North Bay – The Coral Island

Day 4:

Guess what, we are going for snorkeling today! And the island which is very near to Port Blair and ideal for Snorkeling is nothing other than the North Bay Island. We started to North Bay around 9.30 from Port Blair. North Bay is about an hour ferry ride away from Port Blair. But we took very less time as ours is a speed boat 🙂

North Bay’s white sand beach seemed to be much crowded than usual. A large number of people were here, mainly for various water sports that this island offers. One can do jet ski, go for a speed boat ride, snorkeling and other such activities here. I heard that in the recent times, they started sea walk activity too.

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Today Kiron Aunty accompanied us. Soon we were in the waters playing and splashing the water onto each other, at the same time quite excited about our first ever snorkeling experience. We found out a guy who had the snorkeling gear and he charged some hundred bucks for each person I think. If you can swim you can go ahead without his support, otherwise he will help you out, so snorkeling doesn’t require any swimming experience u know 😉

The turns started. It was Shivangi, who went on first. Later Harsha and Mounica together and then it’s my turn. The power glasses on my eyes were powerful enough to watch out all the undersea activities and somehow I was uncomfortable with the snorkeling gear, don’t ask me why! I was lucky enough to see some colorful fishes, a starfish and the corals spread all over, and they were like colonies, very vibrant in color and perfect in nature!

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Time for some adventure! The person who was guiding me asked me whether am ready for it, I nodded. He removed by gear and asked me to take a deep breath. The target is to go as deep as possible and to feel the corals by touching them 🙂 I took a long deep breath and one push from him, I was down to the sea bed, touching the hidden treasure of the sea. A feeling that’s beyond description!

Once done, we were back to the shore contented. There were lots of shacks providing some eateries and huts to rest. We loitered along the beach for sometime and went around the shacks which were selling some accessories and all. The light house is few yards away from the beach and one can have a walk to it. Once done we were back home by 3 pm in the afternoon. Rest of the day I was in daze thinking about the pristine beauty of the corals.

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Though we enjoyed this trip a lot, we used to get exhausted very easily as the mid-summer sun was scorching. Nevertheless, it was a great experience!!

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Ross Island – Paris of the East

Day 4:

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Today’s destination is not a new one for us, but it’s just that we didn’t see it closely. We are seeing it from the day we landed in Port Blair. Probably most of you might have guessed it correctly. Yeah, it’s the Ross Island :), an island which is in the nearest proximity of Port Blair. It takes just few minutes (around 10 or 15) to reach Ross Island by a ferry from the Phoenix Jetty of Port Blair.

DSC04860Unlike other islands, this island has an entry fee of some Rs. 20 I think, sorry for not remembering exactly 🙂 . Ross Island now being controlled by the Indian Navy requires every visitor to sign in on entering. On entering, the island made me nostalgic as it suddenly took me back to the colonial past. Ross Island, the erstwhile capital of Port Blair during the British regime, is one of the seats of British power. It now boasts of breath-taking ruins and an interesting journey to the past.

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Named after the British marine surveyor Daniel Ross, the island was known as the ‘Paris of the East’. The mesmerizing ruins of the swimming pool, printing press, club, church, Hospital, Bakery, Tennis court, Chief Commissioner’s House and other beautiful buildings provide a glimpse to all the modern amenities, the British brought with them.

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The island with historical background and preserved ruins is spread along an area of 0.6 sq kms. This island remained under British occupation till 1942. From 1942 to 1945, the island was under the occupation of Japanese. However, the allies reoccupied the island in 1945 and later abandoned it. Hence we can find some bunkers and if our luck worked out, might be some canon balls or bombs can also be seen 😉

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The island was abandoned at a later period of time as it was hit by an earthquake. And slowly, the nature took its toll on this island, as the Banyan trees engulfed the buildings thus replacing the structures created by man. The specialty of this island is all about the wildlife which we can see here. There are some hundred deers and peacocks which just roam along with us. They are accustomed to human life 🙂

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There are walkways around the island and they are paved very well. The island is filled with lots of coconut trees and other vegetation. Just a few minutes of walk to the backside of the island, we will be greeted with a fine beach which instantly attracts us with it’s splendid and vibrant colors of waters. Looking at the sea, the first thought that hit my mind was that “Had it not been the Ross Island, probably there wouldn’t have been Port Blair after the Tsunami in Dec, 2004”.

