Trek to the Chembra Peak through the rainforest to a heart-shaped lake beautifully placed amidst the green meadows of Nilgiri hills in Wayanad is one of the best trek destinations in South India. The changing trails of tea estates to rain forests and to the green grasslands is a heartwarming adventure.
A man who is short, tan skinned, with a blue headscarf calls out to the man on the ticket counter, “I’ll go with them to the peak”. He walked towards us and said, “I’m your guide”, and introduced himself as Kuttan. He doesn’t seem friendly but explains the details well enough to understand the trek.
The total length of the trek is 4.5kms. Trek starts from the ticket counter and distance from the ticket counter to watchtower is 1km which is an easy trail. Most of the tourists visit till watchtower since rest of the 2kms to the heart-shaped lake from watchtower is moderately difficult. Last half of the trek from the heart-shaped lake to the Chembra peak is about 1.5kms, which is closed now to preserve the endangered species of flora and fauna.
Our guide gets into a friendly rapport as we near the watchtower and asks us to take a break and freshen up before starting the rest of the trek. He was a man born and bought up in that forest area knowing the smell and breath of the forest. He said us about a herd of elephants which camped near to the heart-shaped lake to take care of the baby elephant which was born on the day before. But to make us feel safe he says: ” there are forest guards to tell us if anything goes wrong”.
As we ascend to the second half of the hike the trek route starts to narrow down to a one-man pathway. The straight landscape with tea plantations turns to be a forest with an uphill trail. Our guide explains the names of the trees and plants as most of them are rarely found and used for medicinal purposes in Ayurvedic treatments. We choke out of breath after every 4 steps as the uphill trail is very steep. I imagine how difficult it becomes during rainy season as the trail turns muddy.
As we walk ahead, the forest area gets clear and the sky gets into the vicinity, where the pathway is still narrow with human length grassy shrubs on both the sides. Even though lots of tourist trek to the peak, the en route to the peak was neat and clean without any plastics. Every tourist is thoroughly checked for plastics, lighters and those with water bottles are made to pay Rs.100 for each bottle, which is refundable when they return with it. Forest department’s strict checking is to preserve the area as plastic free zone and to avoid the forest fire.
Kuttan, our guide told us about the forest fire once happened by the cigarette bud thrown by a group of college students. It destroyed the flora and fauna and burned nearly 100 hectares of grassland. And the trek closed down nearly for 6 months.
Human length grassy shrubs changes to a green blanket of grassland, as we near to the heart-shaped lake. Excitement to see the naturally formed heart-shaped lake on the hilltop gets higher as we near. The blend of blue sky and green grassland is a visual treat to eyes.
Finally got the Glimpse of the heart-shaped lake. “But it doesn’t look heart-shaped?”, I asked. “We need to go to the opposite end of the lake to see its heart shape”, our guide replied and took us to a little more higher terrain. “Yeah! now it gets the shape of a heart”.
The heart-shaped lake is beautiful beyond my picturesque imagination. The water body amidst the grassland is charmingly sheltered under the blue-skied umbrella. Even though the sun is at its peak, the coolness of the gentle breeze eases the heat of the sunlight. Tortoises from the lake slowly climb on to the rock top for its daily dose of sunbath.
As our guide instructs, we move to the viewpoint to see the stunning view of Wayanad, Kozhikode and Nilgiri hills which stretches all the length. One can sit there for hours without looking the watch just by feeling the breeze and the spectacular view. We bid goodbye to this piece of heaven but carries the memories along with us.
Downhill trek is much easy than climbing. Our hunger makes it little faster though. We took only one break while climbing down, near the small stream descending from the hilltop and refreshes ourselves with its ice-cold water. As we climb down we cross many trekkers who are climbing uphill.
Our guide picks up the label of the sprite bottle which stucks between the grass shrubs and keeps it in his pocket. Yes! Mother nature deserves to be respected. So leave her like how she received you.
Trek timings: 7 am to 2 pm
Trek distance: 4.5kms
Trek difficulty: From the ticket counter to watchtower – easy.
From watchtower to heart-shaped lake – Moderate
From heart-shaped lake to peak – moderate(closed now)
Height of the peak: 6,900 feet above MSL.
Camping: Not permitted
Trekking fees: Rs.750 for a group of up to 10 members and Rs.1500 for foreigners. Guides will be provided with all the groups compulsorily.
Best time to trek: August to January is the best time to trek with the ideal climate. Choose for weekdays as its less crowded and start your trek at the earliest possible hour as it gets rush by afternoon. Try to avoid the trek in the monsoon since the trek route turns muddy and slippery.
N.P: Contact the forest department(click here) before planning your trek since they close it sometimes without prior notice. They close the trek from February and opens after May in caution of the forest fire. Carry enough water and some energy snack as you don’t get to buy anything nearby.
How to reach Chembra peak?
Chembra route from Wayanad: Kalpetta > Meppadi > Chembra Estate
Nearest airports: Bangalore International Airport(370kms), Calicut International Airport(104kms) and Cochin International Airport(245kms).
Bus services: There are frequent bus services to Wayanad from all the neighbouring cities. Chembra is 22kms from Kalpetta, which is one of the main towns in Wayanad. Buses to Chembra peak road is available from Kalpetta bus stand. After getting down at Chembra peak bus stop, you need to hire a Jeep or autorickshaw to the Chembra peak ticket counter from where the trek begins.
Railway stations: There are no train facilities available to Wayanad. Mysore and Calicut railway stations are the nearest railway stations to Wayanad.
Other means of transport: Four wheelers and two-wheelers can go till Chembra peak ticket counter. You get to hire cabs and autorickshaws as well.
Where to stay?
Homestay: Tea route holiday homes, running by a family at Meppadi. One of the nearest homestay to Chembra peak. Safe for ladies who are travelling alone.
Hostel: Are you a backpacker? Hibernest Chembra and Hibernest Kalpetta can help you with your bed.
Hotels: No hotels are available in Chembra. Budget to luxury hotels and resorts are available in and around Kalpetta.
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Thank you for reading! Have you enjoyed my first moderate trek adventure? Tell me about yours. Are you planning a trek here? Got any suggestions, improvements or discussions. Feel free to comment below in the comment box or mail me @firstname.lastname@example.org.