Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

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Looking towards Sigiriya Rock. Photo credit: Alice Ride

I shuffled and squirmed from the heat rising off the massive boulder beneath me. Pouring water down the back of my neck gave but a moment’s respite for my overheated body, the temperature was dropping rapidly though, as the crimson sun dipped towards the horizon behind glowing clouds.

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S-Rock

We’d just twisted our way to the top of Pidurangala Rock, sister to the more famous Sigiriya Rock, which sits about a kilometer or two to the south. The climb itself wasn’t too difficult (for fairly fit people), starting on a well-marked trail that begins behind the Pidurangala temple. The first section climbs sets of irregular stairs quite steeply until we found ourselves hugging the side of the huge rock.

After the acute, sweaty rise the steps thin out and the trail eventually turns into a gentle incline. As the path winds around towards the eastern side a view opens up of expansive forests and lumpy hillsides, which are blanketed in a blue eucalyptus hue.

Another few steps around the corner and we found ourselves sharing the outlook with a 12.5 meter reclining Buddha made of bricks – apparently the largest of it’s type in the world at one point.

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Reclining Brick Buddha

Past the Buddha we navigated pools of green, stagnant water towards a small canyon leading us upward with giant arrows painted onto boulders. This next section required a bit of skill, so I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who’s not able to clamber, climb and duck their way over hot rocks and between trees.

 

Photo edit: Alice Ride

After carefully negotiating our way to the top we were greeted with a direct view of Sigiriya Rock from a large flat shelf backed by a boulder the size of a house, balanced precariously like a trap ready to be released a-la Indiana Jones.

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Another slippery scamper over a couple large cracks and we found ourselves on the summit of P-Rock. The humongous, fairly flat, rock surface was at least two or three football pitches big and hosted only about twenty other visitors. This is one of the reasons we chose to take on P-Rock instead of S-Rock, we’d heard that the latter can be packed with people at sunset, which we weren’t that keen on sharing.

The amount of people wasn’t the only factor that steered us towards P-Rock; other reasons are as follows:

  •  The entrance fee is only 300LKR, compared to 3500LKR
  • S-Rock is home to a number of hornet colonies, which are knows to swarm and attack visitors. There was an attack the day we were there and tourists had to escape to safety wearing nets
  • The climb up P-Rock requires some skill, which makes it fun; S-Rock is mostly up metal staircases, which makes it more accessible for less mobile visitors, but also sterilizes the experience for others

 Other things to note about Sigiriya:

There are numerous “elephant safaris” that keep elephants in horrible conditions, we saw one that had been cloaked in reggae flags and draped in thick chains to resemble dreadlocks. Please avoid these disgusting “attractions” and do not take pictures of the elephants, as this will encourage the owners.

Sigiriya town itself doesn’t have heaps to offer. There are a few rotty joints along the main street, avoid the chicken.

There is a Museum at the base of S-Rock that’s worth a look, it displays a good amount of ancient artifacts and explains how the rocks were formed along with an account of settlement and worship over the years. Entrance 350LKR.

 Where to stay:

We stayed at Back of Beyond Pidurangala , which is less than a ten-minute walk from the base of P-Rock. It’s a lovely little eco-lodge nestled into the shadow of the rock surrounded by lush jungle, which is home to birds, monkeys and insects. The concrete bungalows are beautifully equipped and cool, with beautiful al fresco bathrooms which are home to green and yellow frogs (check the toilet before going!). Dinner and breakfast were both fantastic and the staff were always around when we needed them. WiFi is provided – and it works.

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