If you want to know the pulse of the forest, then head to the Chembra hills in Wayanad district. The peak with a lake having crystal clear water nestling in its bosom is literally standing tall as if touching the blue sky. The route to the mountain top is popular among people who love adventure and want their dose of adrenaline rush. To reach this pristine mountainous region, one has to take the road to Chembra after reaching Meppadi from Kalpetta in Wayanad, and the Chembra valley is 7km away from Meppadi.
The tickets for trekking will be issued from 7am and 200 people would be allowed entry per day. A ticket costs Rs 1,770 and a maximum of five people can go on trekking with one ticket, and each additional person should pay Rs 230. The vehicles can be parked in slots beyond the ticket counter and one should walk from there.
After hiking through the tea plantations for a while, you will reach the watch tower and the hills start from that spot. One has to walk through a narrow pathway with small trees tightly hugging the rough track and vast stretches of lemon grass could be found after walking for a short time. You could see white cumulus clouds gliding through the sky as you trek up. Be prepared for a long haul as there is a steep climb for nearly 2km. Flat land will welcome you as you reach the midway point of the hills. A beautiful small lake with lemon grass and couple of trees on its shores could also be seen.
Another stretch of steep climb starts from this patch of flat land. After trekking for a while you will again reach plains with a large lake. At first sight the water body looks like any other lake but if you look at the lake from a corner of the hills, you will be surprised to see that the large lake has the shape of a heart. It is an expansive lake with crystal clear ice cold water. You can just relax by sitting on one of the rocks on the shores of the lake with a cool breeze rustling your hair. The vistas from that spot are breathtaking as you can see half of Wayanad district from there.
The mountain top is still far way and earlier people were allowed to scale to the summit but not anymore. Recently, experts found the presence of ‘chilappankili’ birds on the top of the hills. These birds, which are facing extinction, usually make mountain tops their homes. It is noteworthy that the spots where these kind of rare species of birds, flora and fauna are found are termed ‘sky islands’. And that’s the reason why the forest department made the summit of Chembra peak a protected area and restricted human presence.
A few years ago, wildlife had consumed large tracts of grasslands in the region. The Chembra peak was off limits for trekkers after environmental activists moved the court to ban trekking in the region. Later, the court made a ruling that the number of visitors should be restricted. Earlier when there were no curbs, nearly 2,000 people used to climb the mountain daily and there were also facilities to pitch tents and stay in the hills.
It was the Britishers who started to stay on top of the Chembra peak and they had even built a large bungalow and tennis court. The English travelled to the hill top on horseback. After India gained independence from British rule, the bungalow and tennis court withered away and faded into oblivion.
Chembra peak was a sought-after destination from the period when India was part of the British empire. Even now foreigners come in droves to scale the peak, and interestingly more than half of trekkers coming to Chembra are from other states in India. The hill is a confluence of thick mist and white clouds like cotton balls, and the Chembra peak is undoubtedly the pride of Western Ghats.