We had pre-booked a 4-day whistlestop tour around Sri Lanka with a well-known travel company (we'll name and review them at the end of the tour!) prior to leaving home, and were met by our driver at Colombo airport. We drove for 3 hours north of the capital to reach our first stop at Sigirya. Our hotel (booked for us by the tour company) turned out to be a beautiful oasis far from the main road. Due to the extreme early hour of our flight we arrived soon after 10am, and while we waited for our room to be ready our hosts kindly whipped up a delicious breakfast of fruit, eggs and toast for us; a welcome meal as over 6 hours had elapsed since breakfast by this time!
After breakfast I took some time to research the country we'd just arrived in, and was surprised to learn that the majority of people here are not Tamil, as I'd presumed, but actually a people called the Sinhala, who speak Sinhalese and are mostly Buddhists, and not, as I'd assumed, Christian (Roman Catholics make up just under 7% of the Sri Lankan population).
Whilst I relaxed on the terrace, which affords impressive views of the massive rock formation for which Sigiriya is famous, Dev set to work attempting to capture the local wildlife on film- and struck up a friendship with one of the local guys who gave him some pointers on the variety of animals around, and then offered to take us on a walk in the surrounding jungle!
We saw wild elephant tracks and our guide glimpsed a mongoose- and managed to get some spectacular views of the surrounding forest by climbing (yes, me too) up a sheer rock face covered in criss-crossing tree branches which we used as footholds. If you've read the travel insurance section of the website, this is a case of 'do as I say, not as I do'...
In the afternoon we went to visit the famous rock for ourselves – we'd avoided the midday heat as advised by our online research and our guide, but climbing 200m up an almost-vertical rockface in 75% humidity took its toll on us (me) nonetheless!
Entrance tickets to Sigirya Rock Fortress, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, were comparatively expensive, at US $30 each, or 4500 Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR). We unfortunately timed our visit perfectly to intersect with a gigantic group of schoolchildren on a school trip, about two hundred of whom seemed to get a kick out of saying 'hi' to me as I struggled up the thousands of stairs, gasping for breath. As I write this, my phone has just buzzed to alert me that I've reached my daily step target. No kidding...The route up was vertigo-inducing to say the least, with narrow stone steps which were expected to accommodate both ascending and descending foot traffic, teetering railings on rocky precipices, and precarious-looking spiral staircases, with the sun beating down all the while.
We were rewarded with unbelievably beautiful views from the top of the fortress, which is surrounded on all sides by stunning valleys, mountains and lakes, and I can truly say this is an experience I won't forget in a hurry.
We also saw an abundance of monkeys, as well as a tiny perfect kingfisher!
What we've seen of Sri Lanka so far has been breathtaking- we can't wait for more!