I never liked being called a “techie”. It is not a bad thing being a techie in a classic sense. However lately it has become kind of an insult that suggests your arena of life ends at four corners of the laptop/tablet/phone. Techie is someone who is devoid of any physical activity and indulges in virtual entertainments. Whenever someone calls me a “techie”, I defend it with all strength. However, a recent incident made me realize how much of a techie-self I have become in the recent years. This monumental incident was the Chembra peak trek.
|Heart shaped Pool on top of Chembra Peak|
Chembra peak stands at majestic 1000 feet height amidst the picturesque tea plantations in Wayanad. Wayanad is the northern district of Kerala and a tourist paradise. Chembra peak is now the hottest - literally and figuratively - tourist spot in Wayanad. What prompted me take up the Chembra peak trekking challenge? It was nothing but my ignorance that it would be a challenge for me. In my school and college days I have done a lot of trekking. To add to my ignorance, some of my friends told me that you can cover a considerable distance in a car and then walk a few feet and conquer the mountain! Ta-da! Just like that.
|The pinnacle of Chembra - A distant view|
So we started on the fine morning of August 2015, had a great breakfast and happily set out for the adventure at 9:00am from my home town Sulthan Bathery. I did not then know that I was committing a cardinal sin of not starting early for the trek. We passed through the small towns and villages of Wayanad and reached Meppady, the nearest town of Chembra peak. As we moved closer, I got the first glimpse of the Chembra peak! To say the least - I was awestruck! Chembra peak stood in distance as a glorious trophy that would be presented to me at the end of my trek. Little I knew what lay beneath its charming looks!
As the car turned towards the rugged road which leads to the base of the Chembra peak, I seriously started doubting the bastard who told me that I could cover half of the trek in a car. The 5km stretch of road that leads to the foot of the hill was a nightmare. There was hardly any tar on the road and I was thinking that the Chembra peak trekking adventure has just begun.
|The so-called road to the foot of the Chembra Peak|
There are 2 different methods to visit Chembra peak. One is to just watch the peak from a watch tower on the foot of the hill and another is actually trekking the hill. We reached the tourist information center at 10:45am and proudly announced to the officer that we are going for the Chembra peak trek. With an all knowing smile he silently collected 750rs for our group and explained about the trek route. He warned that the trek is tough. The narrow and steep path is strewn with rocks and there won’t be much of a shade on the way up. But as they say - “techies” only worry about errors, not warnings - it did not bother me much.
The Chembra peak trekking starts
We got a guide for our group, who seemed to be excited about the idea of going uphill. We began our adventure by walking towards the base of the peak. Just after 5 minutes of my walk, my heart started protesting. It threw abuse at me by pounding faster. I did not care much. As we walked towards the trekking trail, there were beautiful hills, tea gardens and small streams all around. I thought of clicking the pictures on my way down – if I make to the top and then come down alive. As we started climbing up through the irregular forest trail, I could feel my breath getting faster. I did not know what was wrong with me, as I see my father happily hopping up in front of me like a young mountain goat!
|Chembra Peak - Nothing can beat this view|
Reducing the pace and trying to distract myself, I continued to follow the guide. I slowly came in acquaintance with many of my muscles, which I never knew existed before. They all cried in unison inducing small pockets of pain on different parts of my body. I realized with horror that I had never bothered to do any kind of exercise in the past one year and time had come to pay the penance!
The sun was getting hotter over our head. I haven’t even covered 5% of the Chembra peak trekking trail. There were many groups who are descending after a successful trek. Most of their faces had great impression of accomplishment! It gave me a lot of enthusiasm and I decided never to quit. However some of them gave us encouraging comments like, Chembra peak trek was the toughest of their lives!
|The mountain to be conquered!!|
My snail pace strategy for Chembra peak trekking
We exited from the forest area and entered into grassland. The path started to look narrow and crooked! There was not even a single tree or patch of shade in the sight. I heard the first alarm of panic inside my head! The techie was finally emerging out! It felt like if I climb two more steps I would drop dead. The guide let me rest for few minute on the road. While trying to catch the breath, I just looked up and the mountain was standing in front of me as if challenging me to conquer it. I knew I couldn’t stop and I knew I couldn’t proceed this way. I needed a strategy to go up. I decided to slow down and trek in the pace of a snail. I knew I could make around 20 feet in one go, without dying. I knew it is a bad strategy standing in the sun for too long, but it was the only strategy that aligned with my physical condition.
|Slowly and steadily towards the end|
So I started doing that. I walked twenty feet and rested for five minutes pretending to admire the beauty of the grass lands. I told the techie who is cringing inside me - “Look, it is just twenty feet at a time, you will be fine!” I saw the guide and my father going up and getting farther away. I did not bother as I knew I would catch up with them on the summit. After 15 minutes, I had hardly covered half a kilometer climb and I felt it is getting easier. Some of the muscles that cried earlier have shut up. However my head was still throbbing as the sun was blazing above. Then I decided to use my umbrella during my short stops.
It would have been a hilarious sight for anyone who saw me at that time. Walking for 2 minutes then suddenly stopping and opening the umbrella and resting for another 5 minutes. However it was hell of a strategy that prevented me from giving up. I continued in this way for another fifteen minutes and then came the rocky parts of the mountain. The rock was not much of steep or dangerous. I remembered my school days where I did a fairly good amount of rock climbing. I remembered the points I learned in my trekking camp at Gwalior, I remembered how much I enjoyed those sessions. I decided to keep my target just as getting to the top of the next rock, literally taking the mountain rock by rock.
It was not an easy thing. My legs pained, I slipped, my heart throbbed and I felt breathless. However somehow I knew I am getting to the top of the mountain, to see that beautiful heart shaped water pool on the top of it. I steadily continued and I could feel a rhythm again. After some time the rocks gave way to the grasslands once more. I did not feel the need for stopping every now and then. I had reached a stage where I can trek for ten minutes at a stretch. I kept assuring myself that the reward of this exhaustion will be the majestic view from the top of the mountain. I could see the guide and my father have already reached on the pinnacle and waving to me.
The first level of the peak ends in a flat grass land. I
stopped and waited to catch the breath looking at a small, solitary tree in the
middle of the grassland. There was no
one around – only the bustle of the wind against the grass. The view already
being majestic and I couldn’t believe that after the trek of 90 minutes I was a
few feet away from the top of the mountain. I climbed again and landed on a
table land on top of the pinnacle. Where I encountered the much celebrated
heart shaped pool. I sat down on a rock with my heart pounding fast, not
because of fatigue but of pride.
Till now I was operating on the snail pace strategy However, as the pinnacle of Chembra came into sight, the techie inside me woke up with a new vigor. I wanted to conquer the mountain as fast as possible. It is like studying the entire course material just the night before the exam. The impatient and competitive techie inside me was asking me to go faster. I tried that for few minutes however I found myself again in would-die-any-minute situation. I realized that there is no point in hurrying; Chembra peak takes its own sweet time to surrender in front of any trekker. However, from snail pace I updated to tortoise pace strategy and started climbing up again.
|The heavenly view|
People say the best part of the Chembra peak trekking is the heart shaped pool at the top of the mountain. I agree that the pool was quite picturesque and romantic. However what I found most exciting about this trek was myself! One and a half hour before I thought I would never make it alive. However I was pleasantly surprised at the level of human endurance in the face of a challenge. It is quite amazing how we come up with strategies. As I was slowly started climbing down Chembra peak I realized that my body might have turned into a techie, however I haven’t lost that wanderer soul, which is always up for an adventure!
|One last look at the mountain I conquered!!|