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February 28th 2019
Published: March 1st 2019
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Today was another long & hugely memorable day starting with a 6 am 15 km cycle to Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress with a royal palace perched atop. The early start was essential to beat the normal rush of tourists & pilgrims on a virtual single lane staircase. Arriving at the site is a stunning visual of a massive granite outcrop that emerges from lush greenery at lower levels to a citadel that dominates the whole surrounding skyline.

The once impregnable fortress firstly passes a series water gardens before 1200 stairs needed to reach the top. Half way we passed some incredibly beautiful rock wall frescoes that somehow have survived centuries of neglect while undiscovered.

The entrance to the almost vertical final 200 mtr hike to the top was once guarded by an enormous rock carved lion but now only the massive paws remain but still an impressive image as to how the original must have looked. The entrance stairways to the summit are narrow with a metal staircase that hangs off the side of the cliff-face.

The summit is a just the remaining brick foundations but the reward was in completing the climb & taking in the incredible views.

After descending we continued riding 28kms to lunch at a spice garden & medicinal herbal operation. After lunch we had a tour of the spice garden to learn about their amazing natural curative properties finishing with a brief massage.

After the drive to Kandy & our two night stay at the Hotel Senani we had a brief refresh where we had an opportunity to visit the Temple of Tooth relic. The relic is considered the most important & heavily visited Buddhist site in the country & is believed to be a tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Previously located in Polonnaruwa, the relic is now housed in the royal palace complex at Kandy as it was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings.

The golden doors to inner temple are only opened with separate keys held by 3 senior monks together at the same time & then only 3 times daily for 15 minutes for pilgrims to pass & pay respects. Our guide was able to arrange our place in the queue to experience this rare opportunity. The line was meant to keep moving but we were able to dwell for about 10 seconds. The scene was inspiring with a solid gold stupa holding the relic shrouded in a mist of incense. The temple is now a World Heritage site.

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