Climbing the Lion

Sri Lanka 256By Dave Fox
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

From a distance, Lion’s Rock resembles a moldy loaf of bread atop an avocado-green kitchen counter. As you get closer, you discover it is in fact a commanding rock outcropping, which you can climb if you enjoy that excruciating, lactic acid sensation in your legs.

The clump of gneiss was home to King Dhatusena in the fifth century AD. When the king declared his son, Mogallana, heir to the throne, his other son, Kassapa, got peeved. Kassapa threw his father in a chamber and left him to die. Then he drove his brother into exile in India. Then he sat and sulked and reigned over his kingdom, until 491, when Mogallana returned to Lion’s Rock with a bunch of mercenaries. Kassapa could have just hung out on top of the rock, and whacked his brother’s army from above, but being the arrogant jerk that he was, he decided to come down from his fortress and ride around, sneering, on an elephant. The elephant, being more intelligent than Kassapa, took off running when he saw the army. But the army surrounded the elephant, at which point Kassapa decided to commit suicide.

Sri Lanka Sigiriya Cave PaintingsI do not know what happened to the elephant. Furthermore, I do not have time to fact-check the above story – I am on my honeymoon – so if you are plagiarizing this for a school report on Sri Lanka, expect no better than a C+.

Anyway, you can climb to the top of Lion’s Rock now if you are brave, or if you are married to a woman who will drag your whimpering self, by the ear, up to the top. On the way up, you will see ancient paintings of beautiful, albeit fictitious, ladies. In days of yore, men graffiti’ed love poems to these ladies onto the rocks because back then, they did not have Internet porn to occupy their fantasies.

Sri Lanka 219In order to see the ladies, and the former king’s hangout at the top, you must climb up 183 meters, up approximately 1,400 steps, which is difficult if you have a phobia of steps in wide open spaces — not that I’m saying I do, or anything like that, but just to be safe, I kept my eyes closed the whole way up. Once I opened them, I saw a pretty spiffy view of the surrounding plains. I also got to see the rock paintings of the fictitious ladies, but I am married now so I am obliged to say they really aren’t so beautiful.

Published on Tuesday, January 3, 2012

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