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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meghamalai : Paradise On Indian Earth

Meghamalai Meghamalai is situated in the Western Ghats in Theni district, Tamilnadu, India, this verdant stretch of reserve Meghamalai forest can be approached two ways -- from Theni via Chinnamannur and from Andipatti via Kandamanayakkanur. The approach via Chinnamannur is more scenic. From scrub forests at the foothills, to ubiquitous expanses of tea and coffee estates, to the spice (pepper, cardamom, cinnamon) plantations and finally to the dense evergreen forests at the top.

Meghamalai Paradise On Indian EarthIf you are looking for a quiet escape to untouched, pristine lands, less of which seem to be remaining every day, then magical Meghamalai is your answer. Tucked away in the clouds of the Western Ghats, this little-accessible mountain range offers gorgeous views of lush green mountains, dense forests, teal lakes and, above all, peace.

Meghamalai PicturesqueHighways — a view point that affords a peep at the entire range of mountains on one side, and an another side cumbum valley.There are estates all around, some houses of plantation workers, an artificial lake and plenty of scope for making leisurely walks. Highways is fringed by forests but if you want to go to the heart of Meghamalai, then Vellimalai area is where you should be heading. Silver-lined clouds seem to rest gently on green hilltops and nestled somewhere in this region is the place where the river Vaigai originates.

Meghamalai, also called the High Wavy Mountains, is located on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border and can be reached by road from Theni via Chinnamanur, the nearest town. The drive can be a little unsettling on the narrow, winding, muddy path which shows little sign of human activity; it took us almost half a day to traverse the last 40 km of the road. The climb is exhilaratingly steep, with a view of the peaceful Manalar Dam nestling in the valley. The kachcha road then leads to a tar road at the beginning of a sprawling 6,000-acre tea plantation which houses two large, spacious bungalows run by the Woodbriar Group. Scrumptious food and the sounds of birds greeted us at the Sand River Cottage. All you can also enjoy biking trip to Meghamalai.

Meghmalai TempleFor those who do not want to walk, the daily bus from Theni to Vellimalai is an option. But if your legs are eager and willing, then get off the bus at Varashanadu and haul yourself up the picturesque dirt track — it takes about two hours and is well worth it. Essential info Meghamalai can be accessed from Theni, which is 76 kms from Madurai. Accommodation: At the top, only forest lodges and panchayat rest house are available. Prior reservation and permission is an absolute must. Day-trippers may stay in a number of moderately priced hotels in Theni, Andipatti and Chinnamanur. Meghamalai water falls is one more reason to visit here.

We soaked in the warm hospitality and the cool mountain climate. Mornings at the cottage were spent in an almost meditative state watching layers of clouds play hide-and-seek with the peaks. A visit to the WoodBriar Tea Factory took us through a behind-the-scenes journey of the fascinating processes that go into the making of our morning beverage. We drove up to Vattaparai in Upper Manalar, famous for its animal sightings, but the clear morning was wrapped in thick fog within minutes, forcing us to go back. Cloud Mountain does live up to its name!

Long drives in and around Meghamalai are beautiful, with the view alternating between dark-leaved woods and light-green plantations. If you are lucky, you can spot some rare wildlife like the Grizzled Giant Squirrel and the Great Indian Hornbill. These mountains are also home to the one of the world's rarest bats, the Salim Ali's Fruit Bat. From the Maharaja Mettu View Point, one can get a panaromic view of the hills, extending all the way to the plains. The misty mountains of Meghamalai are something out of a fairytale. They invite you to walk, trek, breathe, disconnect, relax and experience a bit of almost tangible transcendence.
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