Besides Plonnaruwa, the Sigiriya rock is something not to be missed when doing the Cultural Triangle in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Its structure is striking, a rock with nearly vertical walls that rises up among a stretch of green with the remains of a fortress on top of it. It’s about 1000+ steps to the top with few staircases that are attached to the wall of the rock in midair. Quite freaky to tell you the truth, be careful acrophobics, I guess I was kind of grateful for the fog that morning.
(TIP: another important part of the triangle will be the city of Anuradhapura which is roughly an hour and a half drive from Dambulla)
That morning was our last in Dambulla and after yet another great breakfast at the guesthouse we were staying at, we bid our generous hosts-who packed us some fruits for the road- goodbye. We had a ride arranged for that day since the plan was to head to Nuwara Eliya afterwards and it wouldn’t have been possible to get that easily accomplished using public transport. The day we went to Sigiriya marked the start of the surprise the weather had for us! It was raining since morning and got heavier as we were about to climb up the rock. The fog was so dense that the rock itself wasn’t visible as we took on the path leading to the staircases and into the top.
The steps were slippery and with some being higher than the others, we had to be extra careful. On the way up, a set of spiral stairs will take you to those mesmerizing frescoes; those intricate wall paintings in bright earthy colors that absolutely astounded me (we weren’t allowed to take pictures unfortunately!). The views along the way up were stunning, they intensified as we reached the top. I was surrounded by this vastness of evergreen, everywhere I looked I saw greenery. The scene was decorated by scattered white dots that accounted for Buddhist temples with prayers floating in the air surrounding the summit. It was so calming that despite being drenched, I was unruffled. I kept on thinking, if it was that beautiful in such miserable weather, how it would be if the sun was illuminating the horizon?
(TIP: Sigiriya can be a good location for watching the sunrise. Another less famous spot in the area will be the Pidurangala Rock.)
We needed to change our soaking clothes by the time we were down and despite being in a dry outfit; I was still shivering over my wet scarf!! As we continued on our way to Nuwara Eliya afterwards, we asked our driver if we can make a quick stop at a spice garden. We did and oh boy that turned out to be interesting 😀 The tour didn’t only include introducing us to lots of spices, herbs and their uses, but it also comprised a free massage and consultation from the herbal doctor. The “doctor” claims he can know all about your health by measuring your pulse, his services are optional and free of charge. That sounded eccentric so I thought why not!! In addition to measuring my pulse, the doctor asked me loads of questions. So he must get down to something eventually, right? His diagnosis of my physical and psychological health was interesting! He talked about lots of organs that I need to get “cleaned” including my spleen. He wrote a very long and detailed prescription full of those herbs that I’m supposed to use for a few months. I wasn’t forced to buy any but the overall sum was ridiculous.
The doctor saved the best for last; beauty! I think I didn’t measure up to his standards of beauty and that encouraged him to bring up the subject of losing weight so I would become prettier. Don’t all women want to be pretty he asked! Not that I’m not one, he then implied! PHEW!! Well, weight is a very subjective matter in my opinion and being overweight doesn’t mean that one is any less beautiful so excuse me if I didn’t fall for this. I read a quote online that says “to be beautiful means to live confidently in your own skin” and I totally believe in this. So what matters is to be truly at peace with myself whether that falls under anyone’s definition of peace or not.
Before concluding the consultation, the guy gave me his email and number and told me I can contact him only in my darkest moments when I need to talk to someone who is not family nor a friend!! He stressed the point of not contacting him when I’m happy, only when I’m miserable!! Not sure if I would want to do that thank you very much!
(TIP: while I was searching something for this post I came upon those TripAdvisor reviews about one spice garden and guess what? It is the one we stopped at and the reviews were not encouraging, so you may want to be careful if that’s the garden you are visiting. To be honest, nothing really happened. They just kept on stalling us to try things and we ended up wasting a good couple of hours. My friend bought some spices and she said they were old. I bought the tea we sampled and it wasn’t the same!! So, nothing major!)
After that unusual affair, we continued on our way to Nuwara Eliya. We were already driving through the hill country of Central Province over cliff roads surrounded by tea plantations and greenery that was interrupted by occasional waterfalls. The scenery around the hill country was notable. It did remind me of the Scottish Highlands but still, it wasn’t really similar to the evergreen I have seen in Scotland. It was wild and flirtatious with those long legged trees, unlike the more dignified British counterparts. Driving by all those tea plantations, we asked our driver if we can stop at one. Guess what? We made a stop at a Scottish tea factory just on time for afternoon tea. The factory tour took us through the process of making tea and introduced us to the different kinds of tea leaves and what can be made out of each one. We took a quick walk among tea trees and sampled some of the tea produced by the factory. We didn’t catch the workers picking up the leaves unfortunately as it was after working hours when we had the tour. Nonetheless, it was nice and informative.
We were told by our driver that some areas are segregated according to faith but as we drove by that specific neighborhood in Central Province, we passed a mosque, a Buddhist temple, and a Hindu temple all next to one another. Talking about cultural and religion diversity here, I wondered if the people living in that area were at peace with one another. And if the humble people of Sri Lanka were able to accomplish such harmony despite all the differences, then why the rest of the world is still having acceptance problems?! Wouldn’t it be easier to accept instead of reject and decline?
We reached our final destination after sunset but even the dark couldn’t hide how beautiful Nuwara Eliya was. It was so colonial that I couldn’t believe I was still in Sri Lanka, our driver told us locals call it Little England and you could actually tell why once you set eyes on it.
Our accommodation in Nuwara Eliya was yet at another guesthouse that was absolutely lovely. The place overlooks Lake Gregory; it has an outside garden with trees and flower creepers everywhere, and rooms that are unusually decorated with bright colors. Our room was purple and came with butterfly decorations. The host was an extremely helpful and nice guy. I consulted him about the Horton Plains hike we were planning on doing in the morning and he was so patient with me because I literally asked him a good deal of questions about that one and what was to come afterwards throughout our trip.
Weather strike number two that day, we had to cancel that hike! The Horton Plains is a hike that is advisably done at sunrise and that requires a very early start of the day. The weather forecast said rainy and cold so we had to abort it. Surprisingly, the meticulous and planned self was totally fine with that conclusion! I didn’t want to be wet and cold and end up not being able to see the sun rising nor enjoy the stunning views of World’s End, so accepting that fact was the right thing to do. By the time we were in town, it was too late to have dinner at the guesthouse but our kind host recommended a nearby Indian restaurant. I think that was the best dinner I had during the whole trip. The food was mouthwatering and Sara and I went into this laughing frenzy, it could have been the spices maybe! We literally laughed our hearts out; it was such a warming ending to a great day.
What’s next after cancelling our planned hike? Find that one out in the upcoming part of my trip to Sri Lanka 😉