Have you ever been travelling and done something that frightened the heck out of you?
For me, it was climbing up this massive rock while in Sri Lanka.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of eight in Sri Lanka), Sigiriya is surrounded by a fortress filled with moats and lily pads, water gardens and shines and a series of steps and vertical staircases that lead to the city ruins at the top of the rock.
Otherwise known as Lion Rock for looking like a gigantic brick lion, the plateau was home to an impressive seven-story palace and swimming pool, sitting at 405m above sea level. The ancient civilisation enjoyed spectacular views and today this is the pay off for the tourists who make it to the top…something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do.
Doesn’t seem so hard though, right? Just climb the 1,080 steps, get to the top and then bask in the glorious accomplishment of reaching the summit. Simple, yeah? BA-BOW.
The day kicked off without a hitch. Our group set off early in the morning before the heat set in and it seemed to be a pleasant, leisurely stroll. That is, until we got to the rusty, narrow spiral staircase perched alongside the big rock, that led to the beautifully painted 5th century frescoes.
From there on in, it was bloody tough and SLOW going for me.
I had to take it step-by-step while tightly grasping the hand rail and doing my best not to look anywhere but the stairs so I could see where to put my feet. The fear factor was high and I was a complete hot mess.
Yes, I turned into one of those people that we all want to rush past because they are such a slow coach.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so anxious / nervous / frightened or sweated so much in all my life – it certainly took the ladylike term swass (sweaty ass) to the next level. You see, I’m just not so great with heights.
I don’t remember being this spooked as a kid so maybe it’s an age thing but I’m way more cautious and wary these days. Not one to miss out, I was determined to defeat my inner scaredy cat and make it to the top of this world wonder.
The final staircase that starts between two huge lions paws carved into stone (and led into the lions mouth back in the day) was the hardest part. Thankfully our tour guide went ahead of me and held my hand which was a very helpful distraction. The staircase appears to be hanging off the rock (eeek!) and it was super windy up there. To top it off I had to hang onto my hat a few times as it felt like it was going to fly off. Oh man, my anxiety was working on overdrive!
When I FINALLY reached the summit, I thought I would feel relieved but it took a little while for the adrenalin to ease. Once my heart stopped racing and I started to feel calm, I was able to walk around the ruins and enjoy the astonishing view. It must have been such a magnificent spot for a grand Royal palace.
After walking around the ruins for a while, taking photos and enjoying the scenery, it dawned on me. What goes up, must come down. I had to make my way back down the rickety, windy, metal staircase!
I’m going to hazard a guess that I was a LOT slower going down because I found it so much harder. Again I had to have my hand held all the way down, with a guide leading the way, saving my wobbly legs from wanting to sit down and keep up the momentum to move from step to step. I cannot tell you how dang glad I was to make it back down to those lion paws.
When I look back, I’m super proud that I pushed on and did it, despite the terror I was feeling. I got to visit such a special place and made it to the top to experience the incredible view.
Am I still scared of heights? You betcha. Will I let it stop me from experiencing amazing places on my travels? Oh hell no.
Hit me with your travel adventures – what have you done that scared the heck out of you?
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