Saturday, March 15, 2008

An island… and a man – 1

As a part of the traditional post-CRP pre-convocation vacation, a bunch of us went to a tiny ignored part of India. And that week turned out to be one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. Two reasons – the place and the people.

THE PLACE
As our flight started descending on our destination the view from the tiny windows was breathtaking. It seemed like the God has dropped little pieces of heaven on earth. The little of bunch of islands that were together called the Andaman Islands was indeed welcoming. A quick ride to our hotel, a few hours of sleep, lunch and then we were finally ready for our first beach.

10 mins by car, we reached Corbyn’s Cove. A cozy beach tucked in to the far end of Port Blair. The water seemed like it was calling out to me. And when I stepped in to it, it was ice cold. Did I need a better reason to stay in it? I don’t know how to swim, but that made no difference. Just splashing around was more than sufficient. But we had to leave at some point and so we made our way to the Cellular Jail for the ‘Light and Sound show’. I was looking forward to roaming around the premises, peeping in to the cells and in the meanwhile discovering the story of ‘Kaala Pani’. But instead, we were made to sit and listen to Om Puri narrating the story as a peepal tree, in orthodox hindi. My best efforts of following the narrative were of no use, the nap was refreshing though. Some dinner at the dingy little Gagan Hotel followed by shopping meant that we were tired enough to sleep well through the night.

We started Day 2 by taking a boat to Havelock Island. The ride itself was fun! Staring at endless water around you makes one pensive (and others sea-sick). But even after loads of snaps, no monster popping out of the ocean and yet, no land in sight, the ride got a little boring. But we did reach Havelock at the end, and the journey seemed worth it. Crystal clear water at the harbour was just a teaser. A 30 min ride in a dinghy took us to Elephant Island beach. And wow! The tsunami apparently left only a fraction of the beach intact and yet, what a place! Clean sand, clear water, a cool breeze… boats bumping in to each other, huge trees providing the much needed shade. Just floating around, looking at the blue cloudless sky, it was the best beach I’d ever been too. (At that point I thought nothing could beat it, I was to be shocked later). And then God proved His knack for beauty in the smallest things on earth. We went snorkeling. Fascinating fish, colourful corals, stunning stones… I discovered previously unseen shades, colours, shapes! I stepped on live corals, touched orange fish… it was a dream in slow motion. Too bad it had to end.

As I had a lip-smacking lunch at a small place called ‘Nala’s Kingdom’, I thