We were on our way to Sigiriya today but we were going to try and be clever and stop off at Dambulla on the way to see some caves. There seem to be buses going everywhere here and as long as you are not in a rush it’s no problem and sure enough in a couple of hours we were dropped off right outside what we thought was the entrance to the caves which are called the Royal Rock temples.
The sun was pretty high now and we couldn’t seem to find anywhere to buy our tickets and more importantly dump our bags which were feeling pretty heavy in the heat and humidity. We were told that the entrance was actually over the other side of the mountain so we had to hike our way over and by the time we got there we were pretty hot and sweaty.
Still once our bags were stored and the tickets bought we could begin our hike up the mountain. The Royal Rock Temples were originally created by King Valagamba in 100 BC and have been added to by other kings ever since and the result is quite amazing. There are five caves and each are dominated by statues of Buddha and for me the most eye catching part was that the walls and ceilings of the caves were covered in paintings. The paintings have been preserved amazingly well and the fact that they are on the uneven walls and ceilings of the cave make them almost seem alive.
Outside the caves, the view over the surrounding area was fairly spectacular too. For as far as we could see there was just green forest with the occasional house dotted in between and in the distance we could see the famous Sigiriya Rock which was to be our next destination.
Coming down off the rock we were expecting to find the usual hoard of tuk tuk drivers waiting but instead there were none. Everyone there was very surprised and eventually an enterprising kid commandeered a phone and sorted one out for us!
Our guesthouse in Sigiriya was just off of the main road and our room was just off to the side of a lovely looking house. Our host was part of a larger family who owned a couple of different houses and even used one of the houses as a restaurant. I hope they go far.
The Main Street was full of restaurants and we soon found somewhere to have some lunch and with full bellies we set off on a hike up the mountain, Pidurangala behind the Rock. We had about 3.5km hike to get to the base of the hill where we had to pay an entrance fee and begin the climb up. It was quite a bit longer than we had anticipated and for the last 20% the path had disappeared and we were climbing over rocks and boulders to get to the summit.
The view from the top was something else though. The Sigiriya Rock was right in front of us and we could make out the trail of people making the journey up the side. While that was impressive the view out over the other sides was also breathtaking. The forest stretched once again as far as the eye could see and we sat on the top in the shade enjoying both the view and the breeze.
By the time we got back to the guesthouse we were famished and headed straight out to the “restaurant” where the mother of the family had prepared our meal. We had asked earlier for a spicy meal as we have found that if we don’t the meal tends to be tapered down to accommodate the “foreigners.”
The meal again was delicious and we got talking to the son and mother about how fantastic their food was. I was sort of trying to suggest an impromptu cooking class the next day with all my questions as to how to make this and that when the son disappeared inside and returned with his Samsung phone. He then showed me a video on YouTube on how to make string hoppers!! I asked if it was a special link he used or if it was a particularly good Sri Lankan chef to which he replied that he had simply googled “how to make string hoppers!” A little disappointing but something I will be googling when I get back! T
Healthy snacks for sale at the bus station.
The interior of the first cave.
The Caves were painted from top to bottom. Buddhas and kings everywhere.
The uneven surface of the cave walls looked quite surreal after they were painted.
The view of the countryside from the entrance to the cave.
Our guest house in its idillic surrounding
Our view of the Sigiriya Rock. Tomorrow’s mission.
Reflective shots over the surrounding forests. Wonderful.