Mighty Chembra. The Jewel of Wayanad
It was in September 2013 I materialized my trip to Wayanad after a considerable gap. Though myself and Syam has been planning for a long time to explore Wayanad every time it got postponed for various contingencies. This time when I decided to move alone I knew am gonna miss him a lot.
This was also planned on a short notice in a week end. After a hectic day in office I got out by 6.30 and went to room. I have read some blogs on treks to Chembra and had a vague idea on the road to cover. After reaching room I had a power shower and packed by bag. It was already 7.00 pm and I knew I was late. I had to catch the bus to Mysore via Sulthan Bathery from South KSRTC stand. All I did was to leave a msg to friends and do some fast shopping for essentials. By 7.45 I reached bus stand was in the reservation counter asking for ticket to Wayanad. Disappointment was the result. The frustrated KSRTC employee said the bus is about to start in 15 minutes and reservations all already over. Only possibility left for me was to approach the bus and ask for any chance of accommodating me. Hopelessly I went to the bus and asked the conductor on any seat availability. I knew all the buses with reservations will be having two seats available for emergency cases and luck favored me this time. I got a seat. Thanks to ticketor. It is almost an Eight hour trip and I knew I could catch a reasonably long nap and I did the same. I wish I could see the Wayanadan Churam but there is no point in sitting awake for 6 hours as I knew I won’t be able to get a good view in the night.
Though I could get down at Kalpetta which was easy for me and at least save 1 hour travel I didn’t get down at Kalpetta because I was unsure of getting a lodging in the late hours when I expected to reach. Hence by 4 am I got down at Bathery town instead of going to the stand and I could easily find lodging there. I checked in at a tourist home and lie down for a while. There was an unusual pain in the back which was hurting me but luckily after the power nap of 1 hour it seemed ok. Getting ready by 6 am I checked out and boarded a bus to Kalpetta from where I knew I could go to Meppadi and then to Chembra. Kalpetta to Meppadi is hardly 45 minutes journey and from Meppadi we need to get an auto to reach the chembra forest division office from where the passes are obtained along with an accompanying guide. The trekking permission cost me Rs 500 and another 50 Rs for camera. Now a days Chembra trekking is allowed only till the heart shaped lake which is almost 600 foot below the top. I asked the officials about any chances of going on to the top but the officials were very particular in turning the “NO” word on my face denying my request. Though it was allowed earlier the route is closed for past one year. They developed two stories for denying permission ( I don’t know any one of it is true). One was the threat of Maoist activists and secondly for the presence of the bird named Swift which is considered as an extinct species. The bird lives and breeds only in high altitude and the top of Chembra is considered to be one such point where these birds are seen. Many other fruitful trekking destinations in Wayanad is closed now for the Maoist sighting. Pakshipathalam and Banasura hills also have same kind of issues but they have spared the bird story for those two places.
Vincent chettan was assigned to me as the guide. A lean man of 5.4 may be. But was friendly from the very beginning. He could speak many languages and was a qualified local guide. Taking permission from the office we moved forward there is hardly 400 mtrs from the office where we need to take a diversion to the trekking trail.
Hardly after 5 minutes of walk through the tarred road have we reached a muddy trail after that we move into a forest trail. All these ways are plain and I wondered when the ascend will start.
On the way we could see two three one bedroom cottages where stay is available if booked in advance. The forest trail comes to a dormitory kind of a thing where students who come for ecological classes and nature classes used to stay. Beside this starts the real trekking trail to Chembra.
From the beginning of this trail itself the ascend is steep and the gravel makes it little more strenuous to cover. As the ascend was really steep we were attaining a lot of height in no time and I could feel the climate changing.
Soon it become misty and we couldn’t see forward above 10 foot. Moving forward for some more time the forest cover disappeared and grass land begin. We were moving through the side of the mountain so as to avoid strenuous hikes and was taking hair pin bend trails for easy ascend.(compared to the actual ascend).
