The Wayanad escapade
Mudit spreads out a sheet of paper on the table right in front of CCD. FIve more heads hustle over the fine print and in a few moments HydVentura’s next flagpost is decided. A trip was long pending and we could just not let the four day Christmas weekend to go by just like that! Animesh floats a mail across to the internal group the very next day followed by a formal communication mail from Shiva. In a few days for the first time ever we’re flooded with nominations for the trip. 45 and odd people respond in positive. We’re compelled to raise the bar and send out another mailer stating that only people who’ve transferred the requisite amount before friday EOD would be considered. Nominations are finally frozen by next monday EOD.Amidst tight schedules arrangements are parallely taken care of and by 21st december we’re almost good to head for the trek. Accommodation, Travel and other miscellaneous arrangements almost seem to fall in place.
The first mailer that was sent out had the difficulty and endurance of the trek set at ‘medium’. But as days pass and as information is gathered, the group is apprised of the difficulty. The ratio surprisingly seems to fall on the heavier side. With last minute drop-outs and substitute replacements, 24th morning has the count at 15 ladies and 13 guys. Later into the trip we would realise HydVentura has spread its wings to IBM and MIcrosoft!
24th December’ 08 – Wednesday
Deepa calls and informs she’s compelled to quit. Shefy, Poorvi, Sravanti and I leave from the Microsoft campus at around 16:50hrs. Sookti joins us at MGBS by around 18:25hrs. We sell Deepa’s ticket to another person and soon happen to meet the 20:30 service folks too.The 19:30 Garuda service pulls into the station at around 19:50hrs we’re honking out of Hyderabad. Jiddu, Sadique, Aish, Anu, Ajay, Hari, Swati, Revathi,Himanshu,Bhavya,Divya,Jeevz, Prasanna and Poorna leave by the 20:30hrs service. Eby and Madhuri were to leave by train and would be joining us the next day at Yaatri NIvas, Bangalore the next day along with Shruti, Atul, Sashank and Manoj [Joining from B’lore] and Rachesh Nambiar [ joining from Chennai ]. Ram would be joining us directly at Sulthan Bathery the next day. The long day takes its toll and the onward jorney is more or less sober with not much happening.
25th December’ 08 – Thursday
At about 06:40 hrs the bus we’re travelling breaks down about 13kms before Chickballapur. Just before we decide hopping onto a Buffalo van , an APSRTC luxury liner screeches to a halt in front of us. Five of us and a couple of others hop into it and by 08:10hrs we reach Yatri Nivas. Madhuri, Eby, Sasank, Rachesh, Shruti and Manoj reach there well before us. JIddu and team arrive more or less at the same time. For a petty 40Rs. we refresh here and by 09:30hrs we’re all set to head off towards Wayanad in the Mazda and Sumo that had been arranged. At about 12:40 hrs we decide to have a brunch and Rachesh suggests we head for a restaurant thats quite close to Wonderla. Once there we realised they offered a pathetic service to big groups and got out after a few minutes wait. A few minutes ahead we stop over at another seemingly decent place for what now became a lunch. The restaurant owner arranges food for us in a thatched shed. A quick lunch with spices of antics from the hungry morons gets back things on the roll.
As the Sumo winds up one of the hair pin bends on the highway, I get to sense a feeling of oneness when I see a foreigner jack hammering the pedals of his Trek bike. It takes just moments to recall that he must be one of those 52 cyclists who’d come down to Bangalore for the 7 day TFN ride. I more or less expected to come across these folks en-route and the sight of this person only rekindled my spirits to take part in Enduro3. There’s this special bonding that you develop with the sport and believe me, only a cyclist can relate to it!
At about 18:00hrs we happen to reach the Karnataka-Kerala RTA checkpost. Since the vehicles had only a state permit it takes a while for the drivers to get done with the formalities. The government purportedly scoops 3000Rs. for the Mazda and 800Rs. for the Sumo for a seven day permit to travel in the state. For all you know as cash goes under the table in the RTA tent out there, we spend some quality time in the adjacent thick vegetative growth. Finally at about 18:25hrs we manage to leave the checkpost and head towards Sulthan Bathery. Ram by this time already covers Pookote lake and heads towards Ambalavayal. Close to 19:30hrs we reach the Sulthan Bathery town. Anish directs us to the Italiya resorts and at about 20:00hrs we reach the resort. A left turn at the Ambalavayal [Kalagapara] junction when you’re on the NH212 driving towards Calicut from Mysore takes you towards Edakkal caves. Italiya resorts, the place where we’d arranged accommodation for the folks fell on this route.
