Day started at around 6 am for us, because we wanted to get a head start on the trekking in Chembara Peak which opens at 7 am. We skipped the complimentary breakfast because it was scheduled for 8 am and it would take half an hour to drive to the office or the base. And thank God that we did not have any breakfast. It was a boon in disguise , at least for me. We drove to the V.S.S Office (this is privately owned as per our sources) in Fathima Estates from Kalpetta, via Meppady. The road was pretty good. But once it neared the estates, it got pretty bad, with so many potholes and stones that you just cannot go beyond 20 or max 25 kmph speed.
Once we registered there for a fee of 525 Rs for three persons and we were assigned a guide. From the V.S.S it is another 5 km drive (or if you prefer to walk) through the estates , with pretty bad roads to the parking lot where we need to park the car. From there the walking starts. First stop is the Watch Tower to which the roads are pretty much flat and easily walkable. You have wash rooms here. The view from there itself is pretty amazing. But then the actual trek starts from there. Never in my life I thought that I would do a trek, that too after so many years later, especially when I am not that fit. But a few minutes of the way from the watch tower had me panting like a dog. And I knew one important thing that day. I had worn a very stupid and pathetic excuse for a shoe which was totally unfit for walking long distance let alone trek. The other two along with the guide we waltzing before me, earning all my envy :). After some time we saw some leeches in the ground and almost half an hour later I took a timeout and sat down in a rock to catch my breath. The guide was such a nice guy that he stood by me (being the only female and struggling to even walk after half an hour…I wonder if he thought ‘what is this woman doing in the place like this and causing me more work and trouble’) and after the timeout, when the roads (we will call the track as such for convenience sake…they were definitely not roads by any definition of it) became steep and slippery he got me a fresh strong stick from a tree so that I can hold on to it while climbing. After an hour or so I literally gave up. I just couldn’t take it. I told them to go ahead without me and that I will wait for them there on their way back. Talk about high hopes. They were encouraging me (what are good friends for? ;)) and the guide was like, ‘ I cannot leave you here, it is not that safe, it just another few kms upwards madam. This is the toughest part because it is very steep. Once you are done with this rest is good to go’. I thought for it for some time but my morale and confidence was too low to consider any other option.
I told them I wouldn’t make it and made my friends to go up without me and the guide stood by me after giving them the directions. I sat there for almost 15-20 mins and was thinking of all the places I wanted to go and this being my first trek, if I cannot man up and make it then I wont live it down. I just cannot quit after coming so far. I calmed myself down, gave myself some pep talk about pushing my limits a little bit more and then take it from there. When I looked around me, the nature itself was giving me so much of courage in its own way. I am not a quitter and once I decide on something I believe in giving my level best, unless I have very strong reasons like getting bedridden or being out of commission :). So when I told the guide that I will continue he was happy, because he did not want to leave the other two alone (it is his job to take them there and bring them back and make sure they are safe too. I told him that I will do it but in my own time and started slowly. I also kept talking to him now and then to take my mind off the steep climb. There were places which were too steep and muddy and slippery. But at least they were climbable. After some time I got a call from my friend up who wanted to consult the guide to know which turn to take, but then I told him that we were on the way there and will reach in a few minutes. He was surprised and so they took a timeout and were waiting for us.
I was never so happy to see a flat surface of the land, which will allow me to talk with my legs and not use my hands to crawl. My only jeans I had brought for the whole trip was now covered with mud everywhere because I had sat down every few minutes to catch up my breath. When we reached my friends, they were having some pista that they had brought to gain some energy. And I thought the tough part was over. We were more than 1500 mts high above sea level. The guide was like ‘yeah…just a few more meters and then we can reach the heart shaped lake’ and that few more meters took us another 30 mins or so. But the good thing was that it was a climb and a flat surface combined together. And the view from there was so amazing that I stopped this time not to catch my breath but because the view just took my breath away. That too in one place, there was this mist and fog that was coming our way and I stopped and sat down to allow it to pass through me. It was a like a fairy who was coming with her wings spread to hug me and I was so happy to allow the nature to do it. Once it crossed, I got up and continued the trail. When we saw the first glimpse of the lake, it was pure bliss. I was like ‘Thank God, I made it’ and I did not even think how on earth I am going to go on my way down. The lake look so beautiful with the lush green surrounding it. Since it had rained previous day, the trail was wet enough. We went down to the lake and were surprised to see all the varied colored fishes in it. These two starting feeding them with Pista pieces and you should have seen how they fought with each other to eat it. God, pista eating fish :). We stayed there for around 10-15 mins , played with the fish and I got enough clicks of the place in my camera and then started to go further to the right of the lake to the edge to have a better view. We were there at 2100 meters above sea level and it was definitely an awesome feeling.
I thought I will have my dizzy spell due to the fear of heights, but since it was not a deep gorge down, even then it was well covered with enough vegetation, it wasn’t that scary for me. We also spotted some deer roaming around below us. We were the first people to come up to this point that day and no one had yet made it , even though we heard some people coming up and they had stopped at the place where I almost gave up climbing. Once I was up I was glad that I did it and I thanked the nature which gave me enough strength. It started drizzling now and then and after some time out there and resting we started on our way back. It was approximately 2.5 hrs up hill (for me, the rest went in 2 hours max).
Here are some pictures of the trip up, before I relate the comedy that happened on the way down.
