The key to conquering any peak is not to look up for what is left, but to look back to see how much you have already covered.
The prospect of conquering any peak is always enticing enough to make me and my like-minded friends to put on our travel gear and head out to some place exciting. The Chembra Trek required no additional effort in appeasing the group to undertake this trek. A simple with a single picture did the trick and pulled-in the quorum for a trip. The single picture and the USP of the Chembra Trek was that of a natural heart-shaped lake half-way through the climb. This natural and perfectly heart-shaped lake with water throughout the year stimulated and intrigued many in the group. Although there were the last-minute drop-outs, we still managed to total six. This proved a good number to take our own car rather than depend on a rented one vis-a-vis cut costs for the trip.
If the heart-shaped lake is an asset of the Chembra Trek, then the guide who MUST accompany you along the trek is the liability. For every group that wants to climb Chembra, the forest department provides a Guide (whose fee is covered in the entry tickets). It is not like you need a guide to find your way around, but the forest officials insist that you must carry one with you. The ill-effects of carrying a guide in such a trek is that, the moment you tell him you want to climb all the way to the final peak and not go back after reaching the heart lake (as many do), he starts trying to de-motivate you about how arduous the trek is and blah blah blah. But then we are not the ones to be cowed down so easily. And despite a very slow mover in our group we succeeded in conquering Chembra Peak with reasonable ease. And this was the crowning glory of our last trip of 2012.
The trek begins with a stroll through a private tea garden until you reach a watch tower. From here starts the real deal. In the first 500mts my breathing got heavy. At the end of the 1stkilometer, my hands were on my hips. By the 2nd km I was dragging my feet. By the third I feel numb to all the pain, exhaustion and the heavy breathing. And in comes the heart-shaped lake like a breath of fresh air. Though I’ve seen the picture of this lake a hundred times, it was still unbelievably heart-shaped in real life. It takes me about half an hour to take the perfect picture of the lake without the tourists occupying the frame. And that’s good time to recover my strength and my breath. With that I set forth to conquer the peak. The distant elusive peak is an arduous climb, but not impossible.
After the disappointment in KP this time round my determination was strong. I had to finish this trek and would like to do it with considerable ease. My strategy was to not stop and rest but keep walking - no matter how tired my body was. When I couldn’t take it anymore I took short breaks of 3 minutes each. In those 3 minutes I practiced my Yoga techniques of taking deep breaths. Three short breaks of 3 minutes each and a half hour break at Chembra lake got me to the peak of Chembra. At 6900 feet I was standing at the highest point in Wayanad (or so the forest officials claim). It is obvious to any trekker or tourist that the peak that they claim to be the tallest here is definitely not true as there are more taller peaks adjacent to the one you are standing on. But why the forest officials claim that this is the tallest is beyond our imagination. Maybe it’s because there’s a threat of wild animals there, maybe they don’t want to entertain trekkers and tourists in these areas. But that doesn’t take away anything from the feeling of standing on a peak and breathing the fresh air of mother nature. Its not just air but pride that fills my chest when I take deep breaths at the peak.
On an average it takes 4 hours to reach the peak and 2 hrs to descend. A wonderful one-day trek with the everlasting image of the heart-shaped lake as a souvenir that will be etched in your mind.
Getting-there: Kalpetta->Meppady->Chembra Estate
Must-Do: Trek to the heart-shaped lake and beyond till you reach the peak.
Must-Don’t: Littering and camping overnight(not allowed)
Returning from Edakkal Caves we realised we were not left with much options for the remainder of the day. Meenmutty Falls was our original plan but conflicting reports of it being closed for tourists and the fact that we may miss the deadline for entry into the area made us fall back on Plan B. We zeroed-in on Karapuzha Dam as that was the closest to our accomodation in Meenangadi. Plus, we wanted enough time to relax before a demanding Day2 of our Wayanad trip.
