Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Andamans

Introduction
As the plane comfortably skims down the clouds into Port Blair, the sight of soft fluffy cottony clouds hugging , drifting and dotting the emerald green island on a green and dazzling blue sea greets you from the plane windows and you know if there is a second heaven on earth after Kashmir it is here in Andaman and Nicobar.
In Andamans there is no “G Huzoori” . There is no 2G or 3G , but a place of "G" deaddiction, a life beyond screens.

The netted 3G life suddenly gives way to an idyllic sun kissed beaches, emerald green sea, green swaying coconut palms and every shades of green except that of envy. Here God wants you to come and enjoy his largesse minus the virtual world, the Power point presentation he makes with various combinations of land, sky and sea with his paint brush and infinite varied colours on his palette.  A time comes when you sit back and ruminate as to how life passed you buy while the virtual world took over the real world.

The best season to visit the island is from Dec to March. The other months are punctuated by pouring rain like fighting dogs and cats and the mood changes frequently than that of a toddler.


Things to carry: Umbrella, sunscreens, insect repellant, swim wear,  hats, binoculars, beach slippers, Bermudas.


Corbyn Sea Beach
Tucked within 5 km from the airport and at the centre of the city lies the beach with swaying coconut fronds, immaculately maintained beach dotted with beach chairs( Rs.10/hr), coconut vendors, and gently lapping waves it’s an ideal destination to destress yourself as you gaze into the sparkling blue horizon, dotted by snake island and seafaring cruise liners which transport you into a surreal world.

Anthropological  Museum
Entry Tickets: 10/-, Camera—20/-

A three storied structure, which has a wonderful collection of photographs, memorabilia , and life like caricatures depicting life style, daily habitat, clothing, eating habits, hunting weapons and practices of all the tribes dotting the islands. An authentic, well researched, well presented and exhaustive Museum which is a cynosure for all historians. The entrance has a well stocked shop of the island handicrafts and seashells by local craftsmen at govt approved rates.

Cellular Jail.
(lunchtime 1245—1330hrs)
No one would remember the martyrs or the sufferings, deaths, tortures and the pathetic pointlessness of cruelty of such magnitude being perpetuated by humanity against each other. The unfulfilled dreams, the poignant sighs, and the muffled unheard cries to which this majestic building bears a silent testimony.

Horror and heartlessness assumed a new meaning inside these walls. For these 'Kalapani destitutes' only two forms of humanity existed, one inside and the other outside.some survived and some died and those are the ones that suffered and died became fully human.
A jail built by the natives, for the natives , the torture carried out also by the natives and manned by a handful of Britishers. It has no dormitory and only cells giving it its name of cellular jail.

The jail stands on a small hillock at the centre of the city. At the entrance which use to house the administrative building has been converted into a museum showcasing a gallery of our gallant freedom fighters who martyred their life, meticulously catalogued with their name, deeds, legal battles and snippets of their horror at the prison. Looking at those men you realize that they were men from a different genre with their ideals and morals incomprehensible by the present generation.They embraced death with equal zeal as life and strode the pathway to martyrdom with a song on their lips and their head held high to singularly achieve only one aim—freedom from the tyrannic British rule.One tale of perpetuated horror was really heartrending where the prisoners were forcefed to break their fast and the feeding tube erroneously was forcibly introduced into their lungs and milk was poured down leading to their untimely demise. Horror has no form only meaning and while it prevails nothing exists. The preserved pieces of the door locks, the prison Spartan cotton dresses, the iron chains and locks all fill you up with a sense of suppressed rage.
The main building has a central pillar with radiating seven rows of three storied buildings like spokes in a wheel with cells. Even the facing walls of adjacent buildings were sealed and plastered to complete the sense of abject desolation.All the floors can be accessed only from the central pillar which had a huge bell at the top which used to be tolled with every execution to the sadistic glee of the colonial rule.
A normal mind fails to register as to why it was built, how it was built but what seeps in your conscience is that it is a marvel in architectural horror where every brick which was planned and layered down was with the sole intention of inflicting sheer terror both physical and mental to the doomed occupants.
The most inhuman part of the construction was the last three cells where the prisoners condemned to death row spent their last few days of their life till their death sentences were ratified and from where they had a clear look at the gallows which till today is preserved.
One has to be a barbarous inhuman truculent human being to perpetuate such heinous acts against humanity which cannot be condemned.  

