NO CANCER - FROM DONDRA TO PEDRO
Walking from one end of the country to the other end would have been
seemingly difficult for you and I. But one man changed that whole aspect
of thinking and is actually doing it as we speak and read this.
At Adamís Peak
Beginning his journey from Point Dondra on May 30 to cover more than
500km in 45 days and reach Point Pedro is no walk in the park for Major
Ruvan Ranatunga (Rtr). This walk which he calls the Long Walk of Hope,
is truly about bringing hope to so many of those who are losing faith in
it while fighting to stay alive just for a few more years and days from
the dreadful nightmare that is known as Cancer.
I had the opportunity to join him and few other companions, midway at
Talawa and walk with him for 10km and get the feel and experience of
what he's doing first hand and also find out how and why he began this.
"It has been a long time dream to walk from North to South and East
to West. It felt like an excellent thing to do. The entire concept of
walking from end to end in this country brings you a cross an amazing
terrain to start with from flora fauna, elevation changes, climate
changes that are very diverse. In the same manner the diversity of
people you meet from end to end is amazing and that I've already felt.
The walk through at various stages you meet - from the coastline to the
southern Sinhalese, the fishermen, then you come to the plantation area
to the low country tree areas, the farmers, gem merchants, miners, gem
mining community when you get close to Rathnapura and when you cross the
line you get the plantation workers and then in between you meet the
Muslim tradesmen who have come and settled down in the Mawanella area
etc. So up to this point onwards, that diversity has been felt, in a
very big way, so it was all part of the dream."
Day 1 - the beginning
Day 1 was pretty hectic...we went the day before (from Colombo),
stayed overnight in Matara and drove off to Dondra. At that point I had
my family there, my brothers, couple of school friends and a couple of
my students from the military. It was great as they were all people I
touched upon along the line and they were near and dear to me. From CCC
foundation there was Suren and Maya along with the media. There would
have been 16 plus.
Major Ruvan Ranatunga with the family who offered tea and wali
We started off at 8.30am (not a decent but it was a good time to
start) and walked up to 2.30pm passing Werahena and at that point we
stopped for lunch and we decided to call it a day. Day one was very
short but the fact that we started was the main highlight. Day 2 was
Kamburupitiya. The entire journey from Day 1 to 8 plus days included me,
Indunil and Nishan (we call him Dila). My friend Amila (a student
actually from the army) joined me and then there were some who would
come and go. And for Sinharaja there was this gentleman from the
Wildlife Department - Jeewaka, who I sought advice from on how to cut
cross Sinharaja. We had a mutual friend called Chaminda who works for
Animate and who really helped me out in getting the maps printed out.
Jeewaka was someone who friendship just triggered was taken up with
project and he began walking with us. There were seven of us walking
In Rathnapura we had to say goodbye to Dila as he was not feeling
well and we were just planning to climb Sri Pada at that point.
When I asked Major about the 18 days of rain, Major Ruvan broke into
laughter and said it started from Day 1 - it just rained and rained and
rained and it always used shine on the other side of the mountain or
river a little far away from us. This (June 24) is the fifth day about
When I asked him if there were any setbacks from people, if they were
harassed along the journey, he said "honestly, very honestly the
negatives I left behind". "For once in my life, in a journey I chose to
ignore all the negatives, take on the positives and move on. If you ask
me if I have a negative moment, I'd say I don't have one, it's been a
His son Randa who is 9 years old, joined Major whenever possible and
mostly every weekend. When I asked him how many more days remaining he
said, "Tricky question. Wife's calendar, I don't have much time.
Originally planned 45 days, I have plenty of time - so I have in
between. I have kept about 35 days for the entire thing, a day or two
here or there. But on a journey like this you can't plan for everything.
I have one time, two locations and one date - May 30 at 8.30am from
Dondra I start and I finish at Pedro - as simple as that."
I started the entire thing. I got the ball rolling. When I said I was
walking across from south to north I said it very passionately and
positively with a lot of drive. I said and I put my feet where my mouth
is and I walked. So equally if people say they pledge support and
various things, I like to see their wallets being placed where their
mouth or thumb has been placed on my Facebook page.
How it all began
Showing the pictures he took of the girls at the place
where we had breakfast
I spoke to a friend of mine (batch mate of mine from school), who is
a doctor at the Cancer Hospital, met him one morning when I dropped my
son off at school. And I told him I'm planning to do something and if I
want to do something simple for the Cancer hospital, what can I do. He
said I could refurbish a ward for 600,000. Then I said, I will raise you
a million because I think I could find 500 friends who would give me
2000 each if I ever did a trip across the country. Then I was thinking,
I wanted it to be a long lasting thing because refurbishing a ward would
be just one thing and that's the end of that but I wanted to do
something that would have an impact on what people would be doing and I
believed in supporting people. And I looked around to see how I can help
somebody do something or finish something they started. And then I heard
about CCC Foundation (Courage Compassion Commitment) and I met Jetha and
Suren after the Royal Thomian through my brother and he spoke about what
he was doing for cancer. Then I logged on and checked out CCC and Trail,
because I do believe if I was walking from South to North, I would want
both benefitting from what I am doing rather than one place. From South
I chose to support the CCC foundation for their 188 room transit home to
provide rooms for children with attached toilet, sleeping facilities for
parents and children and then of course Trail which was building this
pediatric cancer ward in Thelippalai.
