The Ravana Ella Cave is located on a cliff close to Ella, 4490ft above sea level and can be visited on a day trip from the villages of Ella or Bandarawela. This cave is part of a tunnel or network of caves said to be connected to the Ravana Ella Waterfall which is more popular with tourists. In the Hindu legend of the Ramayana, it is said that the Demon King of Sri Lanka Ravana lived here for some years. He abducted Princess Sita, wife of the Indian Lord Rama and kept her trapped here before confining her to the garden of Ashoka Vatika, also close to Ella. There are no signs from the dirt track that leads to the cave and I reached the cave with the help of two young boys hanging around offering to be my guides. Honestly I didn’t mind the company for a few hundred rupees.
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Climbing up to the caves by several narrow stairs cut in the rock is no easy task if you are not used to high altitudes but easy if you are a trekker or hiker. At the time, I had never done something that was so physically exhausting and it took every inch of my determination to not turn around midway and go on all the way to the mouth of the cave. The stairs are broken in many places and there are no hand rails.
The way up is surrounded by wild forest plants and insects, I would recommend covering your arms to avoid getting cut by the branches or bit by an insect. It is advisable to climb slowly and be very careful, the steps can be slippery and there is nothing to hold onto to prevent falling down the cliff. After minutes that seemed like hours of panting, I reached the top to find that the musty walls of the cave had many inscriptions and scribblings. Too tired to wander inside, I sat at the entrance and looked down with a sense of achievement at having surprised myself by doing something I had never imagined I was capable of. And then I realized that what I had found in the cave was nothing compared to what I found out about myself on the way up. This was:
1. I had a great deal of willpower. There was no need to go all the way up- I could have turned back at any time. But I did not.
2. My mind was strong enough to make my body do something so physically exhausting that it would normally not be able to do.
3. I was not as unfit as I thought I was and that motivated me to become more physically active in my daily life.
This experience brought me to love physical challenges and work harder at improving my fitness to be able to do them. This was the most challenging thing I did in Sri Lanka and remains to be one of my favourite travel memories because it drives home the point that the most important discoveries are not necessarily at the destination but in the journeys to get there.
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