Karapuzha Dam is built on the Karapuzha Lake, which is however a conglomerate of a dozen lakes. This place is not very touristy, but if you have an evening to kill and watch the sunset in Wayanad, then this is the place for it. This place also promises to be a good one for birding but I guess our timing wasn't right. The dam in itself is a very quiet place and unlike other dams across the country, this one is open to public and hardly has any security personnel around it.
After waking around the dam for a while and waiting for the sun to set, SM and I (who had driven the car last night taking turns) found a comfortable spot to lie down on. And before we knew it, we drifted into a deep sleep. And when I finally woke up i found, much to my dismay, the sun had set! But from what I heard from my co-travelers, the sunset was magical.
Getting: there: 17kms from Kalpetta and 6kms from Meenangadi.
Wayanad is one of the perfect
weekend destinations from Bangalore. For one, it is a mere 300 kms from
Bangalore and with good roads, it makes for an easy drive. For another, there
are so many destinations in a 50 km radius around Kalpetta that you can plan
multiple weekend getaways to this sleepy town nestled in the great wide Western
Ghats. Not surprisingly, this is my second visit here. The first time round I
covered Pookode Lake, Soochipura Falls and Kuruwa Dweep Islands. Needless to
say, this time round I had other destinations in mind.
Unlike last time when we booked a
TT, this time we opted to take our own car and that meant a lot of driving
shared between 2 of the 6 passengers. Thankfully the well carpeted asphalt
lasted all the way till Kerala border. But there ends the good fortune. The
moment you step foot on God’s Own Country, it is as if you set foot on Hell!
There are no potholes on this road – only craters! Once you cross Sulthan
Bathery the craters disappear, only to give you a feeling as if you just landed
on Mars. The so-called highway is being re-carpeted and from the looks of it
the work has been going on forever. There are no visible signs of any work
being done. After gobbling on some Masala Dosas and Puris from Sulthan Battery
we headed towards Meenangadi, where we had booked ourselves into RI Residency.
To our dismay we found the road to be blocked and traffic not allowed to pass
through. Upon enquiry we found that there has been a tiger-spotting here a
while ago and the forest officials were trying to capture or drive-away the
tiger from the (so-called) human habitation. Apparently the tiger also killed 2
goats and a cow the night before which has the local population angered. And
Kerala being Kerala which calls for a hartal at the drop of a hat has started
agitation for the capture of the wild beast.
That meant we had to take a detour
back to Sulthan Battery and follow a different route to Meenangadi. This detour
cost us at least an hour. We checked into our dormitory accommodation at the
spanking new RI Residency which to our surprise was very neat and comfortable.
And at Rs 150 per head we could not be any happier! A quick bath later we
headed to Edakkal Caves.
For the uninitiated, the Edakkal
Caves are famous for its prehistoric carvings. Some of these carvings date back
to 5000 BC which is attributed to the Neolithic man. These Stone Age carvings
are the only one of its kind in South India and points to existence of a
pre-historic civilization. Not all carvings are believed to be from the same
era. That implies that people from different times have inhabited these caves
and left their mark. The oldest of the carvings are believed to be 8000 years
old. The existence of Tamil script only adds to the intrigue of the place and
the history of this Dravidian language.
Until a few years ago going by the
blogs of that time, getting to the caves used to be an arduous trek. All that
has changed now with the so-called tourism development. Crass
commercialization, well-paved roads, steel staircases, different entry and exit
routes has changed the experience for the worst! The hordes and hordes of
picnic goers don’t make the situation any better. Coming to the carvings
themselves, thankfully they are well-maintained. The guard on duty and the ASI
officer ensure that these engravings aren’t vandalized. For a small fee they
even explain the history of the place including deciphering some of the markings
on display. With that dose of pre-historic life we decided to head to our next
Getting-there: About 25kms from Kalpetta and 13kms from Meenangadi.
Must-Do: Gobble delicious Pineapples on your way back to recharge yourself.