Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sigiriya and Rest

Sigiriya this morning.  We had the hotel phone ahead and they were more informative today; we could go to the top if we were accompanied by an official guide (the cynic in me imagines that requirement is because the official guides won’t have been earning while the site was closed…)

It is an impressive sight and rather put me in mind of Lord of the Rings; an oval platform of rock, just thrusting up pretty much vertically from the plain.  One of the kings had fortified it and built his palace there.  Around the base were the remains of gardens with formal flower beds, fountains and pools; the whole nine yards!  Then you began to climb.

We acquired a couple of ‘official helpers’ at this point; uniformed guys whose job is to carry your bag and essentially to help you up the stairs.  While I was glad to be free of my gear, I wasn’t so keen on him grabbing my arm every time the step was uneven.  His hand resting between my shoulder blades would likely not have been sufficient to stop me tumbling down the steep stairs had I lost my footing; more likely I would have knocked him down with me as I was probably twice his weight!  He eventually got the message and left off the handling.

About halfway up is a gallery of sorts; barely a ledge beneath an overhang in an otherwise vertical wall.  Here they have found quite well preserved wall paintings of ladies relaxing.  Given the gallery’s unlikely position no-one knows why the paintings are there.  For me it brought to mind a variation on an old cartoon strip I had once seen; a king is supervising the building of his new fortress and concludes instructing his architect thus; “…and when you’ve done all that, dangle some artists off that cliff and have them paint some fancy erotic stuff halfway up.  It’ll confuse the hell out of archaeologists in a thousand years time!”

Having seen the gallery and paid my hundred rupees to the guy to get the advanced tour, which includes a woman with “eyes like the Mona Lisa,” (yeah, right!) I was none the wiser either, so we descended the spiral staircase again and continued with the main ascent.

We paused at the Lion’s Paws; an enormous pair of feet either side of the final staircase.  Originally the entire front half of the lion existed and you entered the palace through the lion’s mouth, but that is now all decayed to brick rubble and stone.  Hanging above this staircase today though are several hornets nests which had been attacking visitors climbing the stairs over recent days.

Of the seven or so other parties we had seen coming up to the paws, I only saw one other party go on past them.  I think the guides were spooking people to be honest – and there were few enough people coming anyway.  We went on up though and were untroubled.  The ancient buildings on the top of the rock had clearly been extensive, but there is little there to see today and the most stunning thing is the view from the top; literally miles of unobstructed panorama in every direction.

The trip down was uneventful and much easier and we returned to the hotel in time for lunch.

After some rest and relaxation, Ping and I went out for a walk.  We were told we shouldn’t walk in the jungle but could walk along the lake shore.  We didn’t even get down the drive before we had an encounter with the monkeys, who were feasting off the shrubs along the side of the road.  As we got down to the lake the elephant they use for giving people rides was out being bathed by his keeper.  Call me a soft-hearted liberal, but the beast did not seem happy and his keeper sounded bullying.  How do I know?  I don’t know, but that was a clear impression I got from watching them interact.  Not the happy social animals we had seen in Udawalawe.

Leaving them behind, we wandered along a track into the jungle a little, following another couple who had been accompanied by a hotel guide, but we didn’t come across anything much and turned around before it began to get dark.  Back at the hotel, Brett and I headed up to the top floor, where they have a natural water pool  and some loungers, to read and then watch the sun set for the last time here.

We were joined for sunset by Ping and then by Colin and Felicity (a lovely young Scottish couple who had arrived that day.  Colin is rather toned and had spent the afternoon wandering round in just his board shorts, so we were happy for the company…)

Quite apart from the eye candy though, it was a lovely half hour; the sun set behind partial cloud cover so there were many colours and patterns.  I took a first and final dip in the infinity pool and listened to the flautist for a while before heading in for a shower and dinner.

1 comment:

JohnnyFox said...

It always reminded me of the rock in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' which I know is really in Wyoming but Sigirya would have been even more mystical if only Spielberg had thought about it :-)