Take the path less taken within the "Sri Pada" Peak Wilderness Sanctuary and discover Gawarawila Plains, also known as a mini Horton Plains. Compared with other popular highking destinations Gawarawila Plains is rarely explored.
A group of 11 people decided it was time to shake off the Covid-19 lockdown boredom in the way they know best... Highking. With minimum discussion, they decided Gawarawila Plains would be the ideal hike to start off their post-COVID adventures. All that they needed sorting was the mode of transport.
The group rented a van and planned to leave Colombo on the 27th of June at about 4 am. But if you know anyone from the HighkerNation group personally, you'd also know that some of them treat time in the traditional Sri Lankan sense. Some of the group were still hungover from their Friday night activities, some had visited police stations, some even hotboxed a bathroom and tripped balls even before the trip began. Instead, they ended up getting out of Colombo around 6 am. You could even call it "The HighkerNation Way".
They stopped on the way to pick up the tastiest chicken-sandwich toasts and cutlets (the sweet mother of one of the members had woken up at 2 am to make these) for breakfast. Once the eating was done, it didn't even take 20mins before the first joint was rolled. It's 4:20 somewhere right? The chatter, the smoke, the music, all creating a proper atmosphere for the group to catch up with each other after the 3 months of "social distancing". It didn't take long till someone shouted "boka barai oi!" from the back of the van, so they made a pit-stop for tea and a visit to the toilets. It began to drizzle continuously and the group was just hoping that they'd have clear skies when the climb started.
They made their way to Makseliya town and dispersed to buy food, stock up on fags (local Beedee was also bought), stuff for the campfire, and for things to do around the campfire as well (each equipped with sufficient amounts of beer). They then headed up to the Gartmore Tea Estate and stopped to have a small chat with the locals just to make sure they weren't fussy about a group of 11 people in a van visiting the Gawarawila Plains. From there they headed in the direction of the Frogmore Tea Estate... or so they thought. One wise owl (baka pandithayek) in the group insisted he knew the road and led them about a 30-minute drive on tough roads in the wrong direction. Legend has it he still may not be forgiven. But eventually, they found their way with the help of a local and made it to an almost abandoned house (the furthest point accessible by any vehicle) passing the Frogmore Estate. By this time a joint was ready to be sparked, and while everyone was packing up the food and the beers and prepping themselves for the hike, a 3-puff-pass was also in full motion.
The skies were as clear as they'd hoped it would be, and they began their hike in full spirit. If you've been to Gawarawila plains before, you'd know that the hike is relatively easy, it's only the dense forests that sometimes leaves you coming out with battle scars. But since it's pretty much the rainy season in the Hatton area, the place was also teeming with leeches. Nevertheless, they motored on for around 20 minutes crossing a decent sized stream in the process and then began taking small breaks to regain their breath. At about the 3/4th mark of the total distance they had to cover, they stopped at a bigger stream. Here, everyone began attending to their leech bites and also decided it was a good time for another joint and to try out one of those Beedee sticks. But since time was also acting against them, most of the group decided to move on to be able to save some time in pitching the tents, etc. Three Highkers were left with the important task of smoking a joint which was meant for 11 people, from start to finish. They obliged and floated along the trail till they caught up with the lead group, right at the opening of the Gawarawila plains. It was 4 pm when they completed the hike.
The group wasted a little time and made their way to the campsite, took a brief moment to freshen up at the stream that flowed around them, and then pitched their tents. They changed out of their dirty hiking clothes into some comfortable clothing and decided to visit the Upper Gartmore Falls which was close by. Few from the group got a head start and went on to the falls, while the others came across a better location to pitch their tents. They made a sacrifice and moved everything (tents, bags, shoes, everyone's belongings) over to the new location. They then quickly dispersed to gather firewood for the campfire, and by the time they brought that all back to the campsite, the group that visited the falls was were also back. Everyone began to unwind, bathe in the stream that was only 10 steps away from their tents, and of course...joints were at the ready! It didn't take long until darkness and the cold took over.
The campfire was lit, the food was brought (one of them had brought along a killer home-made seeni sambol), the beers were put in the stream to chill, and again, joints were at the ready. It's moments like these, where good company, and even better vibes, help you shake off your stress, any kind of stress! It's in moments like this, where everyone is living in the moment, that proper
lifelong bonds are made. The night was as clear as the day and the sky was filled with stars, you’d know because every 5 minutes someone would say "ado tharu tika balapan!" and everyone would then look up and go "Adoooo!"
At around 10 pm someone came up with a brilliant idea to make soup, on the condition that everyone had their own joint in hand, ready to be sparked as soon as the soup was ready. By this time, they had already chugged most of their beers and were high AF, so this idea was received with open arms and stoner eyes. Fast forward to later in the night, three of them had called it a
night and the fire was running out of wood. The remainders of the group decided to head back into a tent, roll 2 joints, and hotbox the f*** out of the tent.
This was the climax of the night! The 2 joints were lit at the same time and a 3-puff-pass was in full motion again, but with both joints being passed simultaneously, it was a work of art, poetry in motion. The hotboxing was got so intense that one struggled to breathe, breaking the tent in the process of opening the tent flap. and another wanted a 10-minute time-out (his "10-
minutes" always meant "I'll see you in the morning"). A few minutes later the group was down to 6. They had a Carlsberg Special Brew and a Lion Strong remaining along with one Silver Haze joint ready. Sausages were made and the fun continued, and by the time the beers were finished and the joint was smoked, they were so high legend has it they're still counting stars.
The group woke up the next day surrounded by a thick mist around them. Noodles and eggs were made for breakfast and there was a brief silence as everyone dug in. They took things slowly that morning visiting the falls again, taking photos, etc. There was no rush to head back to Colombo. They had also run out of fags so in hindsight the purchase of Beedee was a wise decision (every time a Beedee was lit, they would all agree that it was a wise-buy). At around 2 pm they eventually decided to leave and was out of the forest in under 2 hours. They stopped at the last stream to bathe and smoke another joint, and then headed back towards Colombo. Back at Hatton, they stopped to eat a fiery kottu and fried rice for dinner and then made one straight run back to Colombo. On their way, they passed around one last joint and while it was still being smoked, they were stopped by police for a routine check. Luckily, that person was right at the back of the van, and while he was handling business at back, the people in the front were handling business with the cops. With another stop for tea and coffee, everyone was back at home by at least 2:30 am on Monday morning.
Details to note if you ever decide to visit Gawarawila Plains
If you ever decide to visit the Gawarawila Plains, do so only if you love nature, and consider it important to leave the place cleaner than you found it. Despite all the fun the group had, they made it a point to clean up after themselves, not a single cigarette bud was thrown into the forest, and all the beer cans were disposed of back in Colombo.
Traveling wise, you can make it up to that aforementioned last house in a vehicle that has sufficient ground clearance as the roads are difficult rocky and narrow. The group also had consisted of an extremely skilled driver amongst them. In the event, you don't have your own vehicle, there is a bus that travels from Maskeliya town to the Gartmore Tea Estate, from there you could take a tuk-tuk to the starting point of the hike (discuss a time for you to be picked up again).
The highking path is clear even though it’s through a thick forest and you won't have to worry about getting lost. Also, you don't have to worry about water at all, the streams that flow by the campsites are safe to drink, but make sure you do your bathing downstream. The top of Upper Gartmore Falls is only a 5-minute walk downstream from the campsite.