Heading north out of Kandy I entered the ‘Cultural Triangle’ of the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polunawarra. Around 1500 years ago these were the administrative centre of the prevailing kingdoms but successive Indian invasions eventually led to the abandonment of these sites.
First up was the rocky outcrop of Sigiriya which was built by a prince as a defensive residence after killing his own father. Clearly he must have had numerable enemies to relocate to this perch.
Heading through the immaculately maintained gardens the vertiginous climb up starts with a set of paintings of buxom women on a rock face. Sheltered from rain and sun the colours have lasted well although no one is quite sure how old they are.
Pausing for breath before heading up to the summit the remains of lion claws – apparently at one point there was an entire lion here and visitors would enter the palace through the mouth of the lion – very Las Vegas I imagine.
There wasn’t much left at the top but the foundations of the various buildings and reservoirs, but the view was outstanding – looking out in all directions on forest canopy.
The local tourism blurb has this as the ‘8th wonder of the world’ and the entry price is a whopping $30 – an enormous amount in Sri Lanka. It was worth seeing but I’m not sure it justified the entrance price. Entrace to a museum about the site is included which gives some interesting history on how it was ‘discovered’ again in the 1890s and the conservation and research since then.
Nearby there is another outcrop 1km north of the main site which gives a similar view but at a much reduced price ($3).
Sitting at the top by myself the calm was shattered by screaming French girls who eventually I realised had been attacked by hornets – given that they advise to keep quiet this screaming probably didn’t help any of us!
During the day however there were some more placid pachyderms ferrying uncomfortable Japanese tourists around the streets and into a lake which gave me my first view of Asian elephant so far.
Staying somewhat out of town I was advised when heading out for dinner on my bicycle to beware of wild elephants as a Ukrainian tourist had been killed a few weeks prior. No advice on what to do or how to avoid so not sure really how use that advice really was!