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Meghamalai: A misty mountain range.

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The misty Meghamalai, is a perfect weekend getaway to unwind. We explore the surprises in store for us

As the dusk falls and city lights up on Friday, people with wanderlust break their heads over a weekend getaway. All one wants is a change from the week routine. One of the ideal weekend spots near the city is Meghamalai in Theni district where one can spend some quality time and re-connect with nature.

Land of greens and blues
Meghamalai is a misty mountain range located in Theni district (part of Western Ghats) at 1,500 metres above sea level. The place is more popular for the tea estates where access is restricted. However, one can still enjoy the sight of the lush green forests and valleys. Sivaraman, a tourist says, “Till now, we assumed Kodaikanal to be the only weekend spot. However, after visiting Meghamalai, we are happy to have found an alternative place to unwind.” If you choose to travel via Chinnamanur, you cannot miss the scenic beauty along the way. “The main attractions include tea estates, forest, dams and water falls. If you are planning a day’s trip, then you can reach by morning and spend the rest of the hours relaxing in waters and scouting for elephants and bisons. If you’re lucky, then you can catch a glimpse of the jumbos quenching their thirst in the water,” adds Sivaraman.

Bird’s eye view
Meghamalai hills are the originating point of river Suruli. Hence, the twin waterfalls located at its course is perennial throughout the year. Karthikeyan, a tourist guide explains, “The tourism officials help tourists get a better view of the wildlife in this area. Due to the presence of water throughout the year, some of the wild animals like the spotted deer and gaur hit the spot frequently during sunrise and sunset.” Apart from the waterfalls and the tea estates, the main attraction of Meghamalai is the Vellimalai (the silver mountain). Vellimalai is 1,650 metres above sea level. “This is the place from where the River Vaigai originates. The hills are also home to six dams, including the Manalar dam from where one can view the Cumbam valley. A weekend of fascinating facts is only a hours away our monotonous life,” adds the excited tourist guide.

A haven for rare species
“Wild animals are spotted near the foothills,” says Kamala Devi, a student who has returned from a recent visit to the hills of Meghamalai. “The hills opens up to a huge expanse of the tea and coffee plantations that is enveloped by the aroma of the spices. But the road narrows down as we approach the top of the hill and paves way for the dense forests that is least disturbed. Also, this place is a perfect spot for bird watching as different species of birds including the great Indian hornbills can be spotted here. The most adventurous part of the tour would be to spot a leopard or a tiger in the area.” An endangered species of squirrel (flying squirrels) are found flying between the trees of the forest. However the major gripe tourists have is that the place lacks hotels for accommodation. Although the Panchayat rest houses and forest lodges can be booked much in advance to secure a perfect stay for an entire family, informs Kamala.
Meghamalai is a place of natural beauty dotted with cardamom plantations and tea estates. With all this and more it’s definitely a perfect weekend spot especially for summer.

Location: on the Western Ghats Hills and around 5000 Ft above sea level

Climate: Very heavy monsoons from June to September. Annual rainfall 270cm.

When to go: Meghamalai is a pleasantly cool and refreshing place to visit at most times of year except monsoon season. During mansoon heavy rains and drizzles and leaches will lock you in the room Winters are cold! And during monsoon days the downpour is steady.

By Air: Madurai airport, about 127 km from Meghamalai, is well connected to all major cities. The nearest international airport is in Chennai. There are daily flights from Chennai, Trichy, Bengaluru and Coimbatore. Taxis can be hired from the airport to get to Madurai. You can also pre-book a cab to travel to Meghamalai.

By Train: Madurai is the nearest railhead which is connected to most cities of India. It takes about seven hours from Chennai to reach Madurai and trains run every day. The fastest train on the route is the Vaigai Express, a super-fast day train between Chennai Egmore and Madurai. You can hire a cab to get to Meghamalai from the railway station in Madurai.

By Roads: The frequency of buses is best in the evening to and from Meghamalai. You will have to change buses to reach Meghamalai from Madurai. You can take a cab or hire a private car from Madurai to reach Meghamalai. The condition of the road is bad and it would be advisable to hire a SUV.

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Many trains will be terminated

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Many trains will be terminated

Many trains will be terminated due to fog. Please read this news paper report:-

dhund hind

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India Railway will help you visit Taj Mahal

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“All arrangements have been made and our systems are in place. The trial will begin December 25. It has taken us a long time to work on this project which will change the image of the ASI,” Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), N K Pathak said.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will be the service provider of the e-ticketing facility, in collaboration with the National Institute of Smart Governance, he said.

After one month trial of the e-ticketing facility at the Taj Mahal, the ASI would extend the similar facility to other monuments, managed by it.

ASI officials said the e-tickets will have security features including bar code, and bar code scanners would be installed at the entry gates.

The ASI is training its staffs for effective and efficient use of the facility, which is likely to put an end to the long queues at the ticket counters.

