Western Ghats

Periyar Tiger Reserve

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Kerala has more than its fair share of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the Western Ghats. Of these, the Periyar Tiger Reserve at Thekkady [Kumily] is the most visited. It is our favourite wildlife reserve simply because we have always seen wildlife there on every trip, without even trying to!

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Matheran Magic

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Matheran is our favorite nearby destination which we have been visiting regularly from July to February each year since 2007. It is a small…

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Satara Surprise

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This is my first post here at Ghumakkar.   It is about our recent visits to Satara.  Satara is a nondescript small town at approx….

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Valparai Series – Part 4

Valparai Series – Part 4

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To reach the Nalla Mudi view point, one has to walk through where else but the Nalla Mudi tea estate. A rather stern looking Forest guard stopped us with a Sorry, No Entry, Elephant problem. He was not however as fierce as he looked and easily succumbed to our pleading that we had come so far from the distant planet of Bombay, so how could we go home without seeing this place?

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Valparai Series – Part 3

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Though elephantine in appearance, the Valparai bisons (Indian Gaur) are usually mild creatures who mind their own business. But which fool would proceed further ‘where angels fear to tread’? After taking our fair share of pics, we did an about turn.

Sometimes the wildlife comes out on the main road, much to their detriment. Wildlife killings by overspeeding F1 drivers is unfortunately all too common despite the many caution signs. This huge deer was standing barely 1 foot away at twilight. I realised he was next to me only when some bikers stopped to stare.

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Valparai Series – Part 2

Valparai Series – Part 2

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The estates brought prosperity for the new settlers but ‘development’ also meant massive deforestation of once pristine forests with the attendant depletion of indigenous fauna and flora. In those days
of abundant natural wealth, this was not a matter of concern.

In recent times, the Nature Conservation Foundation – an NGO, has engaged the estates in a successful conservation programme to maintain wildlife corridors and regenerate the forest. Consequently, you never quite know who you might meet in and around those Valparai tea gardens!

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Valparai Series – Part 1: An Introduction

Valparai Series – Part 1: An Introduction

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Green Hills has a restaurant that is dingy and uninviting but their food is delicious.  Some of the home stays provide meals, some do not have this facility.  There are several restaurants, food stalls and messes along the one and only main road where you can enjoy a cheap and delicious meal.  Besides this there are umpteen bakeries serving hot snacks, cakes and locally grown tea.  The problem arises for strict vegetarians who will not eat vegetarian food in a non veg establishment, and as we all know there are many such good folk not just in Tamil Nadu but all over India.   I have seen only one place near the Gandhi Bus Stand – the Sabari Mess – which proclaims itself to be “Veg Only“.   No personal experience but you can not go too wrong with the local food.  We dined at the Plaza on the main road opposite the Police Station.  It was consistently good with excellent service and spotlessly clean.     For us, once we are on to a good thing, we are reluctant to experiment with something new so as with the home stay, the staff at Plaza now also treat us as long lost friends.  I did notice a Mary Matha Mess in the adjoining building on the first floor which seemed to be popular.  Mess in these parts  means restaurant or a place where meals are served.

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Romancing the Train – Pune to Nasik

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My favourite travel author Paul Theroux says in the opening paragraph of ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ – the best travel book ever written – “I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it”. One simple sentence summarizes the entire romance and mysticism around the trains. It conjures up the sights and sounds of unknown exotic destinations. It is as if you don’t care where the train goes; you only want to be someplace that is far and not seen before. Someplace where people look different, language you can’t understand but sounds musical; and food is an adventure everytime.

Meanwhile, the train chugs along several stations. It is the perfect weather to buy chikki in Lonavala and feast on hot vada paos. The taste brings back memories from the past. It seems as if the chikki and vada tastes have been standardized like McDonalds. You remember the taste from times long gone when you took the Madgaon Express from CST to Goa every month on the Konkan Railway Line.

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