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Monday 2nd December: we checked out of the Heritance Hotel at 10am heading for Kandy via the World Heritage site of Sigiriya, an amazing palace complex perched on a rock outcrop and one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic places. It took only half an hour to arrive at the site as it’s located across KandalamaLake from the Heritance Hotel. We stopped off at a Government Rest House for coffee before beginning the tour; then we went into the site where we met up with Reginold Dissanayaka (“Call me Reggie”) a professional guide recommended by Diya our driver. Reggie bought our tickets for us which provided further enlightenment for my wallet; to the tune of £38 (the wallet has attained so much enlightenment on account of the rip-off entry fees to various cultural attractions that Nirvana cannot be far away).
Reggie was very knowledgeable and helpful and conducted us through the water garden area of the complex before we began the ascent up the rock. After a few rest stops while climbing up a stone staircase and then climbing a spiral staircase we made it to the first, and probably most impressive feature, and certainly the best known: the Damsels of Sigiriya. Murals of voluptuous women painted over 1,500 years ago and amazingly well preserved. Perhaps the most impressive feature of these murals is that they were painted directly on to the cliff face below an inaccessible overhang 40/50 feet above the nearest walkway. We then descended the spiral staircase and walked along a narrow corridor between the vertical cliff face and wall constructed along the cliff edge, which in its day had been painted in a reflective colouring so that it mirrored the (now invisible ) murals painted on the cliff face opposite. Then it was along a cantilevered walkway atttached to the vertical face of the cliff, up another set of steps to the Lion’s Paw platform. The platform is quite a large ledge from which several sets of iron and steel steps zigzag up a vertical cliff to the summit. The very top of the rock is a small level platform where the king’s bedroom is thought to have been. From there the summit area descends in a series of steps to the southern edge of the rock and another vertical drop to the plain below. We spent about half an hour at the top enjoying the views over the surrounding plain and the cool breeze blowing across the summit (one of the main reasons why it was a king’s residence). We then descended the metal staircases to the Lion’s Paw platform and on down to the car park. After paying off Reggie we returned to the Government Rest House near the entrance for lunch. Following lunch we set off for Kandy, our next stop. Although it’s only 59 miles (95 kms) from Sigiriya it took us over two hours to get to our hotel in Kandy. Travel by road here is slow as although the roads are in good condition they are very crowded with tuk tuks and elderly single deck buses. However, the journey was worth it as our hotel in Kandy was the very grand colonial era masterpiece, the Hotel Suisse. The perfect place to base ourselves in the Kandy area.