Tourists had to stand for long hours in queues to buy entry tickets.

Tourism circles in Agra have welcomed ASI’s initiative saying the facility would help check resale of entry tickets and fake tickets by unscrupulous elements.

It is said that the ensuing online facility would also help the ASI in managing the number of visitors.

(This article was published on December 13, 2014)
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Take a break: top 7 places for bird watching in India

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Summer is setting in, sure. But, what about taking a break from Delhi and head to Maharashtra, for there are places there that are still playing host to winged visitors. Plus, the Flamingo Festival, starting on March 29, will be an added bonus. “The peak birding season started around October and is coming to a close by May,” says Rahul Jauhari, who runs the website nopincode.com. Atul Sathe of the BNHS adds, “Mangroves in Vikhroli, wetlands in Nhava-Sheva region are good spots.” Here are some other places that the duo highly recommend.

Ulwe and Uran
What: Both places are renowned when it comes to bird watching. However, the numbers are rapidly dropping, thanks to rampant construction in the region.

Often spotted: The list of birds seen here is endless — from Marsh Harriers, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Green Bee-eaters to Black-shouldered Kites and Red Wattled Lapwings. Uran is the older haunt for bird watchers, but, according to the experts, is now a shadow of its original self. However, Red-vented Bulbuls, Ashy Prinias, Asian Pied Starlings, Moorhens, Scaly Breasted Munias, Red Avadavats and Spot Billed Ducks, among others, can still be seen in these parts.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/3/2203citypg14a.jpg

Nagla Forest
What: One of the lesser-known spots inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), in Borivali East, Mumbai.

Often spotted: Situated to the north of Bassein Creek, this is thought to be one of the most highly rewarding walks at the SGNP. Nature lovers are in for a treat as well. Birds like the Grey Junglefowl, Indian Grey Hornbill and Rufous Woodpecker can be spotted while on the trail.

Tungareshwar sanctuary
What: Home to three types of forest — dry deciduous, moist deciduous and semi evergreen — it forms a corridor between  SGNP and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary.

Often spotted: Species like the Rufous Treepie, Shikra, Black-hooded Oriole, Brown-headed Barbet, Red-whiskered and Red-vented Bulbul can be seen in the area.

Thane Creek and Padale Gaon
What
: These spots are frequented by birders in the area.
Often spotted: While Thane Creek is known to attract Flamingos and Waders this time of the year, Black Kites seem to favour Padale Gaon. Apart from the Raptors, Munias, Woolly-necked Storks, Drongos, Egrets, Marsh Harriers and Sandpipers are also seen the region.

Kanheri Upper Trail
What: The route involves a gradual climb through the wooded forest of the SGNP.
Often spotted: One of the few places to offer the perfect mix of nature and adventure, catch a glimpse of the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Shikra, Grey Jungle Fowl, and Indian Peafowl. Or head to the plateau near Kanheri Caves, which is excellent for viewing raptors, like the Crested Serpent Eagle. You could also visit the ancient Kanheri Caves.

Sewri 
What: The mudflats here turn into a bird watcher’s paradise as they play host to millions to pink visitors.

Often spotted: One of the best places in the city to spot Flamingos, this is a good time to head there. It is also a good place to see migratory birds such as the Broad-billed Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, and Eurasian Curlew. On a good day, one will also catch a glimpse of the Common Redshank, Little Herons, Little Egret, Brown-headed Gull, Grey Plover, Sand Plovers and Avocet, among others. The annual Flamingo Festival is also scheduled to take place on March 29.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/3/2203citypg14b.jpgMaharashtra Nature Park
What: Once a treeless garbage dump, this park located in the heart of the Mumbai (Dharavi) now acts as its green lung.

Often spotted: It is home to several migratory and resident species like the Black Kite, Shikra, Eurasian Wryneck, Little Green Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, Bluethroat, Purple Sunbird, Great Egret, Greater Coucal and Laughing Dove.

Bhandup Pumping Station
What: A well-kept secret, the lake near the pumping station attracts water birds. Signs put up also say that one can spot mongoose and snakes here.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/3/2203citypg14c.jpgOften spotted: The area is known to host water and land birds, and often, Flamingos can be seen here as well. That apart, the Clamorous Reed Warbler, Common Kingfisher, Red Avadavat,  Pond Heron, Woolly-necked Stork, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Asian Pied Starling, Painted Stork, Little Cormorant, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Laughing Dove, Red-wattled Lapwing, Green Bee-eaters and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, among others, are common visitors.

Also Head to Airoli Creek and vashi bridge: These spots are frequented by birders looking for Flamingos and Waders.
talawe: This area on Palm Beach Road is yet another hotspot. The water body behind the NRI Complex, Seawood Estates, is a great place to observe birds.

Dombivli: Well-known birding sites here include Nilje Lake, the Bhopar area, Dombivli Creek and Khoni.

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