Livin’ La Vida Lanka: Sigiriya and Minneriya 2/3

So, I was reading Arab News several days ago and read their feature on Sri Lanka’s National Day. Guess what I remembered? Uhhhh yes, my Sri Lanka series is not yet done! It’s February 2014 already, what are you waiting for Sundrenched?! Arghhhh! Anyway, here goes part 2 (I hope you still remember part 1)…

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

The Sigiriya rock fortress
How is that for a DREAM?!? 

Ever since I started researching for our trip to Sri Lanka, the Sigiriya Lion Rock has been popping up without fail. I ignored it for a few times after reading a Filipino tourist’s account on how hard scaling this rock mountain is. She thought she would die but she reached the top anyway. Her entry was littered with “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die!” That’s enough reason to ignore Sigiriya and omit it in our itinerary eh?I’ve been apprehensive but then they say, you haven’t been to Sri Lanka unless you’ve conquered the Lion Rock. Who wants to feel that kind of regret when traveling to a new country? It became my dream to reach the top but how?! I was scared. I wasn’t physically fit for this! But then again, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site… how can I pass up this opportunity? It’s not as if we’ll be climbing it the mountaineer’s way. It has stairs for goodness’ sake! How hard can it be?! Uhrrmmm…

Sigiriya, known as the Lion Rock, is a massive column of rock where King Kasyapa, the second king of the Moriyan dynasty, built his palace. The 200 meters high rock served as the stand for this palace and on a small plateau about halfway to the top, he built a gateway in the form of a huge lion. The site was abandoned after King Kasyapa died and it was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

The moat outside the palace complex
The Sigiriya complex is the first order of our second day in Sri Lanka. Because of our Dambulla experience the day before, we were doubtful if we can climb Sigiriya but we just encouraged ourselves. I told my travel buddy that we should still go to Sigiriya and just check the place out. If we feel like we couldn’t really do it, then we wouldn’t force ourselves. I mean seriously, have you seen that rock?! (Please refer to first photo again and answer me!!!)

When we got there, many tourists were already ahead of us. We bought the ticket which is divided into three parts: the museum, the Sigiriya complex, and the mirror wall located halfway to the top.

Sri Lanka’s national flower

We went to the museum first and I must say it was a bit of a waste of time. I was raring to climb the rock already. (Wow, where did I get the inspiration?!? Haha!) My friend and I realized we had to climb it because we were already there. Personally, I firmly believe in going out of my comfort zone once in a while. So what the hell, let’s do this!!!

And then we met two very fit British couple who were huffing and puffing and looked like they’re ready to pass out. I think I wanted to back out! Wahahah! Seriously people, what if I die in the middle of Sigiriya?! That would be embarrassing! Not that I can still feel embarrassed when I’m already dead.

But obviously I lived after that ordeal and I’m now telling you the tale. Thank you, Lord.The Sigiriya Palace complex is a huge piece of land that saw the splendor in its time. The grounds have terraced gardens embellished by canals and fountains which mirror each other. The lavish estate has faded with time but the Srilankans are keen in restoring the area bit by bit. For now, they have excavated half of the gardens. The other half they are leaving to the young generation to restore.

The landscaped gardens used to lie here.

We had a guide who told us the history of Sigiriya and mind you, he helped us in every step of the way. I mean there were parts he had to literally hold me in my arms and drag me up with him. Haha! I wouldn’t go so far into telling you all the information about Sigiriya just in case you decide you wanted to die early in its steps visit the historic ruins. Here are the photos though:

Stairs, more stairs…

We used the elephant gate to enter. I have no idea why we do not have a decent photo of the rock formation that looked like an elephant that’s why it’s called the elephant gate. A series of stairs carved fresh from the old ones serve as the way to the top. Some of the steps were too narrow for my huge feet I had to step sideways. I was already huffing and puffing when I got to the top of this staircase lol.

