This was my first-ever fellowship visit in my Rotaract Journey and most of Rotaract Mora were battling against that common enemy; Exams!✍ Well, by some twist of fate, finally it was up to me to single-handedly bear the flag of Rotaract Mora and plant it upon the peak of Namunukula⛰! Well, pardon my exaggeration. Essentially, I merely had to go alone 😃
The journey started on the 25th of September from Race Course, Colombo at 9.30 in the night with a grand total of around 135 Rotaractors, five buses🚌, and high excitement. They told me that this was the highest participation for a Fellowship Visit in the history of Rotaract.
Thankfully, I was not alone as I had anticipated. Many other Rotaract friends and acquaintances were present and I was spared the monotony. Around 9.15 we were all hyped and ready to start. I got on Bus No: 1 where most of my friends were. I was having a happy time until one of the OC people, due to seating problems💺, asked me to join Bus No: 2. The thing was, I didn’t know many people there and I expected the aura to be kind of awkward. Soon enough, I grew comfortable and met some really amazing souls; Mandi Akka, in particular, is such as bright ball of sunshine who made everyone smile. By the time we passed Panagoda, we grew thick as thieves; and with no concern of the tiring hike ahead, the night was spent in songs and dance🎉😎.
One memory, in particular, really sticks out into my mind. No, it ain’t something heroic or romantic; we stopped at a small kiosk for a bite. Foolishly underestimating the sheer power of rural Roti & Lunumiris at 1 am, I took a bite without much thought. The stars were bright, the sky was clear and my tongue was on fire🔥. Like, I might have literally set a fire alarm off. However, thankfully I had the good sense to sip on some tea and the world was back to normal. Being ravished after hours of travelling, I wolfed down 7 Rotis🍕 and 5 cups of tea🍮, much to the amusement of my fellow travelers.
The road was predictably traffic-free and with a firm foot on the accelerator🚌, we soon reached Uva Wellassa University, bright and early, just as some random rooster🐔 crowed out of the eerie dawn🌞. A quick wash, bite and rest later, we were all set to begin our Quest. They divided us into groups of nine and a leader was assigned to each. I landed on Group 9 and, for some weird reason unbeknownst to mankind, was appointed leader and given a symbolic Egg🥚 to protect (say whaaat?😱). Thus, with nine in tow, the Fellowship departed towards the looming peaks of Namunukula⛰ (Pun intended, where my LOTR fans at?😉).
Unlike Frodo Baggins, we fortunately had the “luxury” of travelling the first two kilometers by bus. This included a bumpy ride with plenty of twisties and turnies till our tummies began to rumble uncomfortably😫. Thankfully, this was over soon and we began our real hike at around 10 am. Well, for starters, the sceneries began right from the beginning. Predictably, the Insta celebrities began clicking pictures 📷and all of us followed suit (till the more Matured Ones Among Us grew annoyed🙄).
I continued the hike mostly in the company of Nikesh, Zaina, Usama, Yeshika, Raj Kumar, Amasha, Sachini and Harumi (fondly branded Ape Set Eka👨👨👦👦👩👩👦). We broke long sticks off trees and used them as staffs to propel ourselves forward. One hour, three water bottles and five glucose packets later, we were still puffing like steam engines🚊. Chivalrous as we (the guys 😌) were, we still managed to help the girls climb over the really mean bits of rock⛰ and root🌲.
💗It actually strikes me now, how beautiful of a moment it was. Even when water was scarce, we still managed to share. Even when exhaustion overtook, there was always someone that kept pushing us forward. Even when a backpack was too heavy for one, somehow the load was magically shared by many. On retrospect, I am still amazed how this Fellowship Visit connected me to people with zero acquaintance and budded beautiful friendships that’s gonna last for decades.💗
And so, the Fellowship braved their way up against time, gravity, and the endearingly useless encouragement given by experienced hikers:
"Thawa tikai, kanda mudunata giyama patta view ekak thiyenawa"
Eventually, we reached the peak by midday🌞 and the view was indeed as picturesque as was promised. We settled down for lunch and were treated to an epic 20-minute drizzle with nearly no cover💧. Thankfully, it soon subsided and after many selfies, group photos, and exasperated yells (by the Matured Ones Among Us🙄), we continued our merry way downhill. However, the mists soon overtook and we could barely see our way ahead. We stopped at a tea estate for a short break which inevitably resulted in more selfies. Soon, by some miracle, we all managed to descend against the mists and make it to the buses🚌.
It was once again time for ride back to the University and this proved no less “luxurious” than before. Thankfully, Zaina’s bags of snacks🧇🌭🍿 were still intact and it lasted till we reached the University at around 4 pm. I felt really proud to find that my Egg 🥚 was still in one piece despite a rocky hike🏃 and a bumpy ride🚌. With that proud note, I headed into the showers and prepared myself for bonfire night🔥.
En route to the campsite, the bus exasperatingly couldn’t go up this steep road; having some chivalry left 😌, all the boys volunteered to push the bus forward and we began working our biceps. Fortunately, we managed it and unfortunately, we had to walk the rest of the way up as the driver wasn’t willing to slow down the bus again for fear of losing momentum. Still, on the bright side, trekking up roads with phone flashlights in hand is definitely more fun than it sounds🏃️!
Eventually, we reached the parking spot only to discover that the bonfire camp was further in. What added spice was that a funeral 💀 had taken place earlier that same day and the body was buried somewhere in the vicinity. With eerie ghosts 👻 behind us, we reached the campsite where Hasitha Ayya coached us on how to set up tents. Ape Set Eka👩👩👦👨👨👦👦 still stuck together and we put up our tents close by. With no concern of the Badulla Installation Ceremony scheduled the next day, the night was spent in songs 🎵 and dance 🎉 despite constant ant 🐜 bites. However, exhaustion overtook us and we all dozed off gradually.
The next day began early with the screeching sound of Usama’s alarm at 3.45 am; Usama however proved to be a heavy sleeper and took no notice 😒 . The stinging cold was uncomfortable and thankfully, the sun soon rose. After a few bites on the leftovers and some precious camera clicks📷, it was time for departure.
Although, all of us were really stiff after the previous day’s activities, we managed to sit through the grand Badulla Installation Ceremony😊. At the end of the program, I “ceremoniously” handed over the Egg 🥚 back to the President of Rotaract Club of Uva Wellassa University who also happened to be one of my old friends back at RYLA.
Thinking back, this is one of my best Rotaract experiences to date. Fun apart, this was something that re-strengthened our core values of friendship💗, fellowship 😊and Service Beyond Self💝. And once this pandemic menace is done with, I am definitely up for another adventure!!