Climbing Sigiriya Rock
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The morning began at 6:45am when we had to meet Charminda, our Jetwing Naturalist guide, at the resort reception. For today, we climbed mighty Sigiriya Rock!
Sigiriya rock was built in 495CE; it was taken over by Buddhist monks in the 14th Century.
We got to Sigiriya for around 7am when the grounds opened and we met another guide who would walk with us up Sigiriya Rock to ensure we got the best possible experience and the most information out the trip as we possibly could. The guide spoke of the folk law connections, historical facts and how after the King, Buddhist monks had taken over the outer rock to use the area as a Holy temple.
The rock had many gardens, it wasn’t just simply a fortress. It was almost like a little village within the shadow of the mighty rock. It reminded me very much of a medieval castle but in a very different culture. The fortress was, however, built originally for similar reasons that the medieval castles were… protection.#
You are reading Climbing Sigiriya Rock
The rock fortress also had very many caves, historical paintings, markings and writings too. The Mirror Wall, a 77m long plaster wall glazed in egg whites among other things provided a fantastic insight into technology of the day. 500 women lived in the fortress, as the King had once insisted. The mirror, along with all his paintings of women within the caves, were artistic decorations of the time and the wall still provides a mirror effect today… thousands of years on! And when the midday sun rises to hit the wall you can still see your reflection, as clear as day! When it was first built it must have been even more incredible, stretching the length of the fortress and providing entertainment for the King and his Queen as they were carried up the rock to their palace.
One of my favourite features of the rock however, was the ‘curtain’ technology installed there. Our guide pointed out carved ledges in the rock and told of how it was a drainage system used so that when it was the rainy season and the monsoons hit, the water would fall like a curtain over the rock, keeping the caves underneath dry, rather than running down the whole rock and ruining the intricate painted caves. I’d imagine it also makes the rock look very pretty when a curtain of water falls over it! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see it in the rain to find out, but we were assured it looks a spectacle.
There are 1,202 steep steps up to the top of Sigiriya Rock – some made of marble, others replaced with new metal steps where they’ve been worn out. It’s a good job we climbed at 7am (and I’d recommend others to do it as early as possible to avoid queues and heat!!), because otherwise we’d have really struggled in the heat. We made it to the top in about an hour after stopping with the guide to take in all the sights and historical references, and also examine all the artwork and caves.
Once we got to the top, the panoramic views were INCREDIBLE. You could see for miles! Our guide took some awesome photographs of us jumping on top of the rock and messing about on the 1,202th step. On top of the rock you can see remains of the throne, the King’s ‘nightclub’ which, according to the guide was like today’s karaoke bars (although I’m not convinced he’ll have been to a UK karaoke bar… he might be in for a shock!). There was also a swimming pool as well as many other remains on top of the rock.
Once you’re at the top, the only way back down is the way you came… so back down the 1,202 steps we went! The steps back down were difficult on foot and you really had to concentrate on what you were doing. Especially me, I’m a clumsy one! It took us around 30 minutes to descend but it took my thighs about 2 days to recover… what a workout!
Sigiriya is one of those places you just have to visit if you’re in Sri Lanka. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Sight and affectionately labelled the 8th Wonder of the World…
For me? It was a memorable experience with unrivalled views and enough culture and history to keep a culture vulture geek like myself babbling on for years… so if you get the chance to visit this beautiful sight, please don’t miss the opportunity, but do make sure you visit as early in the morning as possible!