In the evening the jail lights with a resplendent “Light and sound show”:: Multiple shows starting at 05:30 pm of about an hour as a fitting tribute to the martyrs.. Wonderfully choreographed with stalwarts from Bollywood lending their vocal chords, eerily recollecting the horrific tales, the cruelty of the bygone era spoken from the eyes of a century old banyan tree which actually stood a mute spectator to the horrendous activity.it is a harrowing horrific tale of depraved humanity and the show transports you into that era, where by the time the show ends--leave aside goosebumps you thank God that you were born in an era where you have the most important gift of humanity--freedom.




Baratang limestone caves.
The journey entails three exhilarating breathtaking sojourns- first a convoy ride through the Jarawa inhabited protected tribal forest, a speedboat ride through the mangrove forests  and finally a trek to reach finally the sublime lime caves of Baratang.
It is preferable to leave Port Blair by 06:30Am and carry a packed breakfast for a two hour drive to Zirgatang from where vehicles leave in convoy at 09:00 AM( with a periodicity of every three hours). Be sure to carry your identity papers which is required at every step of the journey from making passes at the convoy till you hire a boat to Baratang.
The long convoys of vehicles are flagged off  exactly at 09:00 hrs for almost a 02 hour journey to Baratang through the tropical rain forests of Jarowa land. The vegetation is lush green of every hue except the green hue of envy and temptation. The wonderful flora of ferns and the trepidation of seeing a tribal in their natural habitat keeps you on the edge of your seats.Do not try to stop your vehicle, or even click a photograph even you come across one which is totally banned and at your own peril.
A three hour drive takes you to a place called Middle strait from where you disembark to catch a govt ferry ride across to  Baratang at the rate of Rs 6/- per person to catch the speed boats to Baratang limestone caves.The charges per person is Rs.450/- and be sure to carry your identity cards and it’s a scenic splendor as the boats with their outboard motors zips through the pristine mangrove forests for half an hour ride to the limestone jetty. A narrow unkempt jungle trail of about two km takes you to the 30 m long and narrow limestone caves.( Elders and people with joint and back problems—better avoid the trek because it’s not worth the pilgrimage at the cost of your health). The limestone cave is a natural invagination in the mountain face with white pristine limestone pillars of stalactite and stalagmite, narrow, dark hardly 30m in length where the schizophrenic imaginations of the torch yielding guides assume hallucinatory proportions where every artifact on the walls is compared to a Hindu deity.
Try to reach back to Baratang by 1300hrs so that you can relish a sumptuous road side fresh hot lunch-clean and hygienic at Rs.25/- per late with loads of affection for free and catch the last convoy back from Middle strait to PortBlair at 1500hrs still clinging to edge of your site with popping eyeballs if you could say ‘hi” to the endangered tribe of the Jarowas.        
  





Havelock Island

Port Blair to Havelock Island
The only way of transportation between these two island is through ferry –either Govt or a private catamaran. The Govt ferry leaves early in the morning at 06:30AM while the private ferry (Mak Cruise) leaves at a comfortable time of 08:15 am with charges ranging from Deluxe—850/ and Premium—975/ and takes about one and half hour to reach Havelock while the Govt ferry makes a detour to Neil island first before docking at Havelock.
The catamaran was a sturdy seafaring vessel and ticketing, check in and baggage handling is akin to any airport with comfortable deck chairs in sun shaded air conditioned cabins with all the basic amenities including a cafeteria with a friendly crew and a captain to make your voyage a memorable experience as it proudly glides through the green translucent water and dark green islands to discharge you at the Havelock Island precisely at the arrival time.

