I left my heart in Andamans. Yes, for this reason, I go back to this emerald isles again and again. And every time I get mesmerised by its enchanting charms. Nature has bestowed this archipelago with bountiful wealth. I want to soak every bit of myself in the humid air, in the moist of the rainforest, in the gushing sweet water springs and in the salty seas.
One can compare Andamans to any other pristine beaches from around the world. But to me, it’s a special place, very dear to me. Friends often question – Again Andamans? I gladly answer yes. This is the place very known to me but yet so mysterious which I like to explore. So on a few days in hand, we just planned to revisit Andamans. My husband gets equally excited with the name of this place. So happily again we started off to our very known land in the infamous ‘kalapani’.
The weather in the islands is always whimsical. While booking our tickets the weather forecast showed bright and clear days with no sign of rains. But the turbulence on the flight was the precursor of the prevailing weather conditions. We landed to be welcomed by pitter patter rain drops and a gloomy sky. The later part of the day had frequent heavy showers. This rain was the outcome of the sudden depression in the Bay of Bengal.
We were saddened by this weather update and kept our movement limited within Port Blair for an initial couple of days. Also had to cut down our tour plans to other islands due to the resulting shortage of time. I will cover various locations in separate posts as I have so much to share about my beloved Isles. I will start off with my dearest Little Andaman.
This rough weather and the weekend gave us a tough fight to travel to Hut Bay. The secretariat was closed so applications for Helicopter tickets could not be made. We opted for the ship to save our remaining days of the trip. Now, the previously sailing larger ship named MV Samsun was taken off duty. On our previous trip, we sailed on MV Samsun (a Turkish ship, on lease for two years). Read my previous experience in Andamans. This time it was a much smaller ship named MV Bharat Seema. We travellers among the local passengers were like aliens. Every person cast a strange look on us.
On boarding the ship we were in look for the seat numbers printed on our tickets, little to know that this is just a number. By that time all the seats were taken. We could hardly manage two seats in the hottest corner of the ship with no fans and any source of air circulation. This being a night trip people managed to spread their sheet on the floor to lie down. Some occupied a full seat to get a comfy sleep while we both hardly managed in a single seat. With the passing time and on entering the deep, rough sea the rolling started. While the place was even getting warmer. All my fellow passengers in their deepest slumber, only me awake like an owl.
I could hardly manage to be seated there. I was feeling sick and nauseous. I climbed up to the deck. Now this was a very different, awe-inspiring moment of my life. The dark wavy sea below with the even darker sky above and me alone in this engulfing darkness with the meek light from the shaft of the ship. The cool breeze was soothing but the dark roaring sea and the feeling of lonesomeness were giving me goosebumps. Suddenly an on-duty crew member of the ship came around to strike up a conversation. His presence was not very welcomed and neither comfortable. So I managed to cut the discussion and made frequent trips to the seating area and again back to the deck.
My eyes were red and tired of waking the long night. So much relieved to see the darkness gradually fading away to the mild light of a bright new day. I was happy to be back to my very own Hut Bay. This small island has a strange cord the resonates with my feelings. Everything here seems to be very close to me. On reaching our guest house, to our surprise the staffs there, recognised us and allotted us the same room where we stayed two years back.
We were here to revisit the known places and to discover the unknown. The weather Gods were also content to gift us with a bright sunny day after a couple of days of heavy shower in Port Blair. After hiring a bike our expedition began with the Ramakrishnapur Dam. With a straight single main road traversing through the island, the bus stops or places are named as numbers. The number of kilometre from the starting point, which is the jetty. The quaint green surrounding through the betel nut plantation is at 18 (remember the number I just mentioned). This is a man-made reservoir for rainwater harvesting.
The feel of laid-back countryside life is so visible here. The population mostly comprises of the Bangladesh refugees who were given settlement here by the Government during 1971 and some even before that. The economy is mainly based on vast betel nut, coconut or palm plantation. I was surprised to hear about the huge annual financial turnover. It was good to see people happily settled after having to flee from their motherland. Now thriving and flourishing in this land which is now their home.
