Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka: Attack Of The Killer Wasps

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“Get Down! Get Down!”

“Why do I have to get down?”

“Just do it!”

I gripped the staircase railing and dropped to the ground like a lead weight. I watched the bolts, face close to the rock wall, and wondered at exactly how sturdy this ancient staircase really was. Was that a wobble? Were we precariously perched on a cliff about to tumble to the ground? Or was there something more disturbing at play?

Our First View Of The Rock

It was another early morning when we were ushered onto our coaches to head to the famous Sigiriya Rock. I have to admit some ignorance in having no idea what was in store for us until the bus stopped for a photo opportunity. And there it was in all its glory.

“We are climbing that?” I muttered incredulous. 

Taking photos was the easy part and 2 cows played nicely into the shot. I also enjoyed watching the famous Captain and Clark at work on a mockumentary about cows with help from Backpack with Brock

Actually seeing 50 bloggers photographing this majestic piece of nature was amusing in itself and also slightly intimidating as those elaborate cameras came out of serious, black camera bags.

Are We There Yet?

I was still undecided on actually climbing this gargantuan rock, however peer pressure can often work at the best of times if not always in the best of ways and I was caught up in the crowd that descended upon the rock face like little ants climbing their nest. As I started at the base of the 1500 step high climb I admonished myself for my 3 buffets a day and convinced myself this was my just desserts – pun fully intended. :)

During the climb I stopped for a breather and noticed a large crowd of grey-haired climbers bypassing me. One particular, elderly lady stood out to me as she was helped up the rock face. I felt ashamed and determined.

The monkeys on the way up seemed friendly enough, although their beady eyes were locked onto any piece of food that strayed from open backpacks. 

Always watching…

I followed along a path attached to the side of the rock and up a spiral staircase. Reaching the top stairs mislead me to believe I had reached the top of the rock. Instead it was a cave filled with “boobies”. Ancient breasts adorned the walls of a long cave. I felt cheated as I made my way back down the spiral stairs and up even more rocky stairs to finally reach the “Lion’s Paws”. 

Cave painting detour on the way up ‘The Rock’

Two lion paws had been carved out of the very rock we were climbing, with narrow stairs dividing the beastly carvings.

I made it! Finally!

“Are you coming to the top, Erin?”

What?! I had been deceived again. 

Finally, The Top Of Sigiriya Rock

I took a moment to rest and recompose before contemplating how far I had come and surely that was far enough. However, a new friend of mine, Brock, encouraged me to keep going, to be inspired by the elderly lady I had seen before. And so we set off up the perilous staircase together. 

Brock, with words of inspiration. You can do it!

The steel stairs were scary, jutting out to the side of the rock with a sheer drop only separated by a few centimetres of metal and a few bolts. I’m sure they were better than the old stairs, which we could still see etched into the worn side of the rock. 

Five, four, three, two, one. I was at the top! Crouched over, hands on knees, I opened my mouth widely and inhaled in as much oxygen as I could. As I lifted my eyes my jaw dropped and I stood dumbfounded. Right there at the top was the little elderly lady I had seen at the halfway point on the climb. 

Monks on the summit of Sigiriya Rock

In my incredulity I staggered over to tell her how amazing she was, thinking perhaps she just looked older then she really was. Her granddaughter translated for me and explained she was 80 years old. Wow!

Josh is usually our photographer. So the times I remembered I was on camera duty and took it out, I did my best taking shots with some special help from the many travel bloggers around me.

I was glad and relieved I made it to the top. The panoramic views were breathtaking and I was content to sit on top of that rock, next to friends and just admire the unbeatable vista. 

Attack Of The Killer Wasps

Our guides gave the call it was time to leave the rocky pinnacle and head back down. ‘Down I could do, down is easier,’ I thought.

I gingerly stepped onto the hazardous staircase and started down. Far below a group of Sri Lankan guides feverishly waved up at us and yelled desperately,

“Get Down! Get Down!” My guide turned and repeated the urgent shriek.