Havelock Island
We saw the sea here in its infinite glory, ethereal glow of moonlight and surreal rays of the rising and the setting sun.
Try to book a hotel on Vijaynagar beach. The sea is gentle, clean and with swaying palm fronds, dark green islands dotting the horizon and the Gods playing with infinite colours at the horizon during dusk and dawn gives an out of the world experience.
The main attraction of Havelock island is the Radhanagar beach. It’s about half an hour drive from the town centre and do not forget to carry your swimming costume. As you are about to enter the beach there are rows of fisherman eating shacks serving hot vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods especially exotic local fresh sea food made with homely touch, taste and love. These shacks also double as cloak room in case you have checked out of your hotel to catch the evening ferry. Order your choice of dishes before you head for the ocean because after 2-3 hrs of splashing around you would be famished to the core to wait for even a minute for the hot sumptuous meal. Another great attraction for the foodies are the rows of fruit chat venders who mix and match the seasonal fruits with chutneys to tingle your food buds to orgasmic frenzy.
The beach has decent changing rooms and decent waves breaking down on its neat silvery sand beach where every person despite his age and sex threw themselves in gay abandon at the tireless rolling swells, surfacing with the taste of salt water, blinking at the clear blue sky, and for a moment when you look around the world seems in perfect balance till the next mighty wave comes crashing down.
Hungry and exhilarated you trample back to the gastronomic delight of warm fresh fare awaiting you at the fisherman shacks vowing to do an encore every year but not before you had the largest and the sweetest tender coconut to finish your meal.      
The Kalapathar beach so named because the area is inundated with black stones is not as popular despite being a scenic one and is amust visit if you have time to spare. If you are an adventurous and extrafunloving couple scooty is the way to travel around this island.
Next when the time came to rid the ferry back to Port Blair- I promised that I will be back soon because “The cure for anything is salt water-sweat, tears or the sea.”






Neil Island
A place idyllic for people who requires –‘2G and 3G” deaddiction, a life beyond the screens with only BSNL and its dreary static filled voice calls is the available lifeline to the outside world. Here God wants you to come and enjoy his largesse minus the virtual world, the power point presentation he makes with various combination of land, sky and the sea with his paintbrush and infinite varied colours he uses from his palette makes you sit back and ruminate as to how life has pass├ęd you by, while the virtual world took a vice like grip on your real world.  
As soon as you land on the sun kissed landing pier you are awestruck by the sheer virgin blue colour of the sea lapping the pure white sun kissed beaches lined by swaying palm fronds. The sea water is crystal clear giving an aquarium like view of the underlying corals with its scenic flora and fauna.
The island is dotted with multitude of sea facing hotels and has basically three points of sightseeing within a short 5-7 km stretch. Neil Island can be reached either by the private ferry from Havelock or Govt ferry from Port Balir.
The natural bridge is an overhanging coral like outcrop amidst the ocean and be sure to carry proper footwear as the approach road is through corals, boulders and sharp rocks. But the view is unparalleled in exuberance except only by photo shopped celluloid.
The sunset point is mesmerizing although the approach road is equally sordid but you would willingly give your right thumb to witness the view of the coral green sea lapping up the orange ball of a sun as the sky becomes a huge palette of scintillating colors as God engraves the earth in a magical cartouche weaving his magical paintbrush in a colourful sweep and keeps you wanting for more.
The third beach is where the sports activities are primarily carried out and the main attraction are the glass bottomed boats (do not try it with a full belly unless you want to spill your breakfast out by constant bending) which you can hire at the rate of 400/- per person to venture out into the sea to have a look at the corals and he beautiful fishes in their natural habitats along with snorkeling and speed boating at an average cost of 300-400/- per person.
Neil to Havelock
Only Govt ferry runs between this two islands which leaves at  1245hrs and 1445 hrs. Sound your travel agent to book the 1245hrs  ferry as the check out time of the hotels are at 0900 hrs. The tickets are at first come, first serve basis with the 1245hrs ferry having a smaller capacity of 40 passengers and the 1445hrs having a capacity of 200 passengers with a fee of Rs.300/- per person. Another alternative is to check out of the hotel, enjoy the water sports and catch the 1445 hrs ferry for a half an hour to the scenic island of Havelock.