Conquering Sigiriya Rock Fortress in a Post Pandemic World
Posted On September 2020
Well, not really post-pandemic, we’re still very much in the middle of the pandemic. But let’s just go with the title for the sake of being apocalyptic and dramatic, shall we? Sigiriya Rock Fortress is an ancient citadel that was transformed from a monastery to a palace fit for a king – well almost. Kashyapa believed he was the rightful heir (though he was a bastard; a.k.a. the original Jon Snow). He killed dear old dad and sent his younger brother (the actual heir) running for his life. The story doesn’t end well, as the brother shows up years later and takes back the throne from Kash. Pretty tragic.
Back to my adventure. Our first trip post-lockdown took us approximately 200kms to the jungles of Sri Lanka. If you missed reading all about it in my previous blog post, I suggest you start there first.
Breakfast at Cinnamon Habarana Village
Our second day at Cinnamon Habarana Village was with an early start. While all the uncles and aunties hovered around the other rooms occupied by their own, determined to not miss the 4 hours of breakfast, we were already making our way to the table. At 6:30am.
Why pray tell were the three of us awake, showered and ready to eat SO early while on holiday? Well, we had other, bigger, better plans post breakfast.
Breakfast at Cinnamon hotels are generally satisfying and they lived up to expectation well. COVID-19 hygiene measures dictated that :
temperatures were checked before entering the restaurant
masks to be worn except when you were at your table
hands to be washed, etc.
Since we were the first for breakfast, we avoided the queues of other hungry guests who began to spill in shortly after the first breakfast course. After wolfing down croissants, omelettes, kiribath with chicken curry and some fresh fruits, we were ready to conquer an ancient citadel.
Mom was clad in a Barefoot sarong, determined to take worthy pictures for her social profiles, I was with a body suit (which I will come to regret later) and shorts, and sister was well, in shorts and slippers (frowns).
Our tuk driver who picked us up from the railway station the previous day was parked out front waiting for our gracious, albeit, hippo-semblance selves to make our way to the entrance, and by 7:30am, we were en route to Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
Habarana to Sigiriya
The ride from Habarana to Sigiriya Rock Fortress took us about 30 minutes through a back road, with jungles and little village houses on either side. Apparently, elephants are frequently spotted on this route too since its away from the main road. Our tuk guy enlightened mom with various facts about the area until we got to Sigiriya.
Entrance to Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Here’s a funny little pickle. We usually get off at the main entrance, buy tickets and enter in. Simple. But for some reason, the tuk guy dropped us about 5 kms away from the entrance, at a separate entrance, where we then had to walk until the first gate.
Harassed in Sigiriya? Fun.
At the first gate, an obnoxious man and two other guys chatted us up – one took our details and temperature, one just sat there and the obnoxious asshole started asking us where we were from cause of how we dressed – like he actually told us, Sri Lankans don’t dress the way we did. He continued harping about our attire, etc despite us conversing with him in Sinhalese and showing our national damn IDs as proof. Until they got all our details down, he went on about our clothes and how we didn’t look local – always fun to get harassed (sarcasm. in case you couldn’t detect it). What an absolute shit head.
The Walk to Sigiriya Rock Fortress
After all that, we continued walking another 20 minutes until we got to the actual entrance so we could buy the tickets. The route took us around the moat and gardens.
Oddly enough, the path to the top was redirected too. If you’ve climbed Sigiriya Rock Fortress before – like we have at least 10 times – the path goes past the water gardens, up a couple 100 steps, up a spiral staircase to the image gallery of the apsaras and then onwards past the mirror wall and to the lion paws.
You now had to walk up the same path that was the usual exit route, and then a flight of stairs before reaching the lions paws. The mirror wall and image gallery was cordoned off from visitors. No particular reason for this either; so we just assumed it was for renovations.
We climbed and climbed, with pitstops for mom to catch her breath whilst her sarong blew in the wind – large enough to create a parachute.
At the top of Sigiriya
Finally reaching the top, we were blessed with a windy, cloudy day. Couple of hundred pictures later, around 11am, we were ready to head back down.
The tourist car park where our tuk guy said he’d pick us from was also cordoned off. A helpful tourist police spoke to the driver and directed him on how to pick us back. Instead of waiting in a desolated car park, we walked towards the gate, only to find out that the three douchebags from the entrance who harassed us at 7am had not let him through.
When we told him the police gave the driver permission, he smugly shrugged us away and started saying how he can’t allow the driver through just because the police was okay with it. I mean, What?! Mom was getting agitated with her replies, so we just brushed him away and hurried off. Asshole.
Back at Habarana Village
On our ride back to the hotel, we stopped for a quick thirst quencher – thambili! Few laughs and mom almost getting choked on it later, we were back at the hotel. With a late checkout at 1pm, we had an hour to shower, rest and pack up.
The hotel seemed more crowded for a Sunday- possibly because schools weren’t open and a majority of offices were still working from home. We managed to use the empty pool during lunch hours, as all the hungry humans gathered around the restaurant.
Now, here’s the little stitch, our train back home was at 9:30pm! So we had roughly 8 hours to kill in Habarana. We took it easy – obviously. After two days of back-to-back excursions – read about The Elephant Gathering here, we sat by the pool, ordered wine, beer and bites. Read books, befriended a squirrel and some of us took a nap.
Interestingly, our tuk driver told us about his little B&B that was 2 minutes from the railway station. So, we decided to spend a few hours there, where we could have a nap, shower and get ready for the journey back home.
By 4:30pm, he picked us up and onwards we went!
Wild Resort Habarana
The ‘resort’ was a two-bedroom house with a massive garden, that I ended up drunkenly exploring in the afternoon, completely unaware of snakes and other insects that might be nesting in knee-high grass.
The room was clean and neatly done. With AC, a tiled bathroom and a large bed, it was ideal for a bit of rest before the journey home.
While mom and sister had a nap, I grabbed my book, glass of wine and sat out in the garden.
The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur as the wine hit home harder than expected and I woke up around 8pm, in time for rotti and chicken curry – homemade by tuk driver’s wife which tasted so good!
Habarana to Colombo by Train
By 9:00pm, we heard a loud cracker, only to be informed that they were to warn elephants off the rail tracks. Having bid adieu to our tuk driver, we sat at the train station for 15ish minutes until the train zoomed past to a halt.
We found our seats (which you can reserve in advance!) and dozed right off. Until I dozed off, I kept hoping that we wouldn’t hit any elephants that were crossing paths and luckily we didn’t. The train ride was roughly 6 hours long and though it was at night, there were no creeps or weirdos harrassing or disturbing us. So whether you’re a solo traveller (male or female) or a bunch of girls, the night train back from Habarana to Sigiriya is a good option for transport.
By 3am, we reached Colombo Fort Station. Booked a cab and got home a little after 4am. Slept for a few hours and got dressed for work at 8am.