Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A trek to the "so-called-Chembra"

The God's own country had remained a dark area for our trek team..I'm not talking about the Godzone-New Zealand or the Australia..But, our own Indian version of the God's own country - Kerala...The long weekend after the republic day gave us a wide window for a big trek..

WyanaD, in north Kerala was the best choice owing to it's proximity to Karnataka border and it's picturesque locations..More planning went in this time..with better maps, great software ( google-earth ), and sophisticated gadgets ( gps )..believe me..i had spent more time checking out the relief of the Kundah Mountains in google earth than on the actual trek..

Malayalam seemed to be a barrier, more challenging than the 2100m high peak we were planning to scale..I got a hint of it when i went to book tickets to Kalpetta ( capital of WyanaD )..The guy sitting in the Kerala State Transport counter in B'lore bus-stand made me go through an acting session..Finally, i succeeded conveying him what i wanted, but at the end, my name was printed "PRAVINE"..sounds mallu !! Nagu, The only mallu guy in our team was our only hope..But, he had his brother's engagement to attend in chennai..Meanwhile mithun tried to boost his confidence of being able to communicate mallu..he spent half an hour over the phone with the kerala transport guy..and know what !. he lost the little confidence he had:) ..

The D-day arrived..The rest of the team - Shashwath, Nesara, Samit and Sumedha were all bagged for the trek..We had packed enough food and more than enough "good-life" milk..Our PR guy, nagu ( the reason for us to choose him as our spokesperson was obvious, He works for a marketing division and more obviously, he "knows mallu" ), was travelling from the east coast for our salvage..He finally made it in time..

We reached Meppady, the base of chembra at the day break , had tea and appams at the Taj ( un-starred ), hired a jeep for the Chembra estate and flagged off the mission.. a drive through the beautiful tea estates led us to the forest gate..We made a quick decision to dump extra resources in guard's house and disburden our shoulders..I had 3 plans in mind when we set forth
Plan A : climb chembra ( 2100m ) and trek to Vellarimala ( 2240 m ) from there.. Plan B : If the forest is too dense, scale vellarimala independently.
Plan C : if permission to vellarimala is rejected, scale a different peak in a different range..
the decision to keep a part of our resources at the base, ruled out plan A..We were on a mission to execute plan B..

The ascent was steep..the terrain was rocky, grass was burnt..the altimeter read 1000m when the ascent started..It was almost a kilometre of climb upwards !!..and with the kind of slope we were climbing on, exhaustion was evident on all our faces..half way through, we arrived at the heart-shaped lake ..who would expect a lake at this altitude, and to add to it, it has the shape of a heart !! ..after a brief session of photography ( most of them for matrimonial profiles ), the team went on..Nesara was complaining about his knee ache..but, his slow and steady pace kept him in the forefront..the climb became more valleys added to the thrill..the summit of chembra was clearly visible..

I have been experimenting with my gps for quite sometime now..and it shows a close conformance with the data from G-earth, some topo-maps and the actual place my disbelief, the gps started pointing in a wrong direction..and the chembra was showing up in the different direction..i concentrated more on my climb 'coz it was getting steeper..We finally made it to the was a great view from the top..the peak had a surprisingly less floor area on the top..the peak is indeed a sharp one !..

all the small hillocks were dwarfed at this height..Surprisingly, when i turned behind, i was definitely not standing on one of the highest peaks..i reached out to my navigation set, spread the map, turned on the altimeter device..we were not on peak 2100, the altitude was 1835 !!..the gps was still pointing loyally to a higher peak distant 2 km SE..THAT was chembra..and not the one on which we stood..We argued with a forest guard who was adamant that we indeed stood on chembra..the argument finally ended when nagu translated a local's statement as "your intstrument is not accurate"..i chuckled and gave up..

The google earth is not so bad..check this out.......

Sumit slept on the summit, Nesara was checking out the surroundings, shashwath was appreciating the beauty of hills while correcting his hair, mithun and sumedha had stuck their cams to their eyes, nagu socialised with the fellow climbers, while i kept marking our location in the gps..The Tom Sawyer in us took us further down the valley..we found a nice place to rest..and a water source too..I just wished we had not left our resources back at the base..we'd have trekked to the "actual chembra"...the lunch we had midst a small canopy was a wonderful experience..sleeping there was even more so..and believe me, at 3 in the afternoon, we were shivering with cold..

The actual chembra kept calling us, but we had to go...
I remember nagu telling me on the way .. "i feel we'll be coming to this place again.." i dunno what made him tell this..this thought kept lingering in my mind....
the valleys seemed more steeper while descending ..We had failed to execute the first phase of our plan..Chembra was unaccomplished..

All the trekkers who go up there feel that they've scaled the chembra..But, it's not so..the locals know it that way..and the forest officials want it that way..'coz trekking to actual chembra means entering the reserve forest and encountering the wild animals..this is a ploy to conserve the wild life and at the same time satiate the trekkers..

..we descended with the resolution that we shall climb the peak 2100 some day..this means yet another trek in the pipeline...

..back at the base, a lot of phone calls to the forest officers and tourism council guys were deciding the shape of things to come....