Thursday, October 05, 2006

Chembra - Heart of Waynad

One of the many reasons this being a "Special” outing was that my wife (Ramya) was with me on a trek for the first time.

As the trip unfolded, there were lots many incidences and dialogues (especially with Vamshi around) that still bring a smile on my face.

(pic by Ramya: View of Heart-Shaped Lake )

The idea of going for a “drive ‘N’ trek” was pondering in our (Me and Shree) minds for a long time. Wayanad one of the popular destination for a 3 day outing from Bangalore. “Chembra trek and overnight camping” was like a “Cherry on the cake”.

Shree ( and I are like partners in lot of things (Class room Bench, Trekking, Bike riding, Cycling (He has more share in this though :)), Gym, Jog,…………. too big a list)

September 30, 2006. 2.45 a.m, I had hardly closed my eyes after a last minute packing when I heard my cell phone ring. Before I could realize that it was not a dream, the call got disconnected. All I could remember was somebody screaming from the other side “Shall I wake up after 30 minutes; Sharath has not called me yet”. I doubt that even Priya would remember this Nonsense-bad-timing conversation.

As planned, five of us (Me, Ramya, Shree, Vishnu (my colleague and trek mate), Karthik (Sisya, my college mate)) were zooming in my ‘Swift’ on the outer-ring road near PESIT in the wee-hours.

At around 4.45 a.m, in front of “Rajarajeshwari Layout Arch”, we met Sharath, Harsha(Sharath’s brother), Vamshi (I-have-an-opinion-on-everything Guy), Pranav (Sharath’s cousin) and Priya (@#$%$#%, still angry on her).

Sharath and I were room mates for 3 years in Davangere. We and vamshi know each other from engineering times (Around 10 years now).

Priya, my colleague, trek mate. I don’t think I need to write more on her here; at least half the galaxy knows her :).

Karthik (the china-man, read more to know how he got this name) and I are friends from the college times, one guy who had an own computer: Me and Shree, his seniors use to chase him out of his room and play videogames on the PC.

Sharath with his New baleno started zipping on the Mysore road. Even I stretched my legs and didn’t hesitate to do 130-140 on my Swift. Ramya and Priya grabbed the opportunity of taking a Nap on the smooth and non-jerky drive.

Reached Mysore at 7.15 a.m. Nice Breakfast at Kamat, Nanjangud road. Priya hopped in my car and in exchange we traded Karthik . Our next destination was “Sultan-battery(SB)(Kerala)”, a 2 hour drive from Mysore. Route to SB from Gundelpet is one of my favourites, curves, forest and non-bumpy. Coffee at SB and a phone call to our Guide (Sanju), who instructed us to come to Chembra Estate Via Meppadi.

Meppadi is a small town in waynad, but has almost all the required facilities. We crossed Kalpetta (headquarters of Waynad) and reached Meppadi around 11.30 a.m. Had Lunch at “Ananda Bhavan” (quite o.k), and started towards “Chembra Estate”. The drive which is 7 Kms is quite rewarding. Beautiful Tea estates on either side of narrow road. Shree and Ramya had a big time argument whether the estate is “Thousands of acres” or “Lakhs of acres”.

(pic: Karthik, Sharath, Shree, Pranav, Harsha, Vamshi, Priya, Ramya, Me and Vishnu: Ready to trek)

Chembra Estate Gate is the starting point of the trek. Parked our Cars and started the walk towards a View-point, with Sanju leading us. Sreejith (Jittu), Sireesh and Subbu were waiting for us on the View point. They opted for this trek as they could not get permission for Mukurti. Due to non-availability of seats in the Car, they came by an overnight bus from Bangalore.

September 30, 2006. 1.30 p.m started the climb from view point towards the heart-shaped lake - our camping spot for the night. Initially the climb was a bit steep, but was manageable. Vishnu, Jittu, Priya, Subbu and Sireesh went ahead with the Guide, I and Ramya were behind them, rest of the gang was in a dead-slow mode. Vamshi who was once-upon-a-time so-long ago - a very good trekker, was taking breaks every minute. The RuckSack that he was carrying was very heavy for him and Sharath had to help him with timesharing the load.

Ramya started the trek with a bag and with complete enthusiasm, after 20 minutes of climbing she lost both. I carried the bag for 10 minutes and then passed it to Subbu, who carried the bag until the Lake.

The route to lake from the view-point is a 1 hour 30 minutes leisure walk. Three climbs and some flat walk through tea estates and grasslands. Before the final summit to the lake, one can see a small lake which is more of an abstract and irregular shaped.

The heart-lake site is marvelous, covered by Chembra peak and another (nameless) peak on one side, a cliff on the other side. The plateau was dressed with grass-green carpet and the “Romantic lake” in the midst.