Well , here I was so naive that I thought that the climb up was the difficult part of the trek. Guess what…that is so wrong. You have something to hold on to and you have enough strength you can climb up. Climbing down is the horrible part if you are not used to it. My shoes were giving me hell and my thumbs were already swollen and there was blood clot already. So I couldn’t get a proper grip when I was climbing down. And the stick that I used while climbing up did not give me much support while climbing down. In the steep places, I almost fell. My friends went ahead of us (me and the guide…oh did I mention that during the climb, the guide took over my bag with the camera’s and I walked empty handed? He was such a gentleman) and were no where to be seen. I did not have any exertion during the climb down, but had issues with the grip and kept sliding down the path in more than one occasion. In one place where it was a little steeper, we saw the other gang who were behind us but had stayed back for a timeout. Once they saw us, they started on their way up. And after that we started seeing quite a lot of people coming up. It was almost 11.15 am by that time (we started at around 8.15 am) and in one place, where I thought I had got the hold, I slipped and fell. Thankfully I got hold of a rock and the guide was there to stop me. One guy who was climbing up was telling me to not to use my hand to stop the fall because that way I will hurt my wrists due to the pressure. I knew all that. But to think of those things during a fall is totally impossible for me. I rather stop myself somehow from the fall first. After that there were two times when I did skid and in turn pushed the guide as well. Poor guide. He not only endured my baggage, he also had to have enough strength to not fall himself, because I am not a lean person and when I push, I would obviously push with strength, especially when I am in panic that I am falling down isn’t. But at both times he stood steadily. I admired his stamina. Then came the cramps in my legs. I had to again sit and sort it out and then continue. I wanted to throw away my shoes and walk bare foot but the guide would listen none of it. First because it really was a bad idea and second there were enough leeches. There was also slight rain that came and went drenching the trails and making it more slippery for me. My friends reached the watch tower by 12 pm and I was there by 12.30 pm. By that time we saw enough people starting to go up and the weather also started to become a little warmer , even with the drizzles in between. After the watch tower it is a pretty flat surface and I was so glad to remove those shoes and get in the car.
After that we came back to Kalpetta (I refrained from driving with my sore leg and got a spare slipper from A for comfort sake) for our Lunch in ‘The Woodlands Hotel’. We were pretty famished after the trek. Once we had our leisure lunch, we started on our way to Pookote Lake. On the way we tried to check for the Kanthanpara falls, but either we pronounced it incorrectly or the falls was not in the way of Pookote Lake, because the locals did not know what we were talking about. Thankfully we learnt later that it was closed, because someone died recently there. Pookote Lake was slightly crowded because it was Ramzan and a holiday and it was a family picnic spot. But the lake was pretty small and well, not that clean too. They had boating but none of us was inclined to be in that crowd. The entrance fees was a total waste for us.
After almost 20 mins of roaming around there, we started on our way to Lakkidi View Point, which was the last stop for the day as per our plan. It was a view point on the way to Kozhikode aka Calicut. It has enough bends to go out there. But the view of the Western Ghats from there was pretty awesome.
It was totally covered in mist and the view point was again crowded, but since it was a bigger place and the view from each place was the same, we took our own corner and were enjoying the view and slowly the mist lift off. It was really a very cool and nice weather. We can see the way the road winds down through the hill. And where there is a crowd, there are monkeys. We also had to witness an unfortunate accident. One of the traveler who was enjoying the view (he must have been around 20-25 yrs of age) just turned back and started to walk towards the car without seeing the bus that was on coming and the bus driver tried to maneuver around this guy, but still he hit him pretty hard and this guy was thrown towards the edge (thankfully, he did not get thrown over the wall) and got unconscious. There was a car which was going towards Pookote which took him immediately to the hospital and a police patrol vehicle which had just then passed us came back to take control of the situation. That was the only unfortunate incident. Around 4.30 pm we started our way back from Lakkidi view point, all of us exhausted and tired from the day. We had completed the toughest part of the trip (the trek) on day 1 which left us drained, but better to cover it on a time when you can recover from it rather than doing it at the last minute. Also we were blessed with some very good weather, even though we had rains in between, it did not rain when we were in a specific place. Most of the raining happened during our travel.
We freshened up in the hotel and after 8 pm walked our way to find a dinner place. That day being a Friday and a new movie being release, the roads of Kalpetta were heavily packed. Thank god we walked otherwise it would taken us forever to find a place for dinner. We had our dinner in a hotel called ‘The New Palace’ which was very cheap and decent and it had non-veg too. Except for me , A and C were non-veggies. We came at around 9.30 pm and played cards for some time and went to a deep sleep. The next day was scheduled after 9 am so we decided to sleep till 7 if that was possible.
All in all a satisfying first day of the trip. And Kudos to me on completing the first trek of my life. Especially in a place I had wanted to visit for so so long.
If you are planning for Chembara peak trek, plan it as the first thing in the travel. Unlike me, please have a good shoe and carry enough water, especially in the dry seasons. Since it was cold and chilly during this time, we did not need enough water, except for me. And it would be good to go on light stomach. Rainy season is good because of less crowd, but it is also risky because of the slippery surface. So go prepared for that and do not carry heavy jerkins. Buy a light windcheater or something that will keep you covered in rain if at all that happens. Go as early as possible (around 7.30 to 8 am is the best time) and complete it before you are crowded. If you are even slightly asthmatic like me, better to have your dose of medicine or spray before the trek and have the medicines with you always. People with heights need not fear, you will not see any deep gorges so that will take out the fear factor out of the question. You can really enjoy the peak. You would have to tip the guide apart from paying for the trek (I had to give him a generous tip because not only he carried all my luggage but also I nearly pushed him down twice…I owed him that much 🙂 ) While climbing up attempt not to make noise so that you will spot some wild life.
You can come back to Kalpetta for lunch because you will have enough options there, especially if you are driving on your own.
Pookote Lake can be skipped. Not a great place to visit.
Lakkidi View Point is a must visit. But be careful of the traffic on the turns. People driving like crazy over there and they try to overtake in the turns which is really scary.