Sigiriya Rock Citadel is a world heritage listed site in central Sri Lanka. The imposing rock structure is surrounded by a crocodile infested moat, and the ruins and artwork at the summit of the rock date back to the 5th Century AD. There are 1600 steps to tackle in the hour long climb to the summit, in a part of Sri Lanka that is fiercely hot. There is the added concern of giant wasps that are ready to attack if disturbed by tourists. However, the views of the ruins and the surrounding countryside from the summit are absolutely magic, and rank amongst the premier tourist experiences I've been privileged to enjoy. Day trips to Sigiriya can be organised out of Kandy, itself a beautiful city on a lake, and the cultural capital of Sri Lanka.
But let's bring you quickly up to speed, dear reader . The journal continues with your travel correspondent going great guns. We left off in Tangalle living the beach life, and it was difficult to leave the hotel and it's super friendly staff. Nevertheless I had to get cracking, so jumped on a bus for the two hour commute east to Tissamaharama, or Tissa as
it's know locally. The journey cost less than a dollar, and after the first hour I had the added luxury of a seat. We even ventured onto some open road for the first time on my trip, without the usual wild jumble of people, tuk tuks, houses, cars and everything else that comes with a large population. I checked into the excellent River Face Inn, and the ever smiling friendly family made my stay a highlight of the trip. There's one reason tourists flock to Tissa, and it's for a taste of the safari life here in Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park is perhaps the premier game reserve in Sri Lanka. There are elephants roaming, black bears, buffaloes, crocodiles, deers, black faced monkeys and a variety of spectacular birds. Plus the park is famous for having one of the densest populations of leopards to be seen anywhere in the world. Prior to my safari it seems almost every tourist I spoke with sighted a leopard, and I'm not sure that was a good omen. These elusive creatures are notoriously hard to spot, but I was determined to give it a good shake. Could it be possible to see a
leopard in the wild twice, following an unforgettable experience on a Kenyan safari last year?
It was time to find out after fitting the big telephoto lens and crossing fingers and toes, as our group of five headed out at 5:00am to try our luck. We saw heaps of wildlife and beautiful birds from the moment we entered the park, and the half day adventure was full of wonderful sights and sounds. The wildlife was so plentiful it took me by surprise, however on this occasion the elusive leopard was staying true to his nature. Maybe he saw us from the trees, but despite the best efforts of the driver and his spotter we did not manage to catch a glimpse of the great predator. I wasn't disappointed, and thoroughly enjoyed participating in the safari with a friendly group of travellers. We were back at the hotel in time for lunch, and the safari has been one of the highlights of my trip.
The hotel guests have been excellent during this trip, and it's not been the usual backpackers trail. So far I've only met one Australian, and Sri Lanka seems to be popular mainly with
Europeans, Brits, and Russians. But they've all been friendly and interesting, and the hotel in Tissa has been no exception. I enjoyed an afternoon walk along the lake of Tissa on the second day, and this man made waterway has become central to the life of the local people. I farewelled the staff and guests, and it was time to catch a bus from Tissa for the eight hour commute through the hill country and the gorgeous tourist town of Ella, and on the world famous city of Kandy. It was a difficult, slow, and extremely crowded ride but I was lucky to have a seat. At one stage a young fellow put his backpack on my lap, while just looking at me serenely. Oh well, at least I had a seat so it was the least I could do to nurse his bag for a time.
I checked into the recommended Majestic Tourist hotel in Kandy, featuring a rooftop restaurant and scrumptious rice and curry dishes cooked by the owner himself. I quickly fell in with an English family, and a solo traveller from Hong Kong, and we've enjoyed all the region has to offer during the last
few action packed days on tours. The long tour to Sigiriya included visiting a couple of temples and shrines, and a fascinating tour of a Spice garden along the way. Sigiriya will always live on in my memory, and I was glad to get away from a few giant wasps on the summit by standing stock still and remaining silent, then slowly retracing my steps. Any movement or sound will attract attacks, so let me tell you baby, I was outta there as soon as possible. They even hire out full length coats with a hood, which some tourists take advantage of, but it must make for an unbearably hot climb to the summit.
Early the next morning our group was up and at 'em again for a separate tour to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage. It was a great experience, and they must have over forty elephants under the careful charge of the mahouts. They fed them early, then cleared the tourists off the main area and herded the elephants across the road and through the market down to the river for bathing. It was a great sight, and there must have been over a hundred foreign tourists around
by my reckoning. Splish, splash, I was takin' a bath, and after two hours frolicking and drinking the elephants and their gorgeous babies headed back up and across the road back to the orphanage. It was wonderful watching the gentle interaction and frolicking of the babies, and these magnificent animals are very social and intelligent. However, it will soon be time to jet out of Sri Lanka to experience a bit more of the Indian subcontinent. I've had an excellent time in this intriguing country, basically all of you should be here now!
I believe it's better to be looked over than overlooked." Mae West
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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