The 3.9 year old who climbs mountains....

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January 19th 2018
Published: January 19th 2018
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"“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aesop

12th January 2018

So it was in at the deep end today with a long drive from Negombo on the West Coast through to Sigyria, a small town in the Central Province – some 4ish hours. The children have already bonded after an afternoon of pool fun so no colouring books/dot to dots/ stickering was required on the ride on our mini-bus, complete with a/c and even wifi, that will accompany us throughout the two weeks. By now all feelings of “WTF have I done” have vanished. Travel Hannah is back with a vengeance!

Triangular mountains, clad in palms and bamboo rose up out of the paddy fields as we cut northwards inland. Arriving for a BBQ lunch at The Hideout , we sated ourselves on an extensive selection of Sri Lankan dishes including some more beige “western” food aimed at the kids (Ella seems to be the only small person who eats vegetables!) and then spent the afternoon by the pool tiring the kids out. From our balcony I could see peacocks wandering the paddy fields and it felt reassuring to know we had three nights ahead of us in the same place. Travelling with a child means you need to slow it right down and although the forthcoming days are action packed, I want to build in Downtime/Quiet-time or I think I will end up with an over tired/overstimulated Miss E. The itinerary is very full for the first week and Ella, as one of the youngest may struggle although so far – she has been an almost perfect traveller.

An impromptu plan was made to go and watched the sunset and see our first views of the mighty Sigyria from Pidurangala Rock - We were told it was a climb of only about 350 steps which to my mind seemed reasonable. Briefed no further, I decided to put my hiking boots on just in case as 350 steps in flip flops might not be the best idea. Am I glad I did… .As the bus took us into the countryside, the heavens open and the rain came down. Suddenly, it didnt seem like such a great prospect to climb through slippery Sri Lankan jungle with a load of children.

However, thankfully the downpour ceased and we started the ascent - many of the older children raced on ahead much to my concern but Evie et al seemed relaxed. She appears to be one laid back Mama in some regards…. I made it clear to Ella that I wanted her to stick with me (as did some other parents) and so we took our time on the climb. We reached the sleeping Buddha Statue which was quite astonishing – carved under an overhanging cave on the edge of this mountain this 12.5 meter-long statute of a recumbent Buddha was at one time the largest brick statue of Buddha in the world.

The group was all travelling at different speeds and our Group Leaders had gone on ahead leaving Ella, myself and another Mum at the very back. It soon became apparent that the climb was about to get a hell of a lot harder. Steps gave way to boulders and fallen rocks. Squeezing through crevices, clambering over tree roots and in places there was no way the legs of the littlest people could manage it so human chains (with other climbers) were set up to keep getting the little ones to the top and thankfully Carlie came back to assist us. I started to feel apprehensive as the light was starting to go and the trekkers coming down emphasised that it kept getting harder. However, collectively we pushed on and eventually (with a lot of heart in my mouth as Ella was passed up and along strangers to get her higher) we reached the summit. Gulp.

In the distance, the shrouded presence of Sigyria could be seen but the cloud cover hugged it tightly so the much lauded view was elusive. Every so often, a glimpse was seen but for the effort involved to get to the summit, I think I’d rather have stayed at the B&B had a beer and spalshed with my daughter in the pool. The views down to the plains could be seen in another direction but the sun was nowhere to be seen – just an ominous grey darkening sky and the prospect of everyone having to get back down to the bottom. There was a sense of urgency from the Leaders. A slight sense of “we need to move people. Now”. Easier said than done when trying to protect the babes of the group who were physically incapable of descending without being carried.

A number of us were very concerned about the descent under the conditions we were facing – losing light, rain, no waterproof gear and no proper torches except those on our mobile phones. We struggled (and I do mean struggled) down the way we came as the light started to go and the heavens opened again. It was a very frightening and inappropriate walk to do at the time we did it. In fact the whole expedition had been extremely ill prepared. It seemed to take an eternity to get back down but every step in the dark had to be taken with extreme care. Other Mum’s with older kids who had gone ahead, helped me with Ella – including carrying her to speed up the descent. The other 3.5yo managed the climb as well and was carried fully down and his parents were extremely unhappy with the situation that had arisen. Ella seemed oblivious to the potential danger but it reminded me of the time a group of us set out for a walk in the Ecuadorian Amazon (with a guide) and we ended up coming back in the dark, in tough conditions sharing the space with the night animals of the jungle – remember that Fiona Carfrae? Yeah, well imagine that with no bloody official guide and a 3.5yo. Pretty hair raising stuff.

