Sigiriya - Lion Rock and the King's folly

  Sigiriya, another Sri Lankan World Heritage Site, was the place we very much wanted to visit but dreaded the difficulties that might have been involved in the long climb to the top.  In our research we came across reports of how it was difficult to climb to the top of the rock and that help in the form of "pushers" could be employed. 

Fortunately, our experience during our visit to Sigitiya was far easier than we had imagined and the spectacular views we had from the peak were ample reward for our effort.
  We set off from our hotel, the Heritance Kandalama around 08:30 in the morning as our aim was to be there before the noon heat.  It took us a little over half an hour to get to Sigiriya.  There were a lot of volunteers to act as helpers/guides at the entrance gate but as our driver/guide was coming with us we decided not to employ their services.  We crossed the moat and found ourselves in the water garden.  Some of the pools still have water and one can only imagine how beautiful the area must have originally been.  We discussed with the boys the interesting sibling rivalry story behind the building up of this area and as we proceeded up, the smooth incline gave way to a series of rock steps.  Thankfully we were proceeding on the shaded side of the rock and together with the light breeze conditions were not uncomfortable.  A couple of stops later, as necessary to admire the view as to catch our breath, we found ourselves at the
base of a metallic spiral staircase.  A set of voluptuous half naked ladies ready to offer us fruits and flowers met us at the very top of the stairs.  For 1500 old, the ladies looked remarkably beautiful and one can appreciate the intent of whoever chose them as greeters to the rock of Sigiriya.  To double the impressive effect on visitors, a highly polished wall acting as mirror existed on the opposite side of a corridor that housed more paintings.  Unfortunately those paintings are gone and the mirror wall has lost its shine.
  Continuing our ascent, we reached a sandy plateau from which, imposingly,  the very top part of the rock protruded.  The feet of a lion enclosed a set of stone steps that gradually disappeared and gave their place to a metallic staircase leading to the highest part where the King Kassapa's summer residence used to be.  After yet another quick stop for photos and a breather we started for the last and most difficult part of our climb.
  A group of monkeys seemed to mock our labors by effortlessly going up and down, not the stairs but the plain rock!  Despite the distraction, we reached the top level in a short time.  The plateau is not big by any stretch of imagination but the sense of spaciousness you get up there is incredible.  Before us stretched for mile after mile a round the horizon uninterrupted view of green jungle, lakes with a lonely Buddha in the distance.  Sigiriya is probably the most photogenic site we visited in out time in Sri Lanka and spend a good half hour enjoying the surroundings and taking photos.
  Our descent from the rock's peak was far less taxing and quicker.  When our guide pointed out the Cobra Head rock we were not expecting to see a snake.  Either by luck or by the craftiness of an enterprising Sri Lankan, a boa constrictor and two baskets containing cobras materialized in front of us as we turned away.  Despite having purchased not one but two snake charming flutes the previous day from Polonnaruwa we did not feel like testing our skills whit these particular snakes.  Taking advantage of a French family keeping snakes and handler busy, we quickly headed to the exit and our vehicle.  We had a date in Habarana with an elephant and did not want to keep a majestic creature like that waiting...