It was just another ordinary day in my life until one voice message. A message asking me to make a caption, and if I am being honest, I have never been more excited and happier to be asked to make a caption than this one.
“A breezy escape, a chance to bond, and a ‘Soothing Quest’ you all have been waiting for. A joint initiative with the Rotaract Club of Katugasthota Region to Hanthana, on 29th of April 2022.”
After countless trips using our mere imaginations, the day that all of us were eagerly waiting for finally arrived, all thanks to the organizing efforts of the project’s chairpersons and the Club service avenue members of the Rotaract Club of Faculty of Science, University of Colombo.
Our first ever physical club trip from the university as freshers was indeed a legendary one.
The ride commenced at 2.45 am from Kesbewa, picking a few of us on the way, and reached the Colombo racecourse by 3.30 am. Even though on an ordinary day most of us would be fast asleep, by the time the bus had reached the Racecourse, the level of exhilaration had escalated to great heights. As the fellow Rotaractors giggled and hustled inside the bus to catch the perfect seats, the baila songs suffused the air immediately. Thus, the voices of the united Rotaractors, the darkness of dawn, and the cold air marked the beginning of the Soothing Quest.
Time had flown quicker than ever and before we knew it, eventually the ride came to a halt at Jinadasa Thalaguli Restaurant, and it was time for us to have our breakfast. As we all shared and enjoyed the food, the atmosphere was filled with inside jokes and gossip.
After the satisfying breakfast, the ride commenced once more.
The bus made a mild stop on the way to Peradeniya University, and some of us got out to enjoy the fresh upcountry air. After some funny debates, jokes, and a handful of selfies, we finally united with the Katugasthota region, Rotaract club members. The joint trip was a great chance for us to interact and make new connections.
Once more the ride began and within less than an hour we had reached our destination. The excitement was being resonated by each of us, as we leaped out of the bus to apply Siddhalepa, sanitizer, soap, and all other sorts of leech repellents all over our bodies.
Once the whole crew was ready and set to go, the hike to Hanthana, led by our guide, began.
Everyone was relieved for the first bit of the journey as it was on a flat cement road, but little did we know that the hike had not even started yet. After a quick bathroom break, the real hike began, marked by the screams of terror from leech attacks, echoing among the great evergreens.
The hike was indeed a challenge, with slippery rocks, dangling vines, and about 3-4 leech attacks every 2 steps of the way. While lending hands and helping each other out, we kept climbing with the determination to reach the top without breaking any limbs. A few of us fell, even more of us, bled with leech bites, and almost all of us learned the art of pulling off leeches with our bare hands.
Calling the hike hard would be an understatement, but the occasional snacks and the sips of Red Bull brought some color to our tired cheeks. After what felt like a hundred turns, thousand leech attacks, and a million steps, we finally made it to the top. As the curtain of green vines was pushed to the side, the divine picture of the magnificent view of Peradeniya was painted right in front of our eyes. The cold wind brushed past our hair, making our sweaty cheeks blush with aw. The mind-boggling view, the scenic mountains standing proudly in the far distance, and the evergreens garlanding the land with occasional streams of blue, was indeed a treat to the eyes.
The next few minutes were spent trying to capture this beauty, and even though her gorgeous charm could not be exactly captured through a lens, the memory of her elegance will forever stay carved in our hearts. The fact that we completed an extremely difficult hike, and made it to the top on our own, was truly satisfying. It made me feel stronger, braver, and more confident in myself, and as if I could achieve anything if I set my mind to it, of course with a little help from the team.
Furthermore, we climbed ahead and reached the very top of another hill. All of us laid down on the big rock and refreshed ourselves with a drink. Even a single gulp of water felt like a drop of heaven. But no matter how tiring, and hectic the climb was, it was all worth it. Sitting there at the top, high among the clouds and wind, the most spectacular view was kind enough to bless our eyes. The vibes were real when we hummed along to the songs from the JBL and enjoyed the company of each other without exchanging a single word.
But the clear skies didn’t last for too long, as the heavy clouds drew a curtain above us, signaling that it was time for us to start climbing down again. We had to walk some distance before we started climbing down again, and on our way back to the bottom, we collected all the plastic that covered the floors of these beautiful mountains, cleaning her earthly body.
The way down was slippery and to make things even more challenging for the hikers, it began to rain. The cold up-country wind, the drizzle from the rain, and the slippery mud-covered rocks left nothing but goosebumps on our wet skin. A couple of us slipped and fell multiple times on our way down, and after what felt like 3 long hours, with plastic-filled garbage bags in our hands, we finally reached the bottom. For some crazy reason, until the rest of us made it down, we played music and danced under the pouring rain like no one was watching, painting another highlight of the day.
As we waited for our ride to arrive, all of us were busy double-checking for any more leeches. Finally, we hopped on to complete the next task on our agenda: lunch. After over a six-hour pouring hike, and a dry change of clothes, the only thing we were looking forward to next was food. The meal at the restaurant was extremely filling and satisfying and after a few chit-chats about our hectic but amazing hike to Hanthana, it was finally time to bid farewell to the fellow Rotaractors of the Katugasthota region.
The journey back to Colombo was another roller coaster ride, as the bus swayed to the unforgettable rhythm of the songs we sang and clapped. Even though we were exhausted from all the hiking, that didn’t stop us from having our fun.
On the way home, we made a brief stop at a restaurant to have our dinner. After a good amount of time, choosing what to eat, everyone finally got to enjoy their food. The bites of hoppers and the conversations about the highlights of our memorable hike to Hanthana got lost among the warm sips of ginger tea.
After the filling dinner, the ride back to Colombo started once more, and before we knew it, we had reached the Racecourse, and it was time to take our leave from everyone. The quest of a lifetime came to an end, leaving nothing but our footprints on the great Hanthana mountain range and the imprints of indelible memories in the hearts of fellow Rotaractors.
By Rtr. Ama Upeka Perera