Sigiriya on my mind

Sigiriya. Photo from Flickr user Surreal Name Given:
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Sigiriya on my mind


Lovely Sri Lanka


I soaked in the raw beauty of Sri Lanka a decade or so ago as a tourist on holiday. It’s a lovely country with warm and hospitable people, natural landscapes, and a rich cultural heritage. Among the places I’d recommend visiting are Kandy (for its breathtaking views), Colombo (for its affordable shopping spree choices), and Sigiriya (for its glimpse of the nation’s past). It was the latter, in fact, that also inspired me to write this poem shortly after I returned from my trip:


What is this thing about a paw and a “promise that remains to be seen,” you say? Well, since you asked..


The lion gate at Sigiriya. Photo by Flickr user Paul Mannix:
The lion gate at Sigiriya. Photo by Flickr user Paul Mannix.


A gruelling exercise


When the opportunity to visit and trek Sigiriya – one of Sri Lanka’s most famous tourist attractions – presented itself, I immediately said yes. Back then, I was a regular nerd whose idea of working out was standing up to change the TV channel. I’ve always been up for new experiences though, so I figured, how hard can it be? Well, here’s the short answer for those who aren’t used to regular physical activity: very.

We started on a spirited dash towards the lion gate, which on hindsight probably wasn’t the best option for me. I was already huffing and puffing halfway through the path leading towards the rock fortress’s steps. Along the way, I noted ancient fortifications, landscaped gardens, and beautiful frescoes. They all seemed to evoke a bygone era of a glorious rule. I paused to consider what it was like living during that age.

My appreciation of the surroundings soon gave way to pronounced exhaustion, however. Climbing Sigiriya was the hardest physical exercise I had attempted in over five years. The effort I expended that day literally sucked away my life force.

The long and short of it was that I was not able to reach the summit. Seriously. Can you believe it? 🙁 What was super upsetting about that fact was that I was a mere 20 or so feet away from it. I so wanted to continue but I was already so tired my chest tightened. It was that bad. I had to remain where I was – sitting and gasping for breath on one of the steps of the last staircase one had to climb before reaching the ruins of the Sky Palace.


Sigiriya. Photo from Flickr user Surreal Name Given:
This is Sigiriya. Imagine my disappointment. So near yet so far. Photo from Flickr user Surreal Name Given.


An unconquered citadel


..and that’s why I remember Sigiriya with a measure of regret nowadays. It sucks that I wasn’t able to completely scale what the locals call the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It sucks that I didn’t have the foresight to start the hike in a slow pace, knowing full well how out of shape I was then. It sucks that I wasn’t even able to check out views like the one in the shot below. I was a mere breath away from conquering it!!

Writing about this now is a bit of a downer for me. Like a lot of folks, I usually highlight the fun adventures I’ve had. I do not broadcast the million and one mistakes that life lets you experience in between. So this is a break from the typical top tips or what-to-dos I publish. It isn’t your usual feel-good story. I figure there’s a lesson or two somewhere here nonetheless, which is why I’m sharing my incomplete Sigiriya adventure now.

At any rate, I feel that – should I ever climb Sigiriya again – I’d definitely have a better chance of conquering it today. After all, I’ve already started climbing mountains (check this and this and this) these past few years. Some days I wake up and totally feel like going back just to frickin’ vindicate myself.


The view from Sigiriya's peak. Photo from Unsplash user wayne_ooone Wang:
A view from Sigiriya’s peak. Photo from Unsplash user wayne_ooone Wang.


Useful info about Lion Rock, a.k.a. Sigiriya


If you’re interested to learn more about the nitty gritty of going there, here are some links where you can find useful and updated travel information:

Lonely Planet – a summary of the history behind the former royal residence and monastery

Sri Lanka Tourism – for those who wish to explore the rest of the country

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka – What to See, What to Climb – an engaging blog post with tips on travel-related costs

Sri Lanka: The Tale of Sigiriya Rock – historical facts woven into a travel blog tale

I wish you happy and healthy travels!


At least I was able to appreciate frescoes such as this one on my way up. This Sigiri painting photo is by Astronomyinertia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons.
At least I was able to appreciate frescoes such as this one on my way up. This Sigiri painting photo is by Astronomyinertia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons.


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If you have any medical concerns, please consult a trusted health professional. That’s what I did shortly after I returned from Sri Lanka. (Fortunately, it wasn’t anything serious. I really just was super out of shape that time.)

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