Where - Chembra is the highest peak in Wayanad district of Kerala, just 280 kms from Bangalore. The closest town to the peak is Meppadi, which is 12 kms from Kalpetta, the district HQ.
How to get there - Access to Waynad is through Mysore - Nanjangud - Gundulpet and then towards Kozhikode on NH 212. Kalpetta is accessible through Sultan Bathery. With tourism being promoted like crazy in Wayanad, you should get a lot more info on the Kerala tourism websites!!!
What else is around - There are 3 waterfalls around Meppadi - Soochipaara, Meenmutti and something else. Chembra peak, Pookot lake, Edakkal caves are the other things being promoted actively.
The trek - Chembra peak is accessible through the Chembra estate - a large (maybe 1k acre) tea estate owned by a MP with permission from the Range Forest Officer at Meppadi. Road access is for 7 kms from the town and the hill is a moderate 3 hour climb. Its a continuous climb all the way to the peak and kinda reminds you of KumaraParvatha :-)
Our blah - Sriram was enthu for a trek and Anant had little hesitation in suggesting Kudremukh!!! Unfortunately, with no permissions being given in Karnataka, we had to look for alternate avenues - and what we ended up with was Chembra peak in Kerala.
Who - Sandeep Dubey, Sriram, Dheeraj, Anant, Sanjay, Vinay and myself
When - Jan 21, 22 2k6
The Qualis landed in Kalpetta at odd hours and I had to poke around in the fish market to find out details of where we had to go!! News at Meppadi wasn't very heartening - The RFO office refused trekking permission and it took a call and some talking with the RFO before we were handed a green slip permitting us to trek - with instuctions in Malayalam!!! :-)
We took this as a permit to camp in the forest and set off to Meenmutti falls -- I had heard a lot about it from Sunaad and hoped it would live up to the hype!!! And trust me - it did!!!
The sign board claimed Meenmutti falls was 3.9 kms away and the initial part was through these lush green Tea estates .......
And then, things were more like a trek!! It was quite a steep descent. Everyone woke up to the need of the hour and reached the falls safely. A few of us carefully tackled the moss-laden rocks to reach the water while Sanju was lucky to have minimal damage on his fall.
The water cascades down here in three stages. The snap shows the middle part and the largest part is apparently the lower one. We considered a quick dash to that one, but finally decided against it coz we had the peak to climb too!!!
We entered Chembra estate after lunch only to hear that there would be no perm for camping on the hill and the best we could do was camp in the estate by a stream. That meant that we had 4 hours to get to the peak and back!!! That, when most websites mentioned that it is a 3-4 hour climb!!!!
02:30 -- We set off, all excited. We would get a lake within half an hour of the trek, we were told. I intended not to take a break till I reached there .....
02:40 -- The last we saw of plain ground -- The ascent had begun!!! Climb climb!!!
03:00 -- Climb climb climb climb ..... No traces of any lake around here .... Climb climb climb climb
03:15 -- Met a bunch of trekkers descending. They said I had done one quarter of the trek so far!!! How heartening!!!!
03:30 -- At the lake at laaaaaaast!!! I had trekked almost without a break for one hour to reach here!!! I wouldnt know how someone would reach here in half an hour unless he took a copter!!!
It was here that I realised that the guys who had the water - me and Dubey - were in front of everyone and the others had no water with them!!! I waited for Sriram, Anant and Dheeraj; passed a bottle of fluid onto them and heard that Vinay and Sanju had stopped midway coz of thirst .... Damn .... why wasn't I thinking!
Whereever we were, we had to turn back at 04:30 in order to give ourselves the same amount of time to head back before dark. That meant, I had one more hour to climb to the peak! :-) There was no way in hell I was going to give up mid-way. I set myself targets for every fifteen minutes and started with full enthu ......
03:45 -- Pretty much on target. Throat was getting a bit parched, but could manage. Next part looked kinda steep!!
04:00 -- Much ahead of target!! Covered quite a lot of ground and looked like I would make it to the peak in another 15 mins!!!
04:15 -- Where the hell is everyone!?? I looked back every few steps and I could see no one in sight!! Was beginning to get really worried now!! 'Wasn't Sriram behind me?? Hope nothing has gone wrong!!!'
04:25 -- CONQUERED!!!! Chembra was conquered in just less than 2 hours!!! Alone on the top was a great feeling!!! The view all around was worth it all! and I proved a point to myself :-)
The one above was the peak to the left when I was climbing and looked green and refreshing when compared to the burnt up Chembra peak - thanx to a forest fire a week ago. The one below was a range which was blocked by the peak i was ascending till I summited it. Interestingly, some peaks here were taller than Chembra which is supposedly the highest in Wayanad .....
I looked down at the route I had traverersed with some satisfaction :-) ... Don't miss the heart-shape of the lake down below .....
The budgeted time for the descent was two hours and I managed it in an hour and a half with Dubey giving me company most of the way ..... We camped for the night in the foot of the hills inside the tea estate - A fire to cook delicious Top Ramen and Upma and a camp fire to keep us warm!!!
The next day morning greeted us with a spectacle that reminds me of Kodachadri - a sea of white clouds and you are above it!!! The view was spectacular ..... my limited vocab isn't helping matters here :-) ... Maybe the picture can!!!!
The next stop was Soochipaara falls ...... Everyone got into the water here and excited shreiks were the order of the day with the water trashing onto our backs!!!
The final stop was at Rangantittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore .... all I could recognize were these Siberian Painted storks, little cormorants, egrets and crows!!!!!