Climbing the Sigiriya Rock Fortress

If Sri Lanka made me want to buy one thing, it was a drone.

And mainly for two particular locations: Cape Weligama and the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.

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Our first night in Sri Lanka was spent at the Water Gardens Sigiriya (read more about that here), complete with midnight swim in our own private pool. There was no rest the next morning though, as we woke at 5.30am to walk up the Sigiriya Rock Fortress – which, according to our guide, is the only time worth going up to the top.

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“1200 steps to the top”, one of the first things our guide told us. There are stairs the whole way, built into the cliff side many years ago.

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You never actually hike – it’s just step after step after step. We took a steady pace, and were one of the first groups to ascend. Our guide breezed his way up, telling us he goes up at least 5 times a day during high season, if not more.

And that’s all he had done for his whole life, guiding travellers and locals up to the peak, using his knowledge of English to share this little piece of his country’s history with visitors to the island.

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35 minutes after the ascension began, we reached the lion’s mouth of the fortress. Climbing the last few stairs to the peak, we were told of how the king used to be carried up to the top by his servants.

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Carried on the shoulders of his men, 660 feet upwards, passing by frescoes, landscaped gardens and sculpted stone. It sounds rather rosy, but the ‘Lion Rock’ was always meant for much more than a stunning viewpoint and tiresome workout.

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King Kashyapa crowned himself (pretty cushty, right?) as king in 477CE, after quite brutally and openly killing his father, King Dhatusena. As an illegitimate son of the monarch, Kashyapa needed to get rid of his brother, Moggallana. The murder of the king did the trick, and Moggallana escaped to India to avoid a similar fate.

And so Kashyapa became king, though an insecure one. He moved the royal seat to Sigiriya almost immediately, a decision that people believe was rooted in fear – he had seized the throne in an unorthodox manner, and the same could easily have been done to him.

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Sigiriya would give his forces a strategic advantage if he did come under attack, or so he hoped.

The elevated position of the fortress was the major pro point to the defensive stronghold, giving troops a panoramic view across the surrounding land.

The rock took its name from the huge lion which greets you when you’re halfway up – both to welcome visitors and warn enemies of what awaited them.

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Pretty surreal feeling looking over the misty hills. There was a quietness to the area that I haven’t really felt anywhere else.

I love to be by the ocean for the peace, but it’s not quiet. At Lion Rock not even the breeze made a noise. But maybe that’s just the world at 6am, and I’m rarely awake to see it.

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I couldn’t help but take a photo of the car park sign… I wonder how much more you pay in the ‘foreigners’ car park.

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On our way out of the park we spotted a little elephant having a bath. Does anyone know if this sort of thing means the elephants are captive or working animals? Let me know down below in the comments.

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We visited Sri Lanka in the off season so the weather was shaky throughout the week, but I’d love to go back and climb Sigiriya Rock on a clear day.

Have you ever hiked whilst on holiday or travelling?

Love, C x

 

 

 

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