Elephants & The Holy Rock

Day 4 – 30MAR2014:  Dambulla  -> Polonnaruwa

Distance (km) : 72
Time on bike: 3h 6m
Avg. speed : 23.2 km/h
Total (km) : 286
Altitude:  75 m

Ready for take-off at the Sujatha Lodge in Dambulla. Another hot and sunny day is in store.


The Sirigiya Rock is one of the most visited sights in the country. As is usually the case, there’s a reason for that. It really is an impressive sight, that huge rock jutting up from the otherwise flat ground around.


The entry fee is a whopping 35 USD. Or 3.900 Rp. Or 39 local rice & curry dinners. That’s ridiculous to me.

As a matter of principle I refuse to pay that price and opt for something less ‘tourist trappy’. Somewhere online I’d read about a neighboring rock, about the same size, same views, but without an entrance fee and without the tourists and without the temple stuff. I set out to find this rock…


On my way to the rock I find a bit of shade under this huge tree next to a local school.


At the foot of the rock there’s a little temple and an old caretaker that offers to take care of my bike while I’m climbing the ‘little brother’ rock (Pidurangala Rock). He hands me a ticket and I hand him the 300 Rp (2.2 USD) that’s printed on the ticket.

Instantly, this feels like the better solution instead of following the herds up the famous ‘big brother’ rock of Sigiriya. On this rock, it’s just me. And my camera. And a reclining Buddha from years gone by.


Views are magnificent. 360º.


Standing on this lesser-known rock, I actually get to see the famous rock from a distance. A feat that the rows of Sigiriya-visitors don’t really get. You cannot see the wood for the trees, they say.


Back on track, I head towards the city of Polonnaruwa along main road A11. Near Lake Minneriya I suddenly see elephants roaming around. There’s 3 of them. Great timing! I’m quite flabbergasted. Sri Lanka is full of surprises.


The distant, dark dot above the bike is a 3 tonnes herbivore.


Monkeys are everywhere.


In Polonnaruwa I check in to the Samudra Guest House, 800 Rp (6 USD). I then realize that today’s 72 km and a rock climb isn’t enough to satisfy my restless legs, so I put on my running shoes and go for a 10 km run along the beautiful Bendiwewa, the artificial water tank (think: lake) just west of the town.

Sun is setting. Senses are alive. Inspired by some local kids, I finish off the physical activities of the day with a little refreshing swim in the tranquil waters of the lake. Heaven.

At night I go out for dinner with German Petra that stays at the same guesthouse as me. We manage to find a local restaurant that serves cold beer. My first Sri Lankan beer: The Lion Lager, 4.8%, and quite a decent beer. It’s been a(nother) powerful day…