The Ancient Cities

Sri Lanka

Siguriya and Kandy

As we head south in the car, we enter what the guidebook is calling the Ancient Cities area.

Mihintale

Our first stop is an important Buddhist site, Mihintale. It’s the location of introducing Buddhism to Sri Lanka in 247 BC. The climb to the temple complex is up 1843 granite slab steps.

Siguriya

Our destination for the evening is Siguriya. The small town services tourists visiting the rock with the same namesake. The rock drives straight out of the ground with vertical walls and a flat top. It’s home to a former king who overthrew his father. Fearing reprisal the son built his kingdom on the top of the rock.

It’s early when we start our walk to the entrance to the site. We make it into the park by 7:30 a.m. and there aren’t many other people about. Our destination is the top. It’s easier to climb in the morning before it gets hot, according to our guidebook.

Halfway up we pass frescoes painted on the rock and the feet of a lion, once whole, that guarded the passage to the top of the rock. At the top, we wander through the remains of the kingdom.

After Siguriya, we’re headed further south. On our way we’re stopping at other ancient sites. This is where the illness that has been at bay makes a turn for the worse. I am very dehydrated from the diarrhea and the hike up Siguriya Rock that morning. It’s resulting in one of the most severe headaches I’ve experienced and is becoming a migraine. The sounds from the radio are jarring and the light is hard to handle.

We stop at a herb and spice garden. It is an unplanned stop on our journey – suggested by our driver – and I’m not well. I make it around the garden and receive an Ayurvedic treatment before I’m back to the car early. I’m desperate for quiet and I know I won’t receive it until we make it to our guesthouse.

Our destination for the evening is Kandy. It’s the second largest city in Sri Lanka and is higher in the mountains, leading to a cooler climate. This part of Sri Lanka is the hill country, and it has a significant influence from the English. In the centre of Kandy is a man made lake.

It’s here that I recover from the migraine and illness. I sleep for 16 hours straight, only waking to eat food that David has found after venturing down the hill to the city from our guesthouse. I wake feeling rested, and with the migraine having passed. It will take another day to feel more normal, but with the passing of the illness I’m ready to explore the hills of Sri Lanka, famous for tea and natural beauty.