The Journey continues..

Day 6:

Finally we arrived at Baratang Island, which is between the South and Middle Andaman. Baratang is known for its beautiful beaches, mangrove creeks, mud-volcanoes and the limestone caves. The Andaman Trunk Road to Rangat and Mayabunder goes through this island. It was around 9 AM in the morning and we decided to go to the limestone caves.

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There is a small jetty named Nilambur jetty from where we should get the permission from the forest officials to explore the limestone caves and an official guide can also be hired here. From the jetty, the lime stone caves are half an hour boat ride through a wide creek which leads to Nayadera Jetty. The speed boat soon came to life and we slipped into our life jackets.  The wide sea covered with mangroves on both sides of it is a picturesque scene.

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The sea way leading to the Nayadera Jetty becomes narrower and mangroves denser while approaching close to it. The boat ride through these mangroves is magnificent and is an experience in itself. But one should be cautious enough as it is said that there are frequent sightings of crocodiles here. Once out of the boat, there is a broad-way winding its way through the mangroves and opens into a small hamlet where the local people sell some eateries and nimbu-pani (Sweet lime juice) for the tourists visiting the limestone caves. A further 2 kms trek from here through the tropical forest leaves us at the massive sedimentary limestone caves.

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There is no way of light to penetrate into these caves. We are awestruck looking at their size; they were so massive and dark. Our guide carried a torch with him which was powerful enough to show us every nook and corner of the caves. This is one of those rare caves that have both stalactites and stalagmites existing in the same caves unlike popularly known fact that these can’t coexist. Lemme just give a brief about them.

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Stalagmites are the formations found on the floor of the caves, reaching upward to touch the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. And yet another interesting fact about these caves is that the lime stone structures have been formed over ages and have not been traversed or exploited in any ways. It is still one of those sites that remained untouched by humans 🙂

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There are several other interesting things about these caves. The several deposits of the layers of lime formed stones in different shapes and provides different shades to a single massive rock. These caves are like a true break from those beaches, bathing and water sports and a must visit for all the nature lovers. And especially if you are a lover of geography, don’t ever miss visiting these caves.

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There are few benches made of bamboo under thatched roofs on the way leading to these caves. One can simply sit and get lost in the wilderness of nature after finishing off the walk through these amazing structures in middle of the mangroves and tropical forests 🙂 🙂

Stay tuned.. My journey for the day isn’t completed yet 😉

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Amazing journey through the Jarawa land..

Day 6:

Don’t ask me where we were going.. Coz, I too don’t know our destination 😀 . What all I know was that we need to start early (around 5 am) from Port Blair; it’s going to be a long drive and the roads might not be that good; and my aunt as well as Kiron aunt is also going to join us on this drive 🙂 .

We will be going in a Chevrolet Tavera as the group grew big 😉 . Uncle and Shivangi’s father bid a bye to us when we started our journey from the School lane. Padmaja, Swati, Mounica and I occupied the rear seats while the front was occupied by Sahil and Shivangi, middle by both my aunts and Harsha. After few minutes the destination was revealed. It’s Baratang which is 100 kms away from Port Blair.

Our first halt is Jirkatang, almost 40 kms from Port Blair. Here, we encountered a forest check post as well as a long queue of vehicles, the ones who arrived earlier than us. There are 8 convoys throughout the day (first one at 6.30 am and last one at 2.30 pm) from this check post and we were late by few minutes to catch up the earlier one. We don’t have any other choice rather than to wait!

jarawa025_article_columnAs we got down and looking around the surroundings, something drew my attention.. A board of instructions, mainly about the things which we should not do during the journey on this stretch. I couldn’t understand for a moment what I was looking at and it was then I understood that we are entering a buffer zone, the zone of Jarawas. This stretch is of around 50 kms.

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Jarawas, considered one of the most isolated people on earth, they are a hunter-gatherer tribe that has lived in the dense forests of Andaman Islands completely cut off from the outside world for thousands of years. Today, approximately 400 members of the nomadic Jarawa tribe live in groups of 40-50 people in chaddhas – as they call their homes. They hunt pig and turtle and fish with bow and arrows in the coral-fringed reefs for crabs and fish. They also gather fruits, wild roots, tubers and honey.

Soon, the gates were up and we were as excited as we could see some members of the most primitive tribal group on this earth. A forest official led our convoy through this reserve forest and there was another one at the rear end. The instructions were clear that this is a no-overtake zone and we should not halt anywhere. We were watching our surroundings keenly so that we won’t miss a chance of getting a glimpse of the Jarawas. For the first few minutes, we couldn’t see any of them except few watch-over sheds kind of things. They were simple, just 4 poles and a top which is covered with straw and dry leaves. We learnt from our driver that they sometimes sit there and watch the movements on the road.

Another few minutes passed away and there they were. A child and a mother, dark skinned, red-eyed, curly haired, the child has some sort of paste or mud applied onto his face, the mother covering her lower part with some red color strings, might be roots of some trees, I donno.. But that was one stunning moment for us. How one could be so primitive while the universe is running behind super-computers and probing living chances on some other planets?? It was a billion dollar question for me….

The other end of this Jarawa forest reserve is the Middle Strait. We have to take a vehicle ferry from here to Baratang which is like 15 mins ride.

P.S – We strictly adhered to the rules here and hence didn’t click any photographs through out the Jarawa belt. We just don’t want to create any inconvenience to those most beautiful lives on this earth. It sometimes makes me feel sad when I hear the news about the atrocities the Jarawas face from the civilized people who just care nothing but their fun factor 😦