Jose and Vinoy welcome us to the lodge and show us around the place where we’d be camping for the next three days. Though we’d specifically asked for seperate dorms for the ladies, a miscommunication between Anish and Jose leads to just one dormitory being arranged. 150Rs. for that A/C dorm was indeed costly but then it was the best we could arrange remotely. Dinner was yet to be cooked and it would be atleast 10:00pm by the time we would get to lay our hands on the food. As people quickly refresh, Ram and I head to a nearby bakery to get some light snacks to satiate our hunger. Christmas this year is celebrated by sharing plum cakes with twenty seven people whom you’ve met just days before! We have a quick dinner by 22:30hrs. The long journey takes its toll and by around 23:15 hrs most of us hit the bed.
26th December’ 08 – Friday
At about 04:00 hrs in the morning, Jiddu’s cell starts hooting. But for a few silent abuses that pass beneath the sheet, people get to their toes soon and by 07:00hrs almost everyone’s ready. Jose serves some black tea and by 08:00hrs we’re all set to head for Chembra peak. We get some stuff packed for lunch and head towards the peak.
The Chembra peak trek
At about 09:00hrs we manage to reach the base of Chembra peak. Permission is required to trek the peak and the charge for every ten members is 500Rs. Guides are readily available at the base. As decided the night before we split the team into three groups, each having a lead and a sweep. Shefy, Rachesh and Ajay were to lead the groups. Aish, Jiddu and I as in any trek take up sweep’s role.
With an altitude of approx 2100m , Chembra peak is the highest peak in Wayanad and is purportedly higher than the Mulayangiri peak [ Highest peak in Karnataka ]. As you climb up, you can starkly differentiate the seven stages in the peak. On the second stage you come across a beautiful heart shaped pond. The first two stages are decently steep and from then on the climb is more or less just like any other trek with a few interesting stretches here and there.
At the third stage as rest of the other folks take some rest, Jiddu, Sasank and I head to climb a small hillock a bit away. Wading through shoulder high blades of grass, chancing the next step not quite knowing what lays ahead or down beneath there and finally making it to the top of the hillock for that splendid view of the valley down there was indeed a rejuvenator. In a few more moments we join the group and proceed towards the other stages. At about 13:40hrs we finally make it to the peak. Aish happens to almost give up at the second stage and it takes Jiddu an additional hour to prod her up to the summit.
A quick lunch up on the peak and we’re set to head back. At about 15:10hrs we decide to start our descent. Things don’t really look rosy and since most of the members were rookies to trekking the descent takes its toll. Those who’d reached a bit early stop over at the Heart pond and spend some quality time waiting for us. Picking up the non-biodegradable remains we head down taking turns to prod people downhill. It takes close to four and a half hours for the descent and by the time we head to the base, dusk breaks in and the last part of the trek gets a bit more interesting because of the darkness. Finally at about 19:30hrs we reach the parking lot.
There’s always this special moment that I cherish after every trek – The pain, the sense of accomplishment and not to mention the elation that you get to see on people’s faces at the fag end. When you’re organising a trek for a big group, you always have this dagger behind your back reminding you to keep alternate plans just in case someone is not able to keep up the pace or for that instance even move with the group.Not to be pessimistic but at times you start off wondering how many would really complete the trek. This group was in a way very different. Most of them were rookies with not much exposure to physical activities. But then they had the enthusiasm to cut it right across the center and give in their best. I would attribute the success of the Chembra peak trek primarily to the spirit of the twenty seven folks to gel in and see to it that they got through it till the end – together!
We finally reach the lodge at about 21:00hrs and after a quick dinner hit the bed.
27th December’ 08 – Saturday
We leave for Edakkal caves by around 09:00am. Edakkal caves gets its name from the literal translation of Eddai[Gap] – kal [Rock]. These formations are said to date back to the 400BC and the carvings in it are believed to be etched out by the Kurumbars [ Wayanad tribals]. Entrance to the caves is at a nominal 10Rs. Per head. In a way the caves are quite different from the other regular caves that you get to see. You’re supposed to crawl into the front opening and then climb up a set of stairs. From here you walk a bit ahead and then climb another flight of rickety stairs. To your right here you’d find the central part of the Edakkal caves- the pristine carvings.
