Facts Figures and Touchdown || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang
By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar
Havelock was there in about one and a half hours. It has a pretty and small Jetty where we disembarked. The luggage had been loaded separately and had been unloaded similarly. We collected it and walked towards the gate. Autos and taxis had lined up. Some hotels send their personal vehicle if you opt for one. Good eco buses ply regularly on the main roads and are the cheapest means of travel. We hired an auto and told him our destination. Cross-Bill Resorts on the Govindnagar beach. Also called beach number two, where most hotels are, is the nearest to the Jetty. It is hardly 2 km and the auto fare was a 100INR.
Our abode was a small cottage with a little sit out. This hotel has some 10 of them in two rows. It is run by a Bengali lady who came to the island years ago having been wedded to a school teacher residing here. We freshened up and yessssssssssss, headed to the beach, the property grounds practically merge into the beach.
The sand is white! The water is turquoise! And I am in the heavens! That is what I felt. The sun was yet to begin his goodbyes so we took a little stroll along the beach, Anoushrayan in the waters mostly, I was ecstatic but skeptical, not knowing the depths. We found that all the properties lined up on the Govindnagar beach had this unique facility for the guests to wander on the beach late night or early morning or just as and when one felt like.
We had hogged on bread and tea as soon as we had checked in, cause that was all that they had to offer apart from Maggi. Dinner was elaborate to compensate for the missed lunch. The beach beckoned us once again and it was almost an out of the world experience. Pitch dark, innumerable number of stars and planets twinkling in the clear sky above, the sound of water gently kissing the sands and swaying away, the shimmering lights from the boats anchored in what seemed like nothingness. I will never forget that night.
We finally hit the bed after about 24 hrs of leaving home to Anoushrayan’s delight, and our’s too.
The morning sea was calm and cold. Waterline had receded to reveal the rocks. We went wading in and in and in and in and yet the water was only till my waist and I am just 5ft. We could see the water sports guys taking the tourists quite far off into the sea for scuba diving and snorkeling, so the waters must be deeper there. Anoushrayan was very happy to be in this large open pool and so was I. Rajib played along for a while then went off, the salt in the water makes him sick. We made sandcastles on the beach, mine was better, so claimed Anoushrayan too. We two went back to the waters; it was a little difficult maneuvering through the rocks which by now had come out in the open completely. It was about 8ish and very low tide.
We had a sumptuous complimentary breakfast and headed on to exploring Havelock. The options were: auto / car / bus / hire scooter. When we set out from the cottage we had auto in mind, but it changed to hire scooter by the time we finished breakfast. The charges are 400 INR per scooter plus two ltrs of petrol (160 INR) and a refundable deposit of 4000 INR.
Now helmets are a must in Havelock otherwise 10000 INR fine for the rider, but Rajib’s is one the biggest heads on the planet; an Australian company had to manufacture a hat to match his head girth, they quoted that they are equipped to manufacture just one more size above his and they don’t keep these sizes as ready stock due to infrequent orders of these sizes coming in. Bottom line: getting a helmet for him is next to impossible. We got one though that had to be forced onto him and that broke the tender temple of his spectacle. He was left with one ‘temple’ throughout the rest of the Andaman trip, but for once he wasn’t grumpy about it!
Zoooooom we went, Anoushrayan as my pillion; all three knights armed with shooting gears and refreshments for the hunt. Destination: Elephanta Beach. The directions are quite clearly marked yet we stopped once or twice to be sure. There are two ways to reach this beach. In a ferry from the jetty that takes about 45 mnts or by road to a place called Krishna Nagar (which is well marked) that takes about a half-hour and then hike for 2 km through the jungle and mangrove flats.
We chose to hike or rather I chose to make us go hiking. Rajib doesn’t enjoy it at all. Anoushrayan detests walking of any kind anywhere. One needs to register their names phone numbers etc before setting out on foot so that they can be searched for if they don’t return in time. The folks do insist on guides and try to scare you into taking one but there is no such need.
Thus we started and got lost, only briefly though. There was a dwelling and the people showed us the right way. Thereafter we followed the road over the hill, up for a while then down to the broken bridge, passed the resting hut where we sat while coming back.
As the mud pathway made its way into the forest, the trees became tall and the vegetation dense. Remember Mirkwood (Hobbit lovers).
The terrain was a little hilly and muddy and did call for good boots. Through numerous ups and downs, some tad trickier and not for the faint-hearted, we trecked.
And reached the flats.
Mangroves and her domiciles, the hermit crabs, mudskippers and countless other tiny creatures posed for us.
A bend there and through a thicket of mangrove we popped on to the beach. Ah! the shades of blue she wears are beyond envy, and her beach skirting is sparkling white. This part of the beach was quite deserted.
The action was concentrated where the water sports were.
We could see parasailing happening far into the sea on a boat.
Anoushrayan wanted to play in the waters but we were running out of time and also I didn’t want him to get too much wet.