“Why do I have to get down?”

“Just do it!”

I clung to the staircase railing and crouched low. Startled, confused, looking everywhere, but down. Was the staircase coming loose? Was I about to fall to the ground never to see my husband and kids again? Why was I clinging to this mountain?

After some moments passed, our guide gave the all clear and we were all okay to stand up.

“Wasps,” he muttered.

Wasps! Back at our hotel that very morning we had been warned to wear comfortable, long clothing because of deadly wasps that were buzzing around the rock. By the time I had scaled a giant rock face I had completely forgotten that warning and didn’t even give them a second thought. But apparently they had arrived.

While we had clung to the ground on the rickety staircase a colossal cloud of terrifying wasps had floated above us in search of their next meal. The ever-watchful guides below had saved me. They saved us all! 

The rest of our trip down the mountain was without incident. I had proudly survived Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka. The only threat I faced now was a monkey stealing my ice cream. I carefully placed it in my backpack until I was safely out of the monkey’s reach and enjoyed the cool creamy sensation in peace. A well-deserved treat after a hot, sweaty hike. 

Stepping back into that air-conditioned coach had never felt so good. I had triumphed over “the rock”. Oh yeah, and the killer wasps. 

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

Those photos are lovely. It was a good thing we didn't get hit by those wasps, though. That woulda been a terrible way to go.

Yudhanjaya Dec 1st, 2014

You left out the part where Tawny and I start crying b/c we have to walk through the wasp cloud.

Stephanie Dec 1st, 2014

I remember this, I was right behind you, I think. I practised yoga at that tense moment, calming myself and trying to feel at peace; trying to stay positive that it would be okay .... and it was!

MariellenW Dec 2nd, 2014

Whoa!! That looks so, so cool! I'd love to climb the rock, but I'd prefer no wasps, if possible....

Rachel G Dec 2nd, 2014

At Sigiriya it is truly a day out with nature. With the most breathtaking views of the sunrise and sunset, it portrays glorious engineering, much advanced for the people of that era. Sigiriya not only have breathtaking scenery but also a deep-rooted history. Unfortunately wasp attacks are very dangerous following which authorities have made it compulsory to wear protective clothing from 2010. At Sigiriya it is truly a day out with nature. With the most breathtaking views of the sunrise and sunset, it portrays glorious engineering, much advanced for the people of that era. Sigiriya not only have breathtaking scenery but also a deep-rooted history. Unfortunately, Wasp attacks are very dangerous following which authorities have made it compulsory to wear protective clothing from 2010.

Rahul Dec 3rd, 2014

thats an wonderful spot to visit in sri lanka

Farebucket Apr 12th, 2016

Erin, thankyou so much for such an entertaining story and adventure! We are exploring SriLanka next week and I had planned to visit this rock and I'm no glad we know what we are in and up for! great work! Bron

Bron Jun 9th, 2016

Awesome post...and interesting too... Pictures are stunning...Especially that monkey...ha ha ha ....I think you guys found best spot to capture the views....Thanks for sharing ...really enjoyed..

John Mar 3rd, 2017

Thanks for sharing your experience about Sri Lanka with the world. Please, visit here again.

Tripnino Nov 3rd, 2017

Good article.You almost covered the journey.But one of important parts of Sigiriya was missed.Pls. let me add it. It is "The Mirror Wall"
After the cave painting,you walk the pathway runs along the face of the rock, bounded on one side by the 40 m long Mirror Wall.The mirror wall in Sigiriya is another notable thing that travelers must watch out for while visiting.Originally, this wall which was made out of brick and covered with highly polished white plaster made from lime, egg white, beeswax and wild honey so that the King could see himself whilst he walked alongside it.Now there are several graffiti and poems which covers the wall's surface, and dates back to the 8th century.

Chams Aug 26th, 2020

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