Adieu Andaman..

Day 11:

I woke up around 5 AM in the morning and went out for a walk along the shore and sat there to see the sunrise. It was as if the sea has retreated from there and I could see the rocks for a long distance; it’s a low tide and the sun started coming up from the horizon. The sea and the beautiful sun of a pleasant morning.. a perfect combo!

We got ready, had our breakfast and headed back to the jetty where our speed boat was waiting for us to take us back to Port Blair. We bid an adieu to Havelock, one of the most beautiful places. Back to Port Blair by afternoon and it’s time to pack our bags. We packed our luggage and in the evening our aunt wanted us to visit the Rajasthan temple nearby and seek blessings. So, we went to the temple which is located on a hillock and quiet.

We prayed for a while and were back home. Nothing much to do for the rest of the day! We spent watching the TV and retired to our beds.

 

Day 12:

Our beautiful journey in these beautiful islands came to an end. With a heavy heart we bid and adieu to Uncle, aunt, Swati and Sahil 😦 . Swati and Sahil accompanied us to the airport. And we took our flight back to Kolkata from where we would head to our respective places.

What I felt is that Andaman and Nicobar islands are yet to be explored fully. Many of us think of only Maldives and Mauritius when it comes to splendid beaches and luxurious resorts, but we don’t think of the hidden beauty of these islands which are our very own. And am lucky that I didn’t miss a chance of exploring this beautiful treasure!

Bye-bye Andamans.. Will be soon back again as my expedition is not yet done :-p . This time I would be covering the other treasures Neil Island, Viper Island, Jolley Bouy, Parrot Island and if possible the Car Nicobar too.

Thanks to all my dear friends who joined me on this voyage and made it more memorable 🙂 🙂

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On our way back..

Day 8:

Time to leave! We have seen a lot in the last two days. Now, it’s time for us to go home. We got ready, had our breakfast and dumped our bags into the Tavera and started off. The order of the positions in the Tavera didn’t change today too. Though we have to cover 300 kms today, we won’t be taking that much of time as there are no more halts on our way back. Though we wanted to visit the Mud volcanoes, we couldn’t make it out!

Most of us passed away just after moments we had started, probably because of our tiredness. It was only at the checkpost of Rangat wherein which we have to get our passes to pass the jarawa belt did we wake up to stretch our legs. Lol! We were into the afternoon convoy, I think the last but one. Today it was more exciting, as we came across not one or two Jarawas but a bunch of them over different activities.

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We saw few kids playing on the roads, while the adults watching them carefully, few were out on fishing at a small stream which is passing through their territory, while some are sitting ideally. Sometimes they tried stopping our vehicle and when we asked our aunt why they were doing so, she told us few things like the tourists feeding them with the junk which they carry while passing through this belt, sometimes trying to speak with them and all.

There were incidents in which few of the Jarawas died as they were not used to salt in the food that was offered by the tourists. That was the saddest thing I have ever heard. Also aunt told us about the Sentinalese tribe, yet another most isolated tribe on the earth living in some of the remotest islands of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago and many more stories of these beautiful islands.

It was almost evening by the time we reached Port Blair. On the way to our home, we dropped at the Aberdeen Bazaar; while aunt bought some fresh vegetables, we quickly explored the bazaar and returned home.

We called it a day just after 8 pm 🙂

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 😦

Wandoor – The Gateway to the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.

Day 5:

It’s weekend! I was up and about by 5.30 am only to find all the gals still snuggled in their blankets. I decided to be nice and let them wake up by themselves. Got downstairs to check what was going on there. My aunt was already up and the maid is helping her in the household chores. Wished her a very good morning and she was surprised to see me awake so early 😉

They both were engaged in preparing our food and all, from which I sensed that it’s going to be a big day for us. My friends took their sweet time to wake up and we all got ready. Today uncle is home, and we came to know that it’s time for a good drive down south to a place called Wandoor and he is going to join us.

Wandoor is a small village near the southern tip of South Andaman and is around 29 kms from Port Blair. It is well connected to Port Blair with a very scenic, well-paved road. There is bus service from Port Blair to Wandoor, we didn’t try though and the journey won’t be that bad I guess as the roads are in a good condition. The road journey was perfect! The route is surrounded by lush green trees of coconuts and plantations and there are many agricultural research farms of ICAR too.

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We stopped at Sippighat just to have a break from our ride and also to enjoy the scenic beauty of the place. Wandoor beach is located approx. 1 km after the marine park office. Soon we were at Wandoor beach which is picturesque; the vastness of the ocean and beautiful islands adding to its’ charm! Water is clean and the beach is quite for swimming. There are lot of natural caves, formed over decades, probably carved by fierce high tides that surround the beach.

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The beach is an ideal one to sit and relax. It is full of rocks on one side and a lot of algae on the other. Also there were many boards warning about the frequent sightings of crocodiles. There used to be a crocodile sanctuary and it got destroyed because of the Tsunami. Over a chat with the locals, we learnt that there came a lot of changes in the beach after the Tsunami.

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It was around 12.30 pm when started from there and we moved ahead of the place and found another stretch of beach which is far more serene and we settled down there for our lunch which my aunt has neatly packed. Once done with our lunch we headed back to Port Blair and stopped at Corbyn Cove’s beach, a local beach in Port Blair.

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Teeming with people and encircled by lush green coconut palms, the Corbyn’s Cove is one of the busiest beaches in the Andaman Islands. It is ideal for sea bathing and sun-basking. The restaurants in the Corbyn’s Cove Tourism Complex provide a wide variety of sea water activities and some good food. We played in the beach for some time and returned home 🙂 🙂

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Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park basically includes a group of islands around Wandoor, designated as a national park to protect the flora and fauna of that area including the marine life and coral reefs. Joully Buoy Island which is very near to Wandoor and is open only for 6 months in a year and we missed an opportunity of visiting it!

It’s going to be lot more interesting tomorrow 😉

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!!

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 😉

“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 🙂