Our trip this time was quite a lot of bird watching too. I better cover it in a separate post so as not to get this post overcrowded with pictures I like to share. This small island hugely affected during the Tsunami has pulled up the courage to stand up straight again. Although the sign of the devastation is still present in many parts of the island and in the nightmarish memories of the survivors. Various measures and an alarming system have been in work since then. People still live under the fear of such sudden natural calamity. When the two of us stood by the huge waves in the serene Butler Bay beach every time I was overwhelmed and awed by the creations of nature. With no human around us and the roaring sound of the huge waves in this solitary beach gave me a strange feeling. We humans are so feeble, these giant waves can engulf and wash us away anytime in the form of Tsunami. I could visualise the terrifying scene of the Tsunami waves.
Let’s get back to the cheerful topic of the other beautiful places we travelled here. On our last visit, we couldn’t make out to the lighthouse. So this time my husband had to make it possible to get rid of my nagging and cribbing. He was little skeptical about the safety while riding through the narrow trail within the dense forest. Long and rough trail with no human around we were on to some unknown. At times the dense foliage made the surrounding very dark and frightful. We met a guy walking back on the same track. On enquiring, he showed us the way and warned us that this area often frequented by salt water crocodile. This added to our anguish.
As instructed we reached the spot of a huge fallen tree. From there we had to ride over the beach. With the low tide, the water has receded and made it possible to ride by the wet sand nearest to the waves. Here we could see few fishermen on their daily hunt, mostly Nicobarese (few locals call them “pani ka keeda” meaning aquatic organism, as they know so much about the sea). On further enquiring, they showed us to go ahead for few more kilometres covering three more curves of the shoreline. At times the sand was soft and we had to push the bike through it. Then again there was a spot where the fallen trees lied over the available area beside the water. Here we pushed the bike in the forest within the soft sand and protruding mangrove roots to come out from the other side. Quite a lot of toiling work to get rewarded by the sight of the lighthouse.
The enclosure of this lighthouse also houses a coast guard radar. This is guarded by few welcoming coast guard staffs. On approaching them they smilingly offered us water and fried fish which they were having as a midday snack. Leading a tough life here – with no human contact and non-availability of food items. As travelling daily through the forest, to the market so far is time and resource consuming. They make their food from the resources available there. Hence, the fishes. One staff member accompanied us to the top of the tower. He said he climbs to the top once daily to get the connectivity to make a phone call back home. We were shocked and felt blessed for our easy life.
The aerial view of the surrounding was breathtaking. It was worth the effort taken. I guess I must not spend any words rather my pictures shall speak the rest to describe the heavenly beauty. Our skepticism and our pain of the struggle to reach here has vanished in a moment. This 41 mts high lighthouse was one-fourth under the water during the Tsunami. The enclosing walls the solar panels and every other thing barring the sidewise placed quarters were damaged.
The thrill of this new adventurous experience and the prize of beauty won made our return much faster and easier. There were more of wonders to surprise us yet. The nearby water lily ponds were the same old delightful spot beyond which we discovered a new spot. A waterfall within the forest. A messy walk in the soft muddy soil to reach a picture perfect waterfall within the forest. Some call it the spring water while the others claim it to be the water from the dam far away.
This time we did not jump across the wall to go to the Chattan beach to see the sunrise, as we did on our last visit. I remember how the main entrance of the guest house was locked and no keeper around to open the gate. So to save our day we did jump across the wall. The beach was once a coral reef. They died long ago due to various reasons including human intervention. The good thing is there are signs of new coral colonies. Hope they survive and thrive well.
The long main road was our home – morning until late evening we used to ride up and down gasping in amazement of the beauty all around. The road running parallel to the sea sometimes too close and at times little far. The Kalapathar beach is a rocky beach with the beautiful landscape of strange rock formation by the shore. We were late, it was almost dark and we were not allowed more than five minutes in this place which is considered dangerous. It is heard that a few days ago a woman was washed away by the violent waves striking the rocks.
Even after I tried hard, I could not manage to keep my post short. This trip is so special to me that I can’t afford to miss any detail. It was the farewell time. I kept my fingers crossed wishing to get helicopter tickets to Port Blair. I didn’t want to have same sailing experience. We were lucky enough we got the tickets. The remaining few hours we decided to stop by the white surf waterfall which we skipped till now. We were immensely lucky to spot some interesting wildlife this time. Two reptiles basking in the sun. One Green Bronzeback snake and one Andaman Skink. It was similar to a baby monitor lizard. This time the waterfall had more water than on our previous visit.
My heart was filled with contentment after visiting all the old and few new spots. Still, my heart aches to bid farewell to Little Andaman. I experience an unusual sense of glory and mirth whenever I recollect the memories of my visit. And I feel I truly left my heart there.