23 Oct Sri Lanka Travelogue – Day 1 – Sigiriya
After Catching Flight, we had reached our Destination – Sri Lanka, Colombo International Airport by Early morning 2 am. After immigration formalities we came out of the Airport, (as we had arranged a tour operator), our driver was waiting for us. We boarded the car and started to Sigiriya. The journey was quite nice, as it was too early; we thought of checking in to our hotel and fresh up and leave for exploring the city. It took around 4hrs to reach our Hotel, Saunter Paradise.
We reached the Hotel by 6.00am as the check-in time was 12.00pm. We rested in the reception and had a walk through the resort. Time passed pretty soon. By 11.30am hotel staff offered us a Cup of tea and later gave us the room keys. We quickly freshen up and left hotel for the day.
After a ride of 20-25mins, we reached our 1st spot The Sigiriya Lion Rock Temple.
To say about Sigiriya Lion Rock Temple, it Sigiriya is one of the most treasured historic monuments of Sri Lanka and it attracts thousands of tourists every year. Its 370 meters above the sea level and is often mentioned as the Eighth Wonder of the World by the Locals.
It was constructed by King Kasyapa in 3rd century BC and served as his monastery. In the middle of the 5th century, The King Kasyapa decided to construct a royal residence here. And after his death, Sigiriya again became a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century, when it was abandoned.
Near the entrance which is in the northern side of the rock, we took the entry tickets (2950LKR per person) and started to roam inside. It’s surrounded by leftovers of an abandoned palace, wide grid of emplacements, immense gardens, man-made ponds, canals, passages, and fountains. People started climbing the Rock as soon as they entered. There are about 1200 steps, you can probably walk up to the top and down again in 1.5-2 hours.
After walking through a long track, we gradually started walking uphill. Few steps and some plane ground, then a few steps again. All went fine all of a sudden; there were only stairways in front of me. And they went up and up. We can see gardens of Sigiriya which are the oldest designed water gardens, cave and boulder gardens, and also ridged gardens in the world. You can spot canals, locks, lakes, dams, bridges, fountains, as well as outward and concealed water pumps.
We can find a few shops for shopping, to have some snacks/drinks and a lot of Monkeys.
After taking some rest we climbed the fort and reached the Mirror wall. It is one of the most striking features of Sigiriya. In the ancient times, it was polished so systematically that the king can see his replication in it. We could see that the Mirror wall is painted with inscriptions and poems which were painted in the 8th century and now the painting/touching the wall is strictly prohibited.
We continued through the steps, and we have to go through the metal steps on the rock face and finally touched the basement of Lion Rock. It is designed in the form of a gigantic stone lion, whose feet have lasted up to today but the upper parts of the body were destroyed. A cheer to this lion the fort was named Sigiriya.
This palace is recognized as one of the supreme specimens of antique metropolitan planning. Considering the exclusivity of Sigiriya UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1982. Sigiriya is an unparalleled mixture of urban planning, water engineering, horticulture, and arts.
After capturing a few pics we slowly got down the steps and reached the exit of the Fort. Taking some drinks and snacks we bid a bye to this mind-blowing Palace.
It was about to 4.00pm and we headed towards Minneriya national park, about 40mins of the drive we reached Safari spot and our Agent arranged us private Jeep, as it was late and it’s about to rain he charged bit extra bucks(4000LNR /person). We agreed and boarded his Jeep. He was in super speed. After speeding we reached the minneriya national park by 5.15pm. After taking the entry tickets (1500LNR) he took us inside the National Park. It was the best class experience inside a deep forest of 8890 hectares. It’s an ideal eco-tourism location in Sri Lanka. There are two parks in the Habarana Reserve – Minneriya and another one Kaudulla National Park. Both are known for Wild Elephants.
On the way through the park, you can spot elephants, Spotted Deer (rarely) and If you’re lucky, a leopard looking for its prey may cross your way. After driving of 30mins through the jungle, we reached The Gathering- the name given to the elephants that assemble on the banks of the Minneriya Reservoir during the dry season.
In a squat, while there are over a hundred elephants, large and small, strewn all over the grasslands, eating, playing, jostling, drinking, bathing…… The Gathering has initiated. The Gathering takes place every year usually from about July until October. It is not relocation, but really a get together of a number of different herds of wild elephants from the surrounding areas of the Northern Region. It is guessed that elephants from the Wasgomuwa Park, and Kantale, make this annual visit. This is indeed a matchless phenomenon, not seen anywhere else in the world -such a high attentiveness of wild elephants in such a minor area.
There are large numbers of adolescents in these herds and a smaller number of matured male elephants, the most famous of which is the juvenile young tusker, and two mature tuskers. The gathering of elephants at Minneriya is thus a delightful chance for the wildlife supporter and casual traveler to watch and observe the social dynamics of elephants at leisure.
Ever in my life, I hadn’t seen these many Elephants. It’s a mind satisfying scenic. To add this beauty, rain accompanies added much more natural beauty. There were around 15-20 Safari jeeps carrying tourists to witness the Wild Life beauty. We were not allowed to get down of the Jeep as those are Wild elephants and it may attack us. It was mesmerizing feel to get close with wilderness and nature. We kept taking videos and pics of elephants. And our Driver used to adjust the jeep when the elephants came closer to us.
The sad news is that the Gathering of Lanka may be threatened. The admiration of the wildlife episode has also shaped complications for itself. During the months of The Gathering, the Minneriya Park is crowded with safari jeeps, which often block the elephants’ way to the tank and create inconvenience to the elephants.
After this lovely watch, we returned due to heavy rainfall and the roads are not in good condition. The return was bit troubled due to the poor conditions of the road and there were some maintenance works going on outside the gathering point and after taking few U-Turns our driver handed us safely to our tour operator.
We paid the driver and drove back to our Hotel… !
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