Last week, I had planned to go to Chembra in Wayanad. It is one of the highest peaks in Kerala (2100 m). The highest is Anaimudi. I had found out the way to get there from a couple of very good blogs. On Friday, we both set out at about 5 ‘O’c clock from our office. The last Kerala SRTC bus to Kalpetta from Satellite bus station was at 8 ‘O’ clock. We knew that if we took a line-bus to first go to Majestic and then from there to Satellite Stand, we would never get there on time. So, we took an Auto to the stand.
We reached there by around 6:30 and decided to skip the bus at 7 as we did not want to get there too early. Only KSRTC operates night-buses to Kozhikode. This is because the highway through the forest is blocked at night. KSRTC buses take a circuitous route and go through Manathavadi to Kalpetta. The road is very bad and our behinds were sore by the time we reached Kalpetta at 4:30 in the morning. Also, we had not slept at all.
At Kalpetta we had a light breakfast and took the Thrissur-Gudalur bus at 5:30 to get to Meppadi which is off the main Bangalore Kozhikode highway. We got down at Meppadi and then asked around for the Range Forest Office. It was a 15 min walk from the center of the town. The range forest officer was up by the time we got there. We asked for permission to freshen up there and he asked us to go tell the Forest Secretary whose quarters was nearby. After freshening up there we walked to the town and had breakfast and packed some lunch.
The RFO office is on the main road. From there, we have to go about 2kms to get to the VSS office from where we have to take the pass and get the forest guide. We can also keep our bags here.Then we have to go about 5 kms through estate roads to the start of the trail. We hired an auto from the town for that. Guide and permission charges were Rs. 500 for a group of up to 10 people and Rs. 50 for every additional person.
Luckily for us, there were no rains and the trail was relatively dry. It would have been more difficult to climb had it been wet. We started at around 8:30 and we walked at a brisk pace through the tea gardens and after about 10 mins came to the watch tower. The view from the top was nice and we took a few pictures and continued.
The climate was very nice and there was minimal fog. The view was thus impressive. We took pictures all along the way. Since, the climb was easy we did it quickly and soon we reached the famous heart-shaped lake. The trail is comprised of a series of 5 “bumps” that we have to climb in succession to reach the top. The area surrounding the lake is like a meadow. Grassy, open and windy. No one is allowed a dip in the lake and because of that the water is very clean. We sat by it for a while and watched as lots of little fish crowded around the biscuit pieces that we occasionally threw in.
After that, we started climbing again and it got steeper as we went on. The view around was simply breathtaking. We paused now and then to catch our breaths and take some photos. As we reached the last but one peak and was one our way to the peak, I noticed a snake lying on the trail. Our guide had gone on ahead. So, I shouted out to him and asked him whether it was a poisonous snake. He asked me whether it was green and when I said yes, he told me that it was just a Pachilla Pambu. But, I had seen grass snakes before and I knew that this was not one. It was just sitting there without moving and I was wondering whether it was dead.
So, I carefully jumped over it and made my way up. Abraham threw a little pebble at it and it suddenly moved and opened it’s mouth. So, he too jumped over it and took a picture of it. We climbed the last 100 meters and finally reached the top at 10:15. As the fog cleared now and then, we got brief glimpses of the landscape. It was simple divine. At the top it was very windy and cold. After enjoying the view for a while, we had our lunch. We had packed Vellappams and Egg curry. After eating we sat around for a while talking with our guide Renjith. He told us that they allow people to camp near the lake when it is not raining and it costs 3000 rupees per team.
We started on our way down by around 11. The snake was still lying there. Our guide said that it probably just had a meal and was resting after that. As we were making our way down we met a foreign couple very near the peak. The climb down was harder than I had imagined. Very soon the front part of my thighs was hurting. I was part running, part sliding and part trying to stay upright as I rushed down. I realized that it took greater effort to do it slowly. We reached the start of the trail by around 12. As we were passing the lake we came across a big team of people. And it was also starting to rain.
One thing that should be kept in mind is, it is always better to climb early in the morning. Otherwise, conditions might not be suitable for reaching the very top. The gate keeper had kindly offered to call an auto for us by the time we reached there.
We took the auto and travelled to Soochipara falls which was nearby. There we visited the falls and had a light meal. Since it was very crowded we did not have a bath there. Then we walked for around 2.5 kms to the nearest bus stand and just as we arrived a bus came which took us straight to Kalpetta through Meppadi. Initially, I thought that we might have to take a bus to Meppadi and then change buses. But, luckily, we did not have to do that. From Kalpetta, we got a bus to Bathery and from there we went to my aunt’s place. After 24 hours of sleeplessness and the trek, it was like heaven when we reached there. After a hot bath, sleep, coffee, wine made from wild nellikkas and a big dinner I and Abraham were feeling very good. We fell asleep reading some of my cousin’s old books.
The climate in Wayanad is ideal in my opinion. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too humid, not too dry. It’s my promised land and my desire to settle there when I become old, grew after this visit.
We set off back to Bangalore at around 12:30. Aunty had filled our tummies well and what we couldn’t fit in, we took in a plastic bag to eat on the way. At the Bathery bus stand, I was shocked to see the first Bangalore bus which was so crammed with people that some of them were standing. I couldn’t imagine standing and travelling. So, we waited and soon enough a Mysore bus came and we got seats on that. After a pleasant journey we came to Mysore and from there we took a Volvo to Bangalore. A little rich, but very comfortable. By the time we reached Majestic my legs had started to shut down.
All in all, everything went very smoothly, mostly because of my remarkable “foresight” and great “intelligence” and of course a little bit of good luck.