By Udula Abeysinghe
Every year, the Gavel Club of University of Moratuwa organizes a trip to a scenic location to spend time with fellow members, bond, and explore new places. So, it was the time of this year! The destination was chosen with a vote, a few weeks prior. To the joy of the batch 21 Gaveliers and to the dread of the batch 20 Gaveliers, the destination of choice was Hawagala, a beautiful hiking trail situated near Belihuloya. The club had been eagerly looking forward to this day for weeks, and the day finally arrived.
The plan was to depart from the university at 4.30 a.m. sharp. As we all know, being on time is crucial, especially when it comes to group travel. However, as usual, there was always that one person who was running late. And so, as expected, the last Gavelier arrived at 5.40 a.m. We all laughed it off and made a joke about the “extreme punctuality” of Gavel Mora, but we were all just glad that we could finally get started on our trip.
We made a quick stop near the city of Rathnapura for breakfast and refreshments. It was a perfect opportunity to fuel up for the journey ahead. After a short break, we were back on the road, excited to reach Hawagala. As we arrived in Belihuloya, the locals warned us that our bus was too big to take the route up the mountain. We quickly came up with an alternative plan, taking the local bus up the route to reach the base of the Hawagala trail.
The hiking range is notorious for its leeches, so the Gaveliers came well-prepared with Siddhalepa and salt, to keep the leeches away. After a few minutes of preparation, we were ready to take on the challenge of climbing to the top of Hawagala.
As the Gaveliers made their way up the mountain, the group began to split into a few smaller groups based on their climbing pace. Oshani started out excited, collecting pine fruits at every opportunity, but quickly became exhausted after just fifteen minutes of the climb. On the other hand, Udari was quite vocal with her complaints and began showering the chief organizer, Nirodha, with ironic praises for selecting such a “marvelous” destination. Despite the challenges, the group made several stops along the way to catch their breath and capture photographs of the stunning scenery. To everyone’s surprise, the then Gavel president, Gavelier Suthira, led the charge from the front with the guidance of Namina and several others as they sped up the trail.
Following close behind were Thulasi, Dasis, Sandil, and the rest of the bunch. While they too were feeling the burn, they couldn’t help but make jokes about how this was not a Hiking Club, but rather a Gavel Club. As we progressed up the mountain, the whining got louder and the air got cooler. The hike was becoming more and more challenging, and many of the Gaveliers were struggling to keep up. Despite the difficulties, the scenery was getting more picturesque, and the breathtaking views kept us motivated to push forward.
After about two hours of hectic climbing, we finally made it to the summit of Hawagala. The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming, and the stunning view from the top made every bit of the hike worth it. As we arrived, everybody put their bags down and sat down, taking a moment to catch their breath and relax.
We took some time to explore the area and capture the beauty of the place in photographs. Namina and Pavan were the unofficial yet designated photographers and made sure that no one escaped the shutters of their cameras. While some of us posed for pictures, others sat down to take in the scenic view and enjoy the moment.
As much as we wanted to linger, time was ticking, and we had to make our way back down. We quickly had our lunch at the summit and gathered our belongings before posing for the mandatory group picture. The way down was filled with its own set of struggles, including a few cramps and stumbles here and there. However, with many praises for Nirodha, we managed to make our way down to the base of the mountain.
To our surprise, we had just barely caught the last local bus back down the mountain. We scrambled to get on board, relieved that we didn’t have to walk the rest of the way. As we settled back into our seats, we felt a sense of exhaustion but also fulfillment from our successful climb.
We made one last stop for dinner near Rathnapura before getting back on the bus for our journey back to the university. Despite the fatigue from the day’s activities, the Gaveliers were in high spirits and gathered at the back of the bus for a fun session filled with Bailas and a DJ. As we sang and danced along to the music, we hardly noticed the time passing by.
Before we knew it, we were back at the university, exhausted but thrilled by our adventure. It was an incredible experience that brought us closer together as a group, and we were all looking forward to future trips, adventures and most importantly, hikes such as this. The trip to Hawagala was truly unforgettable, and we felt grateful to have had the opportunity to explore and appreciate the beauty of the mountains with our best friends, the family of Gavel.