Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, has been on my travel radar for over three decades.
In those days, there were no travel magazines littering my desk, nor could I surf the web to take me to exotic destinations over a cuppa. (How did I manage?) What I did have, however, was a passion for Duran Duran and in 1982, the band released the video for Save A Prayer. Watch it here:
It was shot on location in various parts of Sri Lanka, among them Sigiriya, which that same year was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. As the camera panned, I remember watching and wondering how they got up there as the rock face looked impossibly steep.
It is. And unfortunately for me, so too were the steps leading to the top. Slippery stone gives way to spiral metal staircases, the gateway to some impressive frescoes of bare-chested maidens. To my horror, I then had to descend a spiral staircase before climbing again. That’s fifty steps up and the same back just to reach the same height!
Spurred on by teenage dreams, and determined not to be put off by internet-induced nightmares, I made the climb this morning. With several terraces on which to recover my breath, my knees didn’t ache anywhere near as much as I feared.
But despite an early start, I was sweating profusely as the temperatures flung themselves ever higher and the humidity permeated like a warlike invader. By the time I got to the top I was in no state for a selfie, though I promise you the photos you’ll see here are all mine.
This lofty archaeological site is thought to be the ruins of the kingdom of Kassapa dating from the 5th Century. Those topless women could well have been his concubines. At the summit, his palace is all but gone, a few tumbledown walls and a pond full of water are the only surviving remnants of a once grand structure.
But it’s the view that takes your breath away, not the strenuous climb. See for yourself.
I overheard someone near the bottom saying the descent was harder, and this sign at the top didn’t help my confidence. Actually it was fine, and a whole lot less hard work than the ascent.
Looking at the crowds building, it was definitely a good idea to climb early. The site opened at 7am, not 8.30am as stated in my Lonely Planet.