To explore other parts of the caves you can climb a set of rocks up and then squeeze yourself through another set of rocks to finally get exposed to another open space. The climb here gets interesting with you having to climb up the rock with the support of a rope. You could easily climb up the rock with a good pair of shoes without much of support though. You could climb a bit more ahead and gain a further ascent of about 1000ft if you have that rat in your mind. Jiddu and I gave it a shot and climbed the ascent in about 10minutes flat. There are spots where you get shit scared and you literally curse yourself for having attempted it but then the sense of accomplishment that you get once you reach the peak is all worth it.
At about 14:30hrs we head towards Kalpetta-Meppad for a fitting lunch and from there proceed to Soochipera waterfalls. We reach the falls at about 17:30hrs.The chilling water, the rock formations , the starkly distinct cuts in the rocks at the base of the falls and the pristine location of the falls befittingly rejuvenates you. We spend about an hour or so here and quickly head back to the vehicles.
A camp fire was arranged back at a place close to the lodge. Despite the pathetic collection of songs the lodge guys had, we spend a couple of hours by the fire and head back to the lodge. Back in the lodge hell breaks loose as we celebrate Sasanks b’day.
28th December’ 08 – Sunday
We leave for Bangalore at about 08:00hrs. A quick breakfast en-route and we pull over at another restaurant for lunch. At about 14:40hrs we reach Ranganthittu bird sanctuary at Mysore. Some quality time here and at about 16:00hrs we head towards Bangalore. The return journey to Hyd was arranged in two different buses. We run a lottery to see who’d get to go in the 20:30 service. Anuradha, Swathi, Bhavya, Divya, Revathi, Jeevz ,Shefy,Ram,Himanshu and I board the first service and chug back to hyd. Manoj, Atul and Shruthi head back home from Kalasapalayam. Eby and Madhuri have a ball of a time chasing their volvo all the way from Anand rao circle to Indra nagar. Rachesh picks his 21:15 service back to Chennai while the remaining team boards the 22:30hrs service to hyd.
As it all came to an end, I’m reminded of the first meeting that the core committee had close to a month back. Then we were simply targetting a group 0f 10-15. As days passed the numbers only grew and finally despite having a few more lucrative options [ TFN and the Gokarna trek] we stuck to the Chembra trek. And I’m pretty much happy I did! Four whole days of carefree fun, thrill of being in a big group and co-ordinating efforts to make it happen – Its indeed been a wonderful break from routine life. Besides, this was the first trek for quite a few people and everything just fell in place to make it a memorable trip! All in all, a fitting end to 2008!
Stats and directions:
Chembra Peak : Bangalore –> Wonder La –> Mysore –> Nanjangud –> Abalavayal / Kalagapara Junction [Sulthan Bathery] –>Kalpetta –> Meppady –> Chembra peak Estate –> Chembra peak
Eddakal caves: Bangalore –> Wonder La –> Mysore –> Nanjangud –> Sulthan Bathery [NH212] –> left at Ambalavayal/ Kalagapara Junction [Sulthan Bathery] –> You turn a bit ahead –> Straight road to Eddakal
Chembra Peak: ~14kms from Kalpetta
Edakkal Caves: ~24kms from Kalpetta
Altitude: Chembra Peak: ~2100m above MSL
Endurance: Med. | Difficulty : Medium [Non Monsoon] High [Monsoon]
Time : Uphill: 4.0 hrs. Downhill: 3.0 hrs
Transport: You’ll love riding your bike [ read cycle ] on these roads.
Expenses: ~Rs3500 [Hyderabad – Wayanad all incl.]
Stay: Preferably stay at Kalpetta. Accommodation wouldn’t be an issue if you’re a small group. Check this link for details on accommodation. We were sort of compelled to stay at a lodge by name Italiya resorts in Sulthan Bathery. Charged 150Rs per day per head for an A/C dormitory , though the price was a bit high – the stay was decently comfortable. Contact – Jose : 09447345722
Food: Food as in any place in Kerala is cooked with coconut oil. If you’re not accustomed to this, you’re sure well going to have a ball of a time 🙂
Duration: 4 days. Chembra Peak – 1 day ; Edakkal caves, Soochipera Waterfalls – 1 day
Best time to visit: Late Monsoon.