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It is this very island that had shielded Port Blair from the mighty Tsunami waves. What surprised me more is that even after the hit, the remnants remained 🙂 . The island remains closed on Wednesdays and there is a light and sound show here too, but we did look at it. Probably the next time 🙂

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Can’t wait to see you again dear Ross :), the Island 😉 😀

Mount Harriet – The Summer headquarters..

Day 3:

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It’s time to leave the waterfall and deep forests and head towards the second highest peak in Andaman and Nicobar islands and the highest peak in the South Andamans (365 mts high). It’s a journey of around 1.5 hours from Bamboo flat and an hour journey from Ferargunj. Drive on the narrow and sharp curved road up to the hill top is truly adventurous. There are few options of trekking also. But, as we don’t have much time (it’s almost afternoon), we thought of reaching Mount Harriet by our jeep itself.

Mount Harriet, the summer headquarters of the Chief Commissioner during British Raj, and located on the other side of the Ross Island, is an ideal place for a nice and fascinating overview of the outer islands and the sea. The hillock is blessed with unparalleled natural charm and is famous for its rare endemic birds, animals and animals.

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There is a forest Guest House on the top and if we want we can spend a night over here. Our driver stopped the jeep just in front of the guest house and we got down to enjoy the serenity of the place. Unlike the other hill stations, this place is not over crowded; to be frank there were just few visitors.

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The place is very clean and tidy with no litter and dustbins placed everywhere. There were few huts with chairs and wooden benches to sit and watch the surrounding islands and the nature. Soon we unwrapped our packed food and finished off our lunch. Much to our surprise there were cradles here and we started fighting for them 😀  While some of us started to swing on the cradles, others started playing handball.

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Once done, we started exploring the surroundings. I forgot to tell you that out of the 9 national parks in Andaman, Mount Harriet is the most beautiful and the most popular national park. The place as such does not have much to see, but it is a perfect place to relax for a day or two. Just a few yards from the Guest house, there is a trail leading to the deep jungles and it is ideal for those who want to do light trek. The chirping birds and the rustles of the wind are truly soothing 🙂

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Once done with photography, we started our return journey to Bamboo flat to get a ferry back to Port Blair. While we were descending, we found something very interesting. It is a view of the North Bay Island, now don’t think what is so much interesting about a view, it is interesting because, it is the same picture that one can find behind a twenty rupee Indian note. Yes, it’s the North Bay Island’s light house. We quickly had some photographs there and resumed our journey.

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When we were down, we went to a local church, which is supposed to be the biggest in the surroundings, we offered some candles and prayed and caught a ferry back to Port Blair.

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Thus ended our energy and also Day 3.. 🙂

The Quest begins…

Day 3:

It was another sunny day. Today’s plan was made out by Sahil. He just knows that there is an unseen place which we should explore. Though he is also not sure what exactly is out there, he was somehow so much interested to go out there. So, it’s decided. We are going to begin our quest; quest for the unseen place.

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Most come to Andaman for its beaches, but few explore the hidden beauty of these islands. We are in one such quest now. We weren’t even sure where to go and how to find out that hidden treasure! All that we know are we needed to reach Bamboo flat. One can get a ferry from Port Blair or a boat to reach Bamboo flat. Instead of opting for a ferry, uncle hired us a speed boat so that we can reach the other end in less than 20 minutes or so. On the way to bamboo flat, don’t forget to see the floating dockyard. We can also see the Ross Island from the middle of the channel.

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Sahil quickly made an inquiry with a jeep driver and asked if he can guide us to the place we were searching for. Luckily, the driver who is also a local guide told us that he knew the place and was ready to take us over there. We passed through few settlements, which typically reminds us a small village (paraschatan) and in less than another 30 minutes, we reached a place at which our driver stopped the jeep and asked us to follow the foot track on the right side of the road.

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Soon we were out of the jeep with our stuff, and asked if the driver is also going to accompany us. He said he would in sometime. We weren’t still sure of what we were behind 🙂 . We were on the track, the track was slippery with mosses and the shrubs that covered the path; and the broken pipes probably supplying water to the settlements were leaking at some places making it more difficult for us to walk. But, we were moving on. The forest was quite calm except for the chirps of the birds and us.

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The foot track is narrow and offers an amazing glimpse of the deep forests. After some 200 mts we were at a stream which we have to cross to reach the other end. The cool waters of the stream were so soothing and there were few rocks around where on which we can sit and relax. The next crossing came pretty sooner and then the third and the fourth. The fourth is a bit deeper; I mean it’s up to our knees.

