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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Monsoon Trek to Chembra Peak, Wayanad, Kerala, India

A tropical trek in the monsoons is just what the doctor ordered. And it gets even better if the trek is in the Western Ghats, which is one of the hottest bio-diversity hotspots in the world.


Such a tropical trek in the monsoons is the best way to relax one’s soul amidst a world that is dressed in fresh green. This time the destination was Chembra Peak, the highest peak in the district of Wayanad (Wynad) in Kerala.

 
My friends (Vishwadeep Anshu and Anand Sharma) and I left Bangalore at 5 am on a Saturday morning to reach Meppady six hours later.


The route we took was Bangalore –> Mysore –> Gundlupet –> Kalpetta –> Meppady. The total distance to Meppady from Bangalore is about 320 kms.


From Meppady, we drove through tea estates to reach Chembra estate where the forest office is located. It was here at the forest office that we bought trekking permits, camera permits and hired the services of a forest trekking guide.


The trekking permit for a group of 10 people costs 500 rupees. This includes the services of a forest trekking guide. Still cameras are charged at 25 rupees. Video cameras are not allowed on the trek.


After getting the necessary permits, we drove to the point, which was the start of the trek. We parked our car, got introduced to our trekking guide, Srinivasan, wore our trekking shoes and began the trek.


The first 300 metres of the trek was a pretty straight forward walk that passes through tea estates on both sides. After these 300 metres, we had to take a left turn that climbs steeply through lush green grasslands.


From this left turn onwards, it is a straight and steep climb. There is a clear trail that winds its way upwards.


The first thirty minutes of the trail passes through evergreen forests, but the vegetation changes to grasslands with increasing altitude.


Once the surroundings change into grasslands, it stays as grasslands right up to the top. The climb is slightly tough and we took some short breaks to catch our breath and to rehydrate ourselves.


After an hour of climbing, we came across a water body, which is called the first lake. From here, we ascended further for another 30 minutes before we reached a heart shaped lake, which is a scenic spot and a tourist attraction on this trek.


We took a break at this lake, indulged in some photography and then continued with our trek. It took us another hour and a half to reach the Chembra peak.


The final stretch is extremely rocky and slippery and one has to be careful to avoid the steep cliff on one side.


By the time we reached the top, it started drizzling and the mountain mist enveloped us. To avert any mishaps, we decided to descend to the next safest point, known as the view point.


One can get great views of the Chembra peak and the surrounding evergreen forests and grasslands from here.

 
We decided to settle here for a while, but unfortunately could not do so as the intensity of the rains began to increase. Thus, we began our descent in rain and in intermittent mist.


While climbing, we were cursing the steep path, but only when did we descend, did we realize that the descent is tougher than the ascent.


The slushy trail, the slippery rocks, the pelting rain and the poor visibility created the ideal concoction for a deadly descent. All of us slipped. I personally landed on my back-side four times. But, thankfully, none of us faced any injuries.


The descent was extremely hurried as we were worried about more rain and thus losing visibility. And thus we descended back to the tea estate trail in about 2 hours. The ascent had taken us three and a half hours, including our small stops and long breaks.

 
So, finally after five and a half hours, we had finished our monsoon trek to Chembra Peak. In spite of this being leech country and the monsoons, most of us surprising had only one or two leech bites.


It was a heady feeling at the end of the trek. I guess all of us were intoxicated by the pure air and the lovely green surroundings. After the trek, we drove back to Meppady, found ourselves decent budget accommodation and settled in there to spend the night.

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