I have no idea how their ancestors went up here.
The spiral stairs up to the mirror walls.

One of the highlight of the granite rock is the Mirror Wall that leads to the room where the “The Maidens of the Clouds” are. The highly-acclaimed room features smooth light orange walls with fresco paintings of 21 non-identified female figures. This is almost halfway and I seriously wanted to collapse right beneath these paintings:

Vibrant hues, where did they get their ‘paint’?
Do not touch!

After going up and down the spiral stairs with just a mesh to separate us from our death the real world, we came to pass through the mirror wall corridor. It is said that during its heyday, the lime plaster of this wall is so smooth and highly-polished that it had reflected the paintings on the opposite rock wall. There are graffitis, poetry etched in the wall, that can still be seen today.

The ancient way to write graffiti
The mirror wall leads to the halfway point which I call my “oasis”… my very own lifesaver. Because we got to stop, sit under the tree and rest for a while before tackling the Lion staircase. In here, we also get to take pictures where we appear to be fresh from a stroll in the park aka “fake it! poses”. Haha!
Phew! Let’s take a break please! PLEASE!
We’re not there yet.

This used to have the huge lion face but with time, the rock wasn’t able to weather the storm. You can still see the feet of the lion now flanking the stairs up.

You only have this to prevent you from falling to the forest below.
And almost vertical stairs that left us “hanging.”
The final steps to the top!

Just this flight of stairs and the climbing is over… Finally…


Okay, it’s not exactly the top of the world but who cares? We survived the climb to reach the highest point I’ve ever been to in my whole life. I mean, the highest point which I reached by foot. I am not exactly a mountaineer you know. Haha!

SO WORTH IT!!! I’m not gonna collapse because I need to see this!
Amazing view!
The students were having a field day.
Imagine if the palace wasn’t destroyed.
The pools… so sosyal to have pools on top of a rock mountain!
This used to be the king’s throne.
Where we came from.
The lush gardens below.
We were just walking there; two hours before. Lol.

We spent an hour or so at the top just gazing at the wonderful views. Syempre kailangang sulitin ang pagod. Haha! It was a 360 degree of amazing, amazing Sigiriya! The climb was so worth it and I was glad my friend and I had toughen it up to climb this rock. Hand me a “I survived Sigiriya!” shirt please!!! We forgot we were tired until our guides reminded us we need to go down already because it was starting to rain. Groan!

I can kick the ass of whoever said that going down was easier. Try facing the ravines and being pulled by gravity leaving you with little control over your feet. My leg muscles had a field day.
Going down to the halfway point.
This time, we used the Cobra gate to avoid the crowd going up the Elephant entrance.
Yes, I fitted in here.
This is why it’s called the Cobra gate.
Wait, I did not know it was literal too! Waaah snake!!!
We bid our guides goodbye but not before we paid them a very handsome fee. We felt we were ripped off but oh well, because of them, we finished the climb up in just a few hours rather than the whole day we were imagining it to be. So okay fine. Haha! We also passed by a few souvenir stores on our way out.
Uhmn, no idea why I would want this on my room. But they’re painted beautifully.


Because we were really tired and sweating profusely after our climb in the Sigiriya Rock, we decided to change and take a quick rest at the resort (more like we decided to breathe normally). That cost us a considerable amount of time and by the time we were ready for Minneriya National Park, the sky was already threatening with a rainstorm.
What good is riding commando on a 4×4 with the top open and the wind in our faces if it’s raining?! We stormed the heavens with prayers so it stops raining. Turns out, the national park is still 20 minutes away from where we were and in that part of the area, it wasn’t raining still! Wohooo!
Raining on our way to Minneriya National Park
We boarded a safari jeep and rode 20 minutes to the park. We had to pay an exorbitant amount for the entrance and I lost my hat after I decided to stand at the back of the jeep and ride with the wind. We were hoping there would still be elephants left (there were around 20 in the morning but since the weather let up, they slowly retreated to the forest).