Me and I-am-fainting-Ramya met Vishnu near the Lake around 3.00 p.m, he had reached the lake half an hour before us. Priya and co (Jittu, Sireesh and Subbu) were pretending to eat the bones lying around the lake and clicking photos. Subbu, a chatterbox, had coined the phrase “Bloody tourist”.

Bloody tourist :
(.noun) one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture and who tries to scare the trekkers by pointing about hazards of trekking.
(.noun) one who makes de-motivating statements about trekking.

(pic: The elusive peak)

We had quite a long wait for Sharath, Vamshi and others to join us. Vamshi had a Ipod-speaker combo in his hand and a loud telgu song coming out of it. He was treating this gadget as God, later got to know that he could able to get up and start the trek because of this (I don’t want to go deep into this).
Sanju and I started “camp site hunting”. There are 3 good camp sites, one next to the lake, which was occupied by another gang of trekkers; one slightly inside the forest, this option is ruled out during the rains; other one slightly off from the lake but has a great view of the “Abstract lake” that I mentioned earlier. We decided to camp at the third spot.

From the lake, climb to the peak is a 2 hour affair, one can see that the path is very steep. Me, Shree, Vishnu and Vamshi decided to pitch the tents and start a bit late, hoping that we shall catch up with the rest. Others started the climb at 4.00 p.m.

The weather was very fickle, was warm all the time but threatened to pour when we were pitching the tent. Sharath, Harsha and Pranav returned after 15 minutes thinking that it might start raining. Ramya, Priya and others had continued towards the peak. Around 4.45 p.m. me, Vishnu and Shree started the climb to the peak. Vamshi opted not to climb.

One need to cross 5-6 hillocks to reach the Peak from the lake, from start to end its only ascending, no flat land and no descent. For us it was race against time, we had to reach the peak before dark and also before it start pouring. With lots of “Ifs and Buts”, and paining calf and thigh muscles we were on our way to the peak.

Sometimes, Vishnu was reluctant to complete the climb due to the scare of rain and darkness. The main reason for me not to quit was I don’t want people back home teasing me “Hey Harsha, it seems your wife climbed the peak and you could not”, I will loose my market you see…:).

Another issue that we had while climbing was the hillock(s) were completely covered with mist, we could not estimate the distance to the peak. This might have been a blessing-in-disguise as we didn’t take more rest on the way.

Exactly after 50 minutes of continuous climbing at a rather fast pace, we heard Priya and Ramya’s voices, believe me their voice never heard so musical and motivating. With a sarcastic grin on our faces, we started the final assault (on our legs). Reached our destination in another 7 minutes from here.

(pic: Ramya on the peak)

The view from the peak was out-of-the world. As a matter of fact view from most of the peaks are breathtaking, each one different by itself. May be the satisfaction of climbing the peak influences the mind to make the view more beautiful? The tougher the climb, the beautiful the view would be. 45 minutes of photo session and “Peak-tradition”, we started our journey down towards the camp-site.

The climb down was not very easy, due to monsoon and algae, the path was very slippery.It took more than an hour for us to reach the camp. Ramya did some “Uruluseva” (Rolling) on the way.

(pic: Sunset captured by Shree)

Dinner: MTR rice and Maggi noodles for the hungry souls!

Most of the time, I was lying down inside the tent. It was Vamshi, Sharath, Harsha, Karthik, Shree and Pranav who cooked the food. They had a gala time, Sharath calling Karthik “a Chinese” because of his sharp-edge-thin-moustache. “Chinese” was the second most popular term of the trip (next to “Bloody tourist”).

I remember seeing my Timex at 8.30 p.m, the next glance at the watch was at 2.45 a.m. Sireesh, who was in the next tent was asking for time once in a while, Vishnu kept on answering this. I just wonder, if Sireesh was doing this subconsciously in his sleep, or was that me dreaming.

October 1, 2006 6.00 a.m, total noise!!!. Lot of disturbance. Vamshi had woken up and was pestering Sharath for photos. Believe me, Vamshi has posed in at least 25 single photos during the trip.

Bread-jam, coffee for breakfast. Subbu and Shree were our water boys. One need to walk at least 100m from the camp to find a small stream. Lake water might not be suitable for cooking and drinking.

Tents were un-pitched and packed, the place was cleaned up. Lots of garbage bags to carry. We started descending at 9.00 a.m. It’s an hour journey from the Lake to the place where we had parked our cars.

(pic: Vamshi, Sharath, Karthik - Happy customers! )

I had a mixed feeling while climbing down, would have liked to stay for a longer time, may be another day camping; on the brighter side, the anticipation of driving through the Wayanad roads and visiting Suchipara and Meenmutty falls made me to walk faster towards the car.