It started drizzling by then and the mist was so thick that we were unable to see anything in front of us. We took a little break for breath. I was really gasping for breath as we took hardly any breaks in between. But the cool mist and soft drizzle smoothened me and drained out my fatigue fast. I could hear loud noises of people approaching down the hill and Vincent chettan said it is of a student group staying in the dormitory. From the very sound of them I could figure out it is a large group of people and as I didn’t wanted to be a part of the group I decided to move fast. It was by this time I met a couple who joined us. They were Bharath and Shilpa native of Bangalore who were on a week vacation in Wayanad. They were surprised to know I was coming alone ( as usual) and shot so many “W-H” words (questions) at me. Though I didn’t wanted to answer all a little chit chat was good with them. They were so good and I liked their company. To my surprise they revealed that they are celebrating their first anniversary. I admired their thought of coming to a serene place like this and hiking a mountain on their anniversary instead of throwing off an alcoholic party in some three star hotels. Good people great thoughts.
In another twenty minutes we reached plain ground and Vincent chettan said we have reached the heart shaped lake. The drizzle was getting stronger and we were all wet. The mist also was very strong and I couldn’t even see the lake before nearing so close to that. Was little disappointed that i missed the view from the top. We roamed around for a little photo sessions and moved little more upward for getting a better view of the lake from a height. The drizzle stopped by then but the mist was still not leaving. Vincent chettan and the guide with Bharath and Shilpa unanimously said the same will be cleared after some time. But it felt like soothening words as I could never think of getting a view after the mist disappears. Such was the thickness of it.
But to my surprise view was getting cleared and the lake slowly cleared and started giving the view. Now I could get a better view of the heart shape of the lake and I managed to get some snaps. It was getting cleared as time passed and we waited almost for 1 hour but it was worth waiting to see the mighty Peak from that position. Mist and clouds slowly cleared to give a breath taking view of the peak. I deeply regretted that I couldn’t hike the Mighty structure. From the sight itself it was evident that the ascend to the top will be a strenuous one which every hiker would love to take. It was feast to the eyes to see lush greenery and fantastic elevation of the peak.
After taking some more pictures we decided to turn back. Walking back to the returning trail I looked back and saw the Mighty peak smiling at me. I decided that second that if by chance this trek reopens any time I will come back to step on top of it. Chembra peak is supposed to be 2100 mtrs(6900 foot) above sea level and there are some contradictory references also in google that it is only 1850 mtrs. Though we could climb only up to 6100 mtrs as ascend to the top station is forbidden now. Although there are hills which are higher than Chembra in Kerala the elevation of the peak towards the top most point make it one of the toughest ascends in Western Ghats. I felt really sorry for not getting a chance to get to the top. If I made it at least 2 years back I could get to the top and that would have been a real achievement. After seeing the elevation of the peak in photographs and in real any hiker could not resist themselves from leaving it unconquered. Such a beauty it is.
I wanted to ascend the peak so badly. The trail down the lane was little slippery because of the rain. We managed not to fall anywhere. Shilpa was venturing something like this for the first time but she was too good for a first timer. Like it is said “it is not the outside, but the inside which will take you to the top”. Very true. On our way back we saw some more troops going up. They may get a better view as the mist was clearing. Some points on the descend was so tricky that we had to take utmost care not to slip down and land full length on our back. The descend was comparatively less time consuming and in half the time we reached back to the Dormitory. Altogether it was a three hour trek to and fro. As the climate was so cool I was not feeling any tiredness of the exhausting trek.
Bharath and Shilpa had to take a deviation through the tea plantations to their resort. Shared contact nos and said good bye to them. A 15 minutes’ walk through the tea planation took me to the starting point again and I could manage to get an auto from there to Meppadi.
From there I went to Kalpetta had lunch from there and boarded a bus to Kozhikode. I wanted to see the Churam but somehow fell asleep. When I woke up the entire stretch was already over. I kept it for another time. Caught a bus from Kozhikode to Cochin and reached room on a fairly late hour. The bus ride was very tiresome and climate also changed to burning hot from icy cold in 8 hours. Had a long bath and was feeling very sleepy. Thought of reviewing the photos in the morning. Thanked Mother Nature for keeping me safe for the day. Fell asleep.
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