We get to the ticket office where the guides waiting for a hire tell us that 2 additional entrances have been dug up by recent excavations. Obviously to see these tie into a need to hire their services. With the confidence of “locals” we decline. Never recall my parents hiring guides when we used to visit sites in the “ancient” dry zone. Almost always it was on some sort of pilgrimage “visit the sacred sites” thing. Hiring guides are for foreigners.

Spousal unit had looked too cute curled up in the sheets earlier that morning so I didn’t have the heart to wake her up at 6am as planned. As a result, when we get to the mountain its simmering in the 11am heat. Thankfully most of the way up is shaded by the rock. The going is not too bad. The breeze keeps things cool.

Mrs C is not too good with heights creating ample opportunities for legitimate public paw holding. However this means, I have to climb the spiral staircase to the famous frescoes alone. “I have seen those before” is the explanation I’m given.

The ladies of the rock are not as impressive as I expected. They feel far way. Shadows of something that has long since left this place. Now just symbols of a time that we will never really understand. The guard is an utterly bored looking guy with his lips blood red from heavy betal chewing. His boredom is an odd contrast given that his workspace is plastered with pictures of bare bodied women. Decide not to bother with taking pictures (others have done a better job of that than me).

I climb down and the two of us make our way to the lions paws. The cages built for protection from wasp/bee attacks are filled with rubbish. One stone at those nests and we’d be helpless. Lucky we weren’t around when it happened. Spousal unit decides to stay (the height thing again) while I get cooked on the last steep climb to the palace. There is a reasonable gangway now where during a child hood visit all I can recall were iron rungs and foot holds cut in the rock with a very frail looking “hand rail”. At the top there’s the obliquitous bored dog looking like he owns the place. There’s no shade save for a single tree at the top.

And the view, well its best left to the pictures when (note I’m being ambitious and not saying if) I get around to uploading them.

The view also indicates that a horde of school kids are storming the citadel. The first wave had already reached the paws and are scaling to the palace. The boys are sent ahead. The girls corralled at a careful distance behind. Just to be safe they are made to wear jeans under their uniforms. Which actually looks like some sort of uniquely Sri Lankan hippie fashion statement. The boys faithfully follow a Russian couple and their guide. Eagerly listening to every word of broken Russian. Or may be it was the fact that the female of the couple is very young Nordic blond in denim hot pants. She’s miraculously not sun burnt.

I manage to get down the steps as the second wave of kids (the girls this time) puff up the gangway. The poor things boiling in their school ties and denim with determined looking sari clad teachers watching over them. While I’ve been away, the spousal unit has been roped into taking group photographs of a Sri Lanka expat (I’d bet from down under) and his pals.

On the way down we do some exploring of our own and come across what looks like a water tank cut into a boulder. Its not the glamourous type of thing that’s splashed in the brochures. Back by the car-park we buy a bottle of much needed water and a handicraft thing. Mainly out of sympathy for the tourist deprived vendors.


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