We eventually made it back down to the bus for about 7pm in the pitch dark and sheeting rain with exhausted, soaking children and adults. Everyone almost buzzing with adrenalin from the sheer insanity of what we had done combined with relief we had got back without any accidents. I like to think of myself as a relatively adventurous person but that climb was the wrong side of a line especially with the small people of 3.5yo or even 8 years. My understanding was that Evie had taken information about it from a family blogsite and she was angry that the comments she had read that guided her to make the decision to do the climb, were not entirely accurate. It hadnt emphasised the difficulty of the climb. The few sites I have looked at subsequently indicate differently. I shall reserve judgement as thank fully noone was hurt and we made it down safely. However, it was truly a baptism of Sri Lankan fire and hopefully lessons have been learnt.

13th January

You'd have thought after yesterday’s initial experience of mountains and climbing, the thought of more climbing might have been the last things on everyone’s mind but no! Today, the alarm clock was set for 530am as we were due to visit imposing Sigyria the ancient rock fortress and a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site.

According to Wikipedia and the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of the 200m high rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion and hence the name derived is from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock.

Today’s epic expedition made me very very proud of my daughter. 1202 steps to the top of this vertiginous rock and she climbed 90%!h(MISSING)erself. Thankfully, it was a much easier climb than yesterday with clearly defined paths and steps but it was still an extreme challenge for little legs. We set off early to get ahead of the growing crowds and the heat of the day.

Up and up and up we went- seeing the jungly floor disappear beneath us. Through sacred caves with rock paintings, alongside an ancient mirror wall (created using a special plaster made of fine lime, egg whites, and honey. The surface of the wall was then buffed to a brilliant luster with beeswax creating the mirror effect for the king to look at his reflection!).

Up and up and up we climbed. Up to the massive gatehouse in the form of a lion guarding the entrance to the innermost sanctum of of the city – the Sky Palace on top of the rock. We reached the Lion’s Claws where belligerent monkeys outstared us. Im not a fan of wild monkeys. They terrify me in fact especially ones that are accustomed to tourists and know that tourists generally have food on them so will audaciously try to grab things from you if they even suspect there may anything edible on you. They can be very aggressive and Ella was an interesting combination of fascination and fear. Its their unpredictability that makes me edgy. Their ability to move quickly……. And these little fuckers were everywhere. 1202 steps and a load of monkeys. Aaaargh.

She did it though. My girl made it. She got to the top and played in the sandy gravel of the sky palace fortress. Circumnavigating water gardens and wandering around a ruined site that reminded me a lot of Macchu Picchu. Sigyria was built in 477AD bursting briefly into pre-eminence with breathtaking architecture, art and gardens and then faded away and was forgotten for 1500 years.

Then it was down down down down – all the way and she managed 90%!o(MISSING)f that as well. What a total megastar!

We were back at The Hideout for a much needed late breakfast by 11am and then due to possible inclement weather and general Group fatigue after the morning’s exertions, the decision was made to relax by the pools. I use the word “relax” loosely if there are 13 children going wild…..However, on this occasion we decided “relaxing” for the parents was much needed so we did some tag-team parenting/keeping an eye out and too turns to embrace some Ayuverdic treatments. I booked myself into the Ayurvedic Villa for an afternoon session of Sri Lankan pummeling and something called Pindha Swedha - a fermentation process, using balls made from medicinal leaves, herbs, seeds and powders which are heated and pressed over the body. Oh the sense of excitement climbing into that tuk-tuk with Marnie the 17yo, knowing Ella was safe. Having just 2 hrs of me-time….. bliss!

The massage was interesting….a very “natural setting” in a palm hut where the sounds of the jungle could be heard from outside, the call of birds, and the repetitive swish of the gardeners brush as he swept the paths clear. I emerged feeling rejuvenated and ready for more MumPack Travel action …..A spectacular day ended with a lovely evening out with the Group, multiple bottles of Lion lager, kothu (made from godhamba roti and vegetables, egg and/or meat, and spices) and byriani’s in the small town of Sigyria, before home to The Hideout to prep for another action packed day tomorrow.


Tot: 2.212s; Tpl: 0.046s; cc: 8; qc: 55; dbt: 0.0472s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb