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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Sigiriya - Sri Lanka's Rock Fortress

It was raining very hard, so hard that I wondered was this really the high season? We were at the base of the massive rock fortress of Sigiriyabut initially it was a matter of faith that it was there given the low clouds shrouding the rock face. The rain was torrential, so hard and fast that despite our Goretex jackets our legs and feet were soaked. It was the sticky hot rain that drove us into the museum and it was well worth seeing.
 Sigiriya is one of Sri Lanka's spectacular historical sites in what is dubbed the Cultural Triangle in the heart of the island.  We opted to focus on Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa on this trip, seeing two sides of the triangle and leaving Anuradhapura for another visit. The history of this part of Sri Lanka is one of invasion, warring factions and families, stolen religious relics and the embrace of Buddhism. Sigiriya is at the heart of many of these narratives as the extraordinary physical characteristics of the site made it an important strategic stronghold. 
It's hard to describe the scale of this enormous rock, the extensive structures at its base and the achievement of constructing a palace fortress at the highest point. It's a long way up and somewhat ominous in the rain, though it momentarily relented as we reached the top. A series of metal staircases guides you up the rock face and you pass a group of erotic paintings in a sheltered overhang. In style they are highly reminiscent of Ajanta in India. 
Beyond these murals you'll need to bring your imagination as the site is predominantly unreconstructed and ruinous, although the architectural models in the museum helped me understand the scale and opulence of the Royal summer palace and gardens atop the rock. 
This is not a site for anyone with mobility issues and while we enjoyed the historical aspects we equally enjoyed the hike. The walk takes you up a series of carved rock steps and metal stairways that hug the rock face, D was not overly fond of the vertiginous view down from the steps. It's a good walk and hopefully you will be rewarded with more than the gloomy drizzle we found at the top!

 When the mist lifted the view was fabulous.

 Because the stairs are steep it's quick but still a little treacherous to descend in the rain.
 We were sorry we didn't have more time to explore the ruins below the rock which was both beautiful and historically significant.