What a trek through Eratne Kele (forest around Sri Padha) taught me

It was 7th February 2005. I was fat, unfit and looking for a purpose in life (still am!). The Ruk Rakaganno mailer said 91/2 hour trek around the forest of Adam’s Peak. Seemed doable. It started at 10am and ended at 1.30am the next day. No I am not kidding. The guide was an over enthusiastic Lord Saman devotee who would say 0.5km when it was actually about 1.5 km more. For a precise wretch like myself this was torture. Coz I like being prepared. There were leeches – hordes of them. I am fine with blood. Not with some wriggly shit sucking it out of me. My legs were slathered in Siddhalepa and I was armed with a soap spray. I looked a comical mutt but I did not care – no leech was gonna get inside me. And they didn’t. Ha!

I had a back pack and just very ordinary food – a snack of chocolate and some biscuits. None of this high protein bars, energy drinks nonsense. This was before that wave hit SL. In our company was Johann Peiris (yep the guy who attempted Everest) and his gang of friends we dubbed the ‘turbo group’ coz they were literally running through the forest while we were literally crawling after a point.

It was beautiful though. I loved taking pics so was dubbed the Japanese tourist. Sigh. But nothing could capture that serenity or raw beauty of nature untouched by human malignancy. But I was exhausted. Dead. And I was a former fitness queen – so this is really saying something. I remember at one point we came to a place where I felt dizzy – I thought I could not go anymore and ate some glucose just to keep going. We arrived half way along the Kuruvita side of Sri Padha. At the time there were no steps. Just a rough pathway and you had to slip and slide your way down. It was scary, one step off and it’s a drop to eternity. I remember seeing young mothers with infants, old ladies in saree, effortlessly climbing up. This was a pilgrimage – a trek of faith and you had to admire that sheer determination and will power. The human spirit is strong and you could see it here. We sang nades in our half dead state, egged on by our guide.

At one point it was 9pm at night and we were at the top of this rise and winding all the way into the distance was a path of lights. Mr. Overenthusiastic devotee pointed it out and said we had that much to go. At this point Delon and Vaidhehi were with us and their daughter Megal. Delon looked at him and said “You know there’s a special place in hell for you Machan”. It was crazy but we had to move on. No stopping. Along the way we were told that the bus had an airport pick up so we had to speed up. I told myself I can’t anymore and at one point sat on a rock and turned to see next to me was a scorpion. I looked at him and said “clearly there’s no room for both of us here” and got up and moved on.

We stumbled, bumbled, and finally managed to make our way back. I told myself that this was penance for all my sins. That after this I was ready to climb anything – even Everest. I could do anything. Or so I felt. Because at that moment of sheer “I can’t anymore” I found a strange resolve to keep going coz I had to and I was not going to give up. This was my lesson for life – you can only go as far as you push your limits. Coz that bar is set by you and no one else.

I started rowing exactly a month after this. That was nothing afterwards – I practiced what I learned here with rowing. There is no giving up or ‘can’t anymore’. There’s only pushing the bar each time.

I am yet to climb Siri Padha but am looking forward to it this time 🙂


Meet Lilanka
“what is meant to be comes about of what one does”.
An eclectic personality with a penchant for creativity, Lilanka is an old soul who loves life, laughter and stepping off the beaten track. She finds joy in nature, travelling and venting her existential frustrations via her writing while calming her body with food and her soul with music. Her motto is – “what is meant to be comes about of what one does”.
A collection of eclectic expressions from life according to Lilanka Botejue. From her creative outbursts and passionate views to her love for nature, food, music and archaeology, Owl Muses is an attempt to capture these moments in time.
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