Located near Bandarawela, Sri Lanka, The Ravana Ella Caves (Ravana Caves) is perched high up in the cliffs that is surrounded by thick tropical forest.
Not a significant climb in itself, the mythology behind the cave gives it a very mystic and alluring experience of having walked back in time.
According to the legend of Ramayana, Ravana, The King and Ruler of Sri Lanka kidnapped Sita, the wife of Lord Rama and kept her hidden in the caves, till she was freed by Lord Rama with the help of Lord Hanuman. In the ensuing battle, Lord Hanuman set fire to the entire kingdom.
Surrounded by this mythology, i decided to give this climb a go. Being my first attempt at climbing anything prolonged, it did find it quite hard. However, it was well managed with steps leading all the way to the entrance of the cave.
From the foot of the cliff, you can walk up the paved road till the beginning of the steps. You could also get an rickshaw (paid taxi) to the steps from where you need to walk up. The taxi can wait for you while you finish your trek up to the caves and come back.
The paved road further leads to a temple where regular chanting and prayers are conducted.
The climb up to the Ravana caves is made of concrete steps. There are in total of close to about a 1,000 steps. In many locations the steps are covered by fallen trees.
In several areas, the steps skirt around the cliff, so you are completely exposed on one side to the open surroundings without any supporting hand rails. It can be scary at times but it gives you a perfect view of the valleys and landscape surrounding the cliffs. There is a thick growth of bushes which may cover the steps so you cannot see very far ahead.
Towards the mouth of the cave, you will have to climb over some boulders and crawl through some areas where the handlebars actually cross across the steps from left to right.
All the while, during our climb, we could hear the chanting of the temple. The sounds of the chant are not something that you hear in a place like Nepal or Tibet. It is rather unique. The chanting made the climb all the more eerie and exciting at the same time.
The cave in itself is not very impressive to someone who has very high expectations. However, being there provides a sense of awe. Standing in the same place where, once Sita was supposedly held captive is quite unnerving.
The cave is quite dark and requires torch light to move around or a flashlight when taking photos. The time spent there will not be too long as there is not much to see.
However, the interesting thing about the cave, according to archeologists is that, there are evidences of human habitation in and around that area that dates back as far as 25,000 years ago. I spent about 15 minutes in the cave and then decided to climb down. The entire climb up and down lasted about 2 hours.
Overall, i was quite thrilled by the experience. Being the first time i have done any such climbing, this triggered an interest and eventual passion for climbing, which is what this blog is all about.
Here are some of my observations from climbing the Ravana cave:
- You need to be fit but you do not have to practice specifically for this climb.
- The steps are quite steep in some areas. Unlike other mountain climbs, there is no time limit to return back. So, do it at your own pace.
- If you have a weak heart, please do not make the climb.
- The altitude is not an issue here so there is no chance of getting altitude sickness.
- Bring some insect repellant. There will be lots of places where you are going to brush with the undergrowth and bushes.
- Wear full sleeve shirt and full pants. Some plants have thorns and can nip you.
- Sri Lanka is a tropical country, so it can rain heavily. Make sure you go prepared with some non-slip proof shoes and rain coat.