There was another rationality to this as the CCC house was there for
people who were coming from far away so they needed support and the
rational thing behind the Jaffna project was to stop people coming from
far away and support to build the facility there so they don't need to
be travelling. Third thing was trying to bring a sense of purpose and
focus into the matter rather than to the things around it. So when I say
50/50 and someone was to donate to either Maharagama Project or Jaffna
project- you can't choose, you either donate for cancer or you don't.
You can't say I'm Sinhala and I want to give only to Maharagama or say I
am Tamil I only want to give to Jaffna - if that's the case then this
LWOH is not the place for them. If you want to donate one rupee - then
50 cents to South and 50 cents to North.
Many people who he contacted for help and support were not too keen
to lend out a hand. In their mind, they couldn't really believe that
someone really wanted to do something just like that.
When I spoke to CCC Foundation, Suren said the project sounds awesome
but that they don't have people, resources or staff to organize things
for me. I told him, not to do anything but to give an account number
where I can put the money and that I will do the rest. I designed my own
logo, set up my own page, started talking to people and that got people
talking to friends and so on. So it was just a snowballing effect.
Getting it sorted
The mechanics of getting things sorted out was the issue as I wanted
to get these two groups (CCC and Trail) together to work together as I
wanted to the money to be split either way. Then I got the red tape from
the trustees but they were willing to work out.
CCC Foundation set up a separate account for this purpose under their
own name and with the provisions for the funds to be divided. Then Trail
opened up a profile for me exclusively for this purpose with provisions
for that money to come in and split between the two. Then somewhere
along the line, Anything.lk got involved and wanted to take it up as
their CSR project where they are doing the communication and maintaining
my FB page (this happened two weeks before the departure). From nowhere
everything just gelled in and with the support of media and articles
coming up, LWOH became happening.
Nishantha with Major Ruvan
Supem de Silva and the team said they will give a plan for me and
they were the ones who gave the gear (adventure equipment and
administrative assistants). This was an absolute zero budget event. Up
to today, we have not paid money to stay anywhere; accommodation was
there whenever we needed it. For us it has been cost free our part of
the cost was our day to day to what we eat.
One request I had from the meeting I had with CCC, was that they (CCC)
had a hotline which was a new initiative to reduce the suicide incidents
and mental well being surrounding that. So I said I will definitely take
it with me. And from Day 1 we stopped at boutiques, post offices, rural
banks or wherever we thought the community meets, and spoke to the women
folk rather than the men fold as they are the ones caught up in these
issues more often than men. They were appreciative that there was
something like this and even when I spoke to the priests at the temple
we sheltered at, they too took it positively and were very happy. We
added that instead of monetary contributions for the cancer programme,
the favour you can do in this journey is spread this 133 and in a way
are doing something for the walk.
So people, if you want to help this guy who is equipped with his
trusty trekking pole, big green backpack that basically has EVERYTHING
in it and of course his friend Indunil achieve what he started, you are
more than welcome to check out http://www.trailsl.com/?page=profile&mode=walker-profile&walker_type=1&walker_id=1751
or follow on his trail on https://www.facebook.com/LongWalkOfHope.
Two of the people who joined Major Ruvan on his journey had this to
Nishantha Rathnayake: I would say that I am proud to be part of the
team in the 'Long Walk of Hope'. We all joined hands to make one man's
dream a reality. The dream of crossing Sri Lanka, from Dondra to Pedro
covering more than 500Km's in 45 walking days for raising funds in aid
of cancer patients in Sri Lanka. Ruvan, a retired Major from the Sri
Lanka Army, and the mind behind this idea is also a family man devoting
45 days of his precious time for this journey continuously away from his
wife, little son and all loved ones. I joined in on this worthy cause
from Rathnapura to Nallathanni via Sri Pada covering 3 days and the
other one from Thambuththegama to Thalawa, covering 2 days. We had to
walk to Nallathanni in the off season of Sri Pada with lot of
difficulties under heavy rain, strong winds and mist.
It's was the most adventuress and interesting journey I've ever had
in my life. In rural areas we met innocent villagers who showed us true
hospitality, whilst serving us to the best of their ability. I would
like to request all Sri Lankan's to give their support to us by helping
to raise funds for the above project.
Piumie Pieres: I first joined up with Major Ruvan in Ratnapura to
climb Adam's Peak. To say that I was unprepared - both mentally and
physically - for this climb, would be an understatement! However, in
hindsight, I now realize that this climb changed my life. This was a
soul searching expedition for me and I came to realize certain things
about my life, and myself.
The second time I joined him was in Talawa. I was fortunate enough to
walk the unknown trails, off the beaten track, explore the backwaters of
this ancient city. The people we met along the way were so kind and
generous to us (and not to mention curious about us). City folk are so
distant and disinterested sometimes, it is hard to believe that Sri
Lankans are known for their hospitality.
However, in my opinion, the true Sri Lankan people are the ones we
met, who unhesitatingly shared Kadala and King-Coconut with us, and
invited us into their homes for Tea and Vali Thalapa. I was truly
blessed to be included in Major's dream, to be allowed not only to
actively help in his cause, but also to be shown a wholly different side
of Sri Lanka. Thank you!