos needs up keeping. As you can tell, I don’t have much to write about it as there isn’t much to write about.
Tomorrow’s agenda, more temples and NO more steps! Not for the next few days at least.
Next stop: Polonnaruwa.