SRI LANKA
2002


"Venom"

Sigiriya, Central Province

The summit of the 5th Century Sigiriya rock fortress-palace
click on image to enlarge

 

Map of Sigiriya
Mouse-over to view satellite map


Sigiriya is Sinhalese for "Lion's Rock". It comprises a huge magna plug from an extinct and long-vanished volcano that rises to 370 m, above sea-level, out of a flat plain, today surrounded by extensive walled gardens, moats, 'tanks' and ancient ruins. There are several levels on the long climb to the summit including the penultimate level being the "Lion's Gate" leading to the very top where is situated an almost impregnable palace-fortress, constructed in the mid 5th Century AD. Between 477-495 Sigiriya was the capital the nation and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our team had nine rooms at the Sigiriya Village Hotel.

 

Views of Sigiriya rock, the Lion's Rock
Google Earth view of Sigiriya rock fortress and its environs (gardens, moats, ponds)
Click to enlarge view of Sigiriya rock fortress

I think Sigiriya was one of the most impressive locations I have visited on OBA, certainly on the Sri Lankan film. It is visible from a great distance as it looms over the surrounding plains, towering over lesser hills.

 

We planned to film at Sigiriya, talking about how widely distributed was the Russell's viper, even occurring at altitudes comparable with the summit of this rocky fortress-palace, but when we arrived we realised that so popular was the monument, as a tourist attraction, that filming a controlled PTC (piece to camera) would be impossible.

 

 
The crew at the base of Sigiriya       A much quieter morning

We therefore obtained permission to return very early the next day and gain access before the tourists arrived. Raj Perera, Matthew Catling and I reached Sigiriya very early and while Raj remained below, Matt and I literally ran to the top in 25 minutes, we had a date with destiny.

On the top there we only a few minutes to obtain a few scenic GVs (general views) with my stills camera and a few 'production stills' of myself on the summit, before the film crew would arrive.

The summit of Sigiriya in the early morning sun
Watching the sun rise

The views were incredible, the distances vast, the colours fantastic, the morning sun stunning, but the atmosphere had an air of apprehension, as if something was about to happen.

Stunning early morning views from Sigiriya
Early morning views from Sigiriya, including formal gardens, tanks and moats below

Somehow a German woman tourist had followed us up, despite the monument not being open to the public this early. Matthew encountered her as he headed down to the lower level, the Lion's Gate level, to hide himself as the sound of approaching rotor-blades got louder and a growing speck appeared in the western sky. He managed to grab her and pull her undercover just as the crew arrived, inbound in a Sri Lankan Air Force "Huey". They circled Sigiriya for approximately 20minutes, filming me strolling, alone around the lonely summit, repeatedly delivering my PTC, which was being recorded by Terry in the helicopter while Mark S. filmed and Mark M. gave the pilot directions.

It all went very well, the helicopter departed, I shot a few more GVs, Matthew released the German lady and we headed back down to meet the rush of the day's tourists all attempting to be the first to the top of Sigiriya rock fortress ....too late today folks!

Delivering a piece to camera
Mark on the summit of Sigiriya fortress-palace
and zooming in

Matthew and I then headed to a nearby military airstrip to meet the helicopter and the film crew.