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Everyone is eager to find out what is going to be there and what are we searching for. After another 45 mins trek up hill, we reached a place, which is the end point of the quest. The trek finally culminated at a water fall. The water fall called Wimberly Gunj waterfalls, which is located so deep in the forests and the lake which is formed below it in which we can swim is simply enchanting. Looking at the scene, we forgot our tiredness and soon were into the waters.

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The experience was so thrilling. This quest turned out to be the best part of the entire trip. The trek through the deep forests, the stream crossings, the water fall and the serenity of the surroundings is truly a lifetime experience. Thanks to Sahil for taking us to this hidden beauty 🙂

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The quest ended, but not my day! Wait and watch 😉

Kaalapaani & The Sylvan Sands of Chidiyatapu..

Day 2:

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The day starts quite early in Andamans as there is almost a time lag of 1 hour from the mainland. The dazzling sun is up in the sky by 4.30 am itself. Mounica and I were up, while rest of our friends was still tossing in their beds. We just went down the lane for a quick jog which turned out to be refreshing. The houses beautifully lined; the clean and calm roads and the cool breeze from the sea were so rejuvenating.

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By the time we were back from the jog, everyone is up. We quickly got ready for our next move. Whenever there is a mention of Andaman Islands, the first thing that hits every mind is the Cellular Jail, mostly remembered as “Kaala Paani” (Black waters). Thanks to the film Kaala Paani which made it so famous! So our first plan is to go and have a glimpse of what exactly the Cellular Jail looks like.

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The first thing that welcomes us is the Swatantrya Jyothi (Freedom Flame and Torch). An iconic symbol of India’s struggle for independence from colonial rule, the Cellular Jail takes one back to British-era, wherein the jail imprisoned freedom fighters. Once known as the “hell on the earth” , this jail was built in between 1857 and 1906 by the British, acquired the name ‘Cellular’ because it is entirely made up of individual cells for the solitary confinement of the prisoners.

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It was originally a seven pronged structure almost representing spikes of a wheel. A puce-colored three storied building with the central tower acting as its fulcrum is an architectural marvel. As of now, three of the seven prongs were intact and the museum here relates the history of this place, the convicts, photographs and more. One can get a clear view of the Ross Island from the top of this jail. The blue waters and the tiny ferries on the sea are worth watching!

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It was almost mid of the day by the time we completed our tour around the Cellular Jail. We were back home for lunch. Aunty has prepared us some Rajma Chaawal. The Bengali Rosagullas which we brought with us back from Kolkata and the fresh litchis at the end of our lunch made it perfect 🙂 We soon grabbed a nap, as we were tired because of the blazing summer sun.

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It was around 3.30 pm when we started to our next destination “Chidiya Tapu”. Chidiya tapu is the southernmost tip of South Andaman. It almost reminds me of Kerala when I think about the road leading to Chidiya Tapu, as one side of the road has got coconut grooves and the other side has the mighty Andaman Sea. We halted for a while along a broken fence wall, where we got to know that the wall was damaged by the mighty Tsunami waves and the sea has come forward a few miles.

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It was around 4.30 by the time we reached Chidiya Tapu. The beach was quite and calm. There were not many visitors, in fact very few were there. While most of them were sitting and watching the sunset, few kids were playing in the sea. What I could see is that it is an ideal picnic spot. The white sands with clear waters surrounded by mangroves and chirping birds from the forest cover simply makes it ideal. Soon we ventured out into the sea, playing, diving and even swimming 🙂 . We all were children again 😉

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Soon, the sun started setting. As the sun started to set, we just climbed up a huge tree trunk that was protruding into the sea and started to watch it silently. The orange colored sun-set with a foreground of golden colored waters is simply breathtaking. A great evening 🙂

Time to go back home!  Stay tuned!!!

“Mini India” Port Blair :)

Day 1:

Though I hail from South India, I took a flight to Port Blair from Kolkata, so that I can spend some two days in Kolkata too. We boarded the flight around 10 am in the morning. Though I got a window seat, I was asleep for most part of the journey 😀 as I was tired from the previous day shopping in Kolkata :p , but as we were just nearing our destination, the pilot started to go around the archipelago, of course every flight offers this service, the service of providing an aerial view of the beautiful islands 🙂 . Swati woke me up asking me to have a look at the pristine beach waters below. Every one of us peeped through the windows to have a glance at the spell-bound scene beneath.

