The first two weeks of my visit to Sri Lanka were spent without hitting many of the “must see” destinations, I saved all the history for the tail end, but almost missed it. Friends, new and old, nearly persuaded me to head back to Ella, a place that I didn’t really want to leave in the first place. Eventually though I realized it’d be silly to come and not conquer the rock, Lion’s rock, in Sigiriya, so despite the heat and unappealing bus ride I made my way north.
The night before departure my friends and I went out with Yohan, our awesome hostel owner. We didn’t drink that much but late night talks and waking up early to see off my friends made me way too tired for the bus ride ahead of me. Thank god I wasn’t actually hungover or I’m fairly certain I would have puked out the bus window, instead I just hung my head low and wished so hard that the driver would stop honking, braking and for the love of god turn down the music. From Kandy it’s a two hour bus to Dambulla where you then have to change for a 30 minute ride to Sigiriya. I got so lucky that afternoon, my timing was impeccable, so perfect that I got to spend that last bus ride packed to the gills with every elementary and middle school student on their way home from school.
When I eventually arrived in Sigiriya I was so overjoyed to get off the bus that I momentarily forgot I still had to find accommodation. My trip thus far had proved to me that you don’t need to book ahead in Sri Lanka, the real deals are waiting for you on arrival, so I began my search. The first owner wouldn’t budge lower than 2500 for his room, and while it was nice it was far from what I was looking to pay. Of course, his friend had a room so I followed her down the street. Despite my telling her I was only going to pay 1500 ($10) she insisted her room was nice and that 2000 was a fair price. Her son told me that I could pay the 1500, but it would be without hot water or wifi because that makes complete and practical sense. Eventually, as I was putting on my backpack to leave she agreed, the room was mine and although part of me wanted to look elsewhere the tired part won and I stayed.
I had unknowingly chosen the more remote part of town, mostly because I wanted to be near Hotel Sigiriya which is why prices seemed to be higher for accommodation. I didn’t mind though, it was quite, beautiful and I had a great view of the rock. By the time I was settled my stomach was rumbling so rather than walking back along the main road I decided to give Mili’s Restaurant a shot, a very, VERY quaint establishment just up the road from my guesthouse. The menu was pretty much the same as everywhere else I had been: Kottu, rice and curry, fried rice/noodle, sandwich and deviled meats. Similar to much of Southeast Asia I felt that these menu’s were a pallid example of the country's food and I was beginning to become a bit disenchanted with it all, I wanted more. With little choice I opted for chicken kottu but when it finally arrived, after a good 15 minutes I immediately regretted the chicken portion of that order. I should have played it safe and stuck to egg, I think I crunched on more shards of chicken bones than anything that actually resembled meat.
I had fleeting thoughts of climbing Pindurangala the afternoon of my arrival, but the morning bus adventure and lack of sleep took it out of me and I soon realized this was not happening, not even close. Instead I decided to simply walk around the perimeter of Sigiriya, at least this way I could get a little exercise and sunset views of the rock. The road east of Lion’s rock is beautiful, one small lane lined with gigantic trees and aside from the occasional semi or bus rumbling by, it was extremely peaceful. Of course, every passing tuk tuk wanted to offer me a ride somewhere, but I assured them I was trying to enjoy a walk. One of the last to pass told me to enjoy, but also to take caution because after dark wild elephants may be roaming this way. Not wanting to get trampled I picked up my pace, assuring I’d be back to the main road by nightfall.
To be quite honest I have no idea where my desire to travel to this country originated, but it festered and grew for nearly 3 years. In a sense it's a cleaner, safer, smaller India and having always had that country on my radar it seemed like the perfect test drive.