Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We are back at the boat and our wonderful trip is over. I will try and give you a sense of what we saw.  The archaeological sites were stunning. We spent a tiring but exhilarating two days touring the sites, extending our stay an extra day to make sure we had time to do an adequate tour of the ruins.  To back up just a bit, we had a visually stunning drive down the mountains  through the tea plantations and on to the flat lands were the ruins were located.  There were hair pins turns all the way down the mountains, the road being so narrow if there was a bus coming up towards us we had to wait until he got around the curve because he would take up 2 lanes because he turning radius was too wide to negotiate the turn in one lane.  Sri Lankans love colour and they decorate everything including their transport trucks, check out this prime example that was trundling up the mountain road.  This woman was out cutting food for her cattle, and she was hiking back up the highway to her home. 
Before we set off to the sites the 10 year old girl we were travelling  with and I partook of an elephant ride.  We had to climb up a ladder to a platform and then clamor onto the "saddle".  A few meters down the path I got to ride on Kumari's neck.  The hair on her skin was about 8cm long and very stiff and prickly. Her ears would flap back against my legs and I am not sure if she could feel me scratching them or not.  We had a hand of bananas that we fed to her one at a time.  Her trunk would come up over he head and grope for the  banana as we attempted to put it in her trunk. She would exhale noisily, I think perhaps she was smelling  where the banana was. We had a great time going into the water and sitting alone on her there while she cooled off.  She was very  well behaved. 
After that we headed off to Sigaraya an ancient site that was first built in 200 BC, but the main palace was built on top of the rock in 11th century.  To get to the top you had to negotiate over 1200 steps. Each brick that was used to construct the palace was made at the bottom and carried up the 1200 steps that were made of bamboo in the old days, quite an impressive feat.

These steps were enclosed and built by the British in 1937, pretty secure.

These steps were not enclosed and if you suffered from vertigo, you shouldn't bother going up. 
On the way up there was a cave that had frescoes in it.  The people had used a mixture of limestone, clay, beeswax and honey to make a paste that they smeared on the walls it was about 4 cm thick and on this they would paint images.  In later years (13th century) the site was given to monks as a monastery and they destroyed most of the frescoes because they were off bare breasted women and the monks did not approve.  They did not discover this site and the drawings down in the 11th century remain. They were stunning. 
This is painted on rock in a cave about 400 meters up the side of a huge outcrop. 
The view from the top was outstanding, a full 360 degree vista off the surrounding countryside.  A very commanding military outlook.  The only problem was water, in the wet season the king and his court could live up at the top safe and secure but during the dry season they had to come down and live at the bottom to have access to water. 
This is our guide for our trip up and down Sigiriya, this is a opening through the rocks near the bottom.  On a good day he would go up and down 4 times.  He has been doing it for 24 years.  The guides were quite impressive, our spoke German and English as well as the 2 Sri Lankan languages, Sinhalese and Tamil, he told us there were other who spoke,  French, Russian and Japanese.   I am going to do the next site on another blog because there  was so much to see.