Soon we were on the runway. It was around 12.30 when we stepped into the Veer Sarvarkar Airport or the Port Blair Airport. Yes, the airport is named after the Indian freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Sarvarkar. Sahil, Swati’s brother was waiting for us by the time we reached. We grabbed our baggage and headed to Swati’s home. Aunty and uncle welcomed us all and after the greetings we had our lunch and rested for some time.

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An Archipelago of 572 islands adrift in the Bay of Bengal, the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar islands, also known as the Emerald islands offers us breath taking colors of the sea. Port Blair, named after the naval surveyor Lieutenant Archibald Blair, was colonized in the late 18th century by the British. The capital city of Andaman and Nicobar islands, is a charming island town with stunning views of the Andaman sea. With its bustling atmosphere, the city is called “Mini India” as one can find Bengalis, Tamils, Telugus, Mallus, Nicobarese and Burmese living in this city.

It was around 4 pm , we set out to go around the city. The plan is to catch up the music and light show at the historical monument “Cellular Jail”. But, it’s too early, the show would start up only by 7 or 7.30 pm. So, we thought of having a drive through the roads of Port Blair. Our first halt is the Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex, which offers Safe water sports activities as well as Adventure water sports. We just paid a visit. Important thing is try eating the egg rolls that are offered just outside the complex, trust me they were so yummy 😉

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We just spent a couple of moments there and headed to the Joggers’ Park on the VIP road. This is a must see place in Port Blair, especially if we just want to take some time off and watch the world go by. This is one of the highest points in the city and truly breath-taking after the sunset. The view from the benches overlooking an illuminated city and the sight of the lit runway of the adjacent airport are nothing short of magical.

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Soon, we were at the Cellular Jail. The light show started after we took our chairs. The structure soon came into life with the lights lit, the colors representing the tri-color. We strictly adhered to the rules of not taking snaps of the show as instructed. It was the tree which took the voice of our Om Puri ji, narrating the stories that were all related with the tortures meted out to the freedom fighters. Am sure that everyone will get goose bumps while listening to the narration, also a part of this contains the conversation between Veer Damodar Savarkar and the cruel jailer David Barry. It fills our hearts with patriotism. I salute them!

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The show is hardly for 45 mins or one hour. We headed to the local beach and thereafter called it a day 🙂

How about a break???

Yeah, how about a break? A break from trekking? A break from the mountains? A break from the chilling winds and snowflakes? I think, it’s time for one.. for me; I think for you too 😉

What could be a better destination? Any place far away from this concrete jungle would be fine for me :p A place where there won’t be any hustle bustle. A place where I can go for a long walk all alone; If tired, can sit somewhere and watch the blue sky and get lost in my thoughts; have some good food or a drink, soft though 😉 under the moon light or on a candle-lit table, when I feel hungry… After this much of description, I know that everyone will vote for a beach 😉 . Isn’t it?

Let’s go to a beach then. A small correction… to beaches!  Yeah, to some of the finest beaches in the world. Don’t think that I am taking you to Mauritius or Maldives for those. As I mentioned earlier, India, our beautiful India has got all one wants. It might be the mighty mountains or the vast green meadows, beautiful beaches or splendid valleys, we can find everything here in this land of wonders 🙂 , my India!!

Having my roots in a coastal area, beaches are not new for me. Yes, though my mom is from a remote village in Vizianagaram, we had hardly been there. As far as I know, all my visits to my maternal grandparents are to the beautiful beach city “Visakhapatnam” (the city of destiny). And to my luck, I completed my graduation from a university in the same city, later worked in Chennai, which is yet another beach city, visited Pondicherry, the once French colony, still bearing the aroma of French culture and last but not the least Goa.

It’s quite a difficult thing for me to choose among these places, I mean for my next series 😉 . I was thinking about the travel tale which I should share with you people now.  After a lot of thinking, I decided my destination. Not from any of those mentioned above though! Guess what, Andaman and Nicobar Islands it is! Yes, thanks to one of my very close friends Swati for taking us all to this beautiful place. I will be thankful to her always 🙂

I would like to share all the memories which I bundled for a life-time during this trip by taking all of you down to my past. Welcome to my Andaman Diaries!!!