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Dhanaulti, the picture-perfect hill station



Hill stations like Simla, Manali, Mussoorie andNainital have been the favourite destinations ofIndian families during the leisurely two-month break their children get from schools.

I was very sure that my hideout should be no where near such flocks and Dhanaulti fitted the bill perfectly. Tucked away from swarms oftourists in the most sought after destinations, Dhanaulti proved to be a pleasant and idyllic retreat.

Quiet, calm and serene

There are times when you want to do nothing. No meetings, no deadlines and no to-do lists to follow. Mornings in Dhanaulti are apt for those who want to remain pleasantly idle. The quietness of the hills, the stillness in the air and the fresh breeze that caresses your face and hair, is sometimes unbelievably haunting.

We reached Crystal Palace at 9 am in the morning, just in time for breakfast. After devouring multiple platters of cheese omelettes, Maggi noodles, buttered toasts, and pots of hot tea, we climbed up the stairs to move to the terrace. If I had to sum up the view that greeted us from above the rooftop in one word, it has to bebreathtaking! The winding paths peeking from inside the hills, spectacular landscapes, lush green forests of Oak, Deodar and Rhododendron, all of it was more than enough to make us believe that we had managed to escape the madness. A couple of hours were spent gazing only into the expanse of the picture perfect hills.

Treks, worships and more

Don’t go looking for a Mall road in Dhanaulti. It’s a small town devoid of any fanciful shopping arcades or joy rides on horses and yaks. Spotless roads beckoned us after a sumptuous lunch and we set out to explore the nearby ECO Park. A patch of protected forest of mighty Deodar trees, developed and maintained by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand, has been done up with beautiful wild flower hedges and swings for children. The park is a favourite picnic spot for the localities of Mussoorie and Dehradun and an entry fee of Rs 15 per person is what you have to pay to enter it. Dotted along the periphery are many eateries selling roasted corn cobs, spicy peanuts, and tea. Cotton candy like clouds in the pristine blue sky playing peeking from between with the towering trees was a picturesque sight to remember.

Dusk fell and we decided to laze around in the hotel reading books, listening to music,
basically doing nothing.

A visit to the Surkanda Devi temple was planned for the next day. About 8 km from Dhanaulti, the temple is associated with the myth of Sati and Shiva’s tandava nritya (dance of cosmic destruction). It is believed that when Shiva passed through this place carrying Sati’s dead body, he accidentally dropped her head at this spot. That is how the temple of Surkanda Devi came into being and is known be visited by many devotees throughout the year.

Disconnect from the world, quite literally

Dhanaulti gives you the option to remain disconnected from the chaotic world of social networking sites, constant nagging, and demanding obligations, quite literally at that. For some reason, mobile and internet connectivity is terribly weak up there. Also, there are hardly any tourists around. The only people we could spot were the Garhwali folks roaming about with their herd of cows. They’re not used to having tourists amidst them so don’t mind the tentative glances they throw at you.

How to get there

By air: The closest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun at a distance of 80kms.
By rail: The nearest railway station is also Dehradun. The taxi stand is right next to the railway station and prepaid cabs to Dhanaulti are easily available at Rs 1500 (one way). The uphill drive is a picturesque one and usually takes less than 2 hours.
By road: One can alternatively drive up to Dhanaulti. The distance is approx. 350 km from New Delhi and takes about 8 hours with traffic.

Best time to visit

Dhanaulti is pleasant and agreeable in the summer months, (May, June, July and August) and a light sweat shirt is more than enough to keep you warm. In winters, however, the mercury plummets and occasionally there is a snowfall that caps the tree tops and mountain peaks beautifully.

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Many trains will be terminated




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




“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




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 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.

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
: 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.

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. 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. 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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