Rajib caught a ghost crab, it is completely white and in the white sands moves like a spirit; we made it a model.
Couple of shots and we started the return journey. We also met a human on the mudflats, while trying to observe a mudskipper; Ankit from Delhi was a solo traveler with a keen eye but without a camera. He spotted a monitor lizard and a red back lizard, and I captured them though not so well.
We got lost again on the way back but I found the path before Rajib could hit the panic button. Though not interested in walking Anoushrayan is quite enthusiastic if the road has a little adventure to offer, so he played a good sport.
We rushed to Radhanagar beach – the one which has made its way into the top 10 beaches of the world. But we had to stop for food before we hit the beach and guess where we thought of flaunting our hard-earned painstakingly saved money? At the Taj. But we were not the only ones flaunting, The Taj Exotica Resort and Spa occupies a whopping 46 acres of land!
We ate prawns curry, rice and a crab (Anoushrayan called it a fortune crab, as it was worth a small fortune to him – INR 5000/-). The huge crabs are brought from Diglipur in north Andamans. Most of them board a ship to go overseas and a few adorn the local exotic dining facilities. We didn’t find crabs in the usual restaurants.
After the luncheon, it was time to hit the famous beach. The Taj staff showed us a short cut and we arrived onto the glorious beach through a tiny opening amongst the thicket of the tropical rain forest trees. What one can’t get enough of is this blue and white. It kind of never gets old. And did I miss the green? So its the greens of the tropics, the sparkling white of the sands and the blues of the open ocean, the true beauty is hard to capture on any media, it is only for the eyes to behold and the heart to make elephant legs with sand.
We waited to catch the sunset, caught it, and then ran back to our scooters. It gets dark within half an hour of the sunset and we were to drive at least 45 mnts to reach the main market area. The road didn’t have much light and was narrow with face to face driving. We managed, driving for decades now. It could be our alternate profession.
Havelock Market is a lively place, with a big ‘mandi’ at its heart where vegetables. fish, meat and all kinds of vendors put their wares on display. The footfall is heavy and the place is ablaze with activity. There are good snacking options and a few shops that sell handicrafts and knickknacks.
We went off to our resort after getting refreshed and hanging around for a while. Again the mystique home beach beckoned us and after dinner, we hit the bed relaxing after the day’s toil.
Now came the last day on Havelock, a fine morning to wake up to. There is plenty of space to dry clothes. We were mostly packed except for the wet clothes which we let there be to collected later after our morning odyssey.
The plan was to walk down the Govindnagar beach to the Vijaynagar beach which has no separate demarcation except that on Vijaynagar beach one encounters huge ‘Mahua’ trees that seem to have been beckoned by the blue waters and were hurriedly reaching out to it. The Vijaynagar beach continues on to Kala Pathar beach but the stretch is interlaced with rocks and is devoid of any shade.
After breakfast, we started walking and disturbed many a crab small and bright who were trying to go about their daily business.
The Mahua trees provide good shade to walk under or sit on to rest for a while.
We met a few indigenous birds who did not agree to pose for us, it being a rush hour for them. We walked for about 15 mnts and reached the end of the Mahua tree line.
We then went inshore into a property, Rajib was skeptical about trespassing but as the properties have no borders with the beach and none have cared to keep any demarcated roads, we pretty much passed unnoticed.
Once on the main road, we took an auto to kala pathar beach and saw many enticing restaurants and properties and also plantations on the way. The Kala Pathar beach was full of life forms mostly humans and dogs as this was a bathing beach, though only in a designated area and the coast guard were very vigilant. We asked the auto to be back in an hour which he agreed to and took off.
Loading ourselves with coconut water and pulp we walked for a while on the tar road that went beyond the beach and up on a hill. We came across a restaurant with an interesting name: “The Flying Elephant” and turned around to head to the beach.
Since we were to leave by a catamaran that afternoon we didn’t want to get our clothes wet, so we just walked on to find more Mahua trees trying to reach the blue across the white, some perished on the way.
We came back after a long refreshing walk, dipped our feet in the Havelock sea for the last time but didn’t find our auto. We waited for a while and boarded a bus that came our way as we were on a tight schedule, all the while feeling guilty about the payment that was due to the auto.
Back at the resort, I packed the remaining clothing which had dried by then and was brooding over a means of transport to go to the jetty, when an auto came looking for us. He had been sent by his friend, our auto guy, who had got caught up in something. I could not have been happier. He agreed to drop us to a restaurant adjacent to the Jetty and we paid him all the dues.
Lunch was good and tasty and different but it didn’t go well with my stomach and I gave it all to the waste bag while riding the catamaran back to Port Blair. Anoushrayan and most of our co-passengers preferred Bollywood song videos over the panorama of the setting sun over the horizon.
We reached Port Blair almost at sundown. Sanju had called while we were still at the sea and it felt good to see him at the Jetty. He dropped us at our next abode The Shelter Hotel.
The next two days we tried to take a deeper look into Port Blair. Stay tuned for our finds.