Spice Gardens and Aurvedic Medicine
After the walk through the gardens, we were able to sample some remedies and even treated to a brief neck and shoulder massage. Of course I couldn't leave without taking home some medicines of my own. I especially gravitated towards the Garcinia Cambogia pills, which when mixed with hot water and honey before breakfast are supposed to reset your metabolism. I also picked up some of the wonderful cinnamon sticks. Incidentally, Sri Lanka produces 90% of the world's cinnamon supply.
In Awe at Sigiriya Rock Fortress
I had heard so much about "the climb" to the top of this Lion Rock and the 1200 stairs that needed to be conquered before you got there. When I arrived, I was in complete awe of it's beauty and magnificence, although I have to admit that thinking of climbing the ominous structure left me more than a little nervous. There are places to stop, and I certainly had to do so to catch my breath, and take in the incredible views. You can also opt to climb the circular stairs to see the beautiful cave paintings depicting the King's wives or concubines. No cameras are allowed in this area, so the images are only captured in my mind. These circular stairs I thought would be the death of me. I'm not great with heights and had to keep telling myself to look at the step in front of me and don't look down, which you know I DID! I literally prayed at each step leading up to the cave. Although the climb was a bit treacherous, the reward of the original frescoes was well worth it.
Once you return from the cave murals (yes, the only way back is to climb down those spiral stairs), you continue to the summit of the Lion Rock. Once you reach a plateau, you will see the lion's feet at the base and more stairs leading to the top. The feet are all that remains of the lion and serve as "you're almost there" point for the tourists. We could see the clouds forming and expected the usual downpour that seems to follow us at every turn. Our guide, Asiri, also told us that should it start raining, hold on to the iron rails with both hands. The goal was to to reach the top and return before the rains came.
With the constant encouragement of our group, I reached the top of the mountain. The views are breathtaking and the ruins left me imagining the life of the prince and his wives/concubines as they waltzed around the pools and palace corridors. It is definitely a sight to be seen. Yes, it is exhausting and frightening, but I knew I did not come all the way to Sri Lanka to NOT get to the summit. The climb is worth every step and one of the highlights of my visit to this amazing country.
The Golden Temple of Sri Lanka
Although this visit was not originally scheduled for today, we decided as a group to do it so we could squeeze in a viewing of the Elephant gathering tomorrow. This is the beauty of this group tour. Although there is a specific itinerary, nothing is set in stone. If we decide to stop and venture off to try something new, there is certainly room to do so, although it does make for a tiring and very full day.
Our guide, Asiri, also encouraged us to visit the cave temple in the evening when the tourists had left and we could enjoy the incredible paintings and sculptures in a more peaceful setting. After conquering Sigiriya, the 120 steps to this temple seemed almost laughable!
As we entered each cave and admired the magnificence of the statues and murals in the tranquility of our private space, we could see why Asiri made the recommendation. It is a completely different feeling to be able to take your time, peruse each statue and feel the spirituality of the place than to fight hoards of crowds in the daytime heat and humidity.
As difficult as it was to continue our journey today, I'm so glad we ended the day with the beauty and serenity of The Golden Temple.