The ride was the best part for me. It was so much fun just feeling the wind against my chubby cheeks, dodging the wayward branches of trees and plants along the way and bobbing along the rough parts of the road once in a while. Finally, we came to the heart of Minneriya National Park.

The lake and the surrounding forests and mountains.
The Minneriya National Park is home to a hundred species of birds and animals.
Our safari contingent

Then we came into a clearing where most jeeps were. They were stalking one elephant. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse and take a photo. Of course, it’s quite dumb to go down the jeep to do that. Remember that these are wild elephants we were encountering. Being friendly is the least of their priorities especially since we were the ones invading their territory. Our guide told us that the kind of elephant we were seeing, the kind with only one tusk, is very rare to see in the park. Wow, aren’t we lucky?

A rare sighting!
National Geographic lang ang peg!

The jeep followed the elephant for a while until it disappeared in the tall bushes. Then another jeep sighted another elephant near the lake. Every jeep roared their engine and followed it again. A mother and son came out of the bushes too. When they decided to go back and look for food, we followed them again. It was like an expedition in a jungle, everyone aiming their cameras at the animals. Or like papparazzis getting the best angle of their subjects. But we stayed a good distance away. When the family of elephants went on their way, we decided to explore the lake and the surrounding areas.

Here you go, lonesome.
A mother and child… awwww.
The father elephant fetching his family.

When we were resting at the other side of the lake, we saw a commotion going on at the other side. A thunderous group of animals came barreling in the lakeside. Our guide excitedly pointed at them. Curious, we asked what are those? Our guide enthusiastically said, “water buffalos!!!” and he went on explaining what they are. I did not have the heart to stop him and say, “You mean carabaos? The national animal of the Philippines!” Haha! When we passed by the area where the carabaos are, they all turned their heads (all at the same time) towards us. I swear they were probably thinking to charge!!! Thankfully, they went back to eating and lounging around.

Why hello, carabaos! Don’t look at us like that. We’re friends. Promise!
The Minneriya reservoir

As we leave the park, I hope that Sri Lanka continues to protect and guard its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. As much as I enjoyed my time here, I would understand if they close this area just to protect the animals that reside here.

It was already dark when we headed back to the town proper. We were so hungry we could eat a whole bunch of Sri Lankan food… or not. I am not picky when it comes to eating outside my comfort zone, especially when traveling. I actually like street food (yeah, germs and all). But on this trip, I had to beg off eating Sri Lankan food because they were way too spicy for my taste buds. (Did you know that their KFC doesn’t have the original variant? Just the spicy variant dipped in a curry gravy that’s spicy too!) So our beacon of hope was… Chinese fried rice. Haha! And kotthu, which is basically like pancit, only they use chopped roti bread instead of noodles. Those were good!
What their carinderia looks like.
The ingredients of kotthu roti
It took a lot of chopping to get this served.

All in all, day 2 was the most challenging part of our Sri Lanka trip but it was the most fulfilling. We checked a lot of items in our bucket list and we really tested our limits.Sigiriya and Minneriya… I guess those were some big dreams eh? And they came true for us. What about you? What are you dreaming of right now and when are you going to pursue them? I’m thinking of tea. Should we take you to Sri Lanka’s tea plantation next? Ahhh. You should still be there when I publish it because you wouldn’t want to miss the breathtaking Nuwara Eliya… ~ Sundrenched

Sigiriya Rock entrance fee: approx. SR 110
Sigiriya Rock guide fee: approx. SR100 for 2 persons
Minneriya National Park entrance fee: approx. SR 120
Minneriya Safari Jeep fee: approx. SR 120

PS. I would like to thank my Sri Lanka travel buddy Jou for some of the photographs you see in our Sri Lanka entries. If the photo is beautiful and sharp and nice, then it’s hers. Haha! You can visit her work here.

Outside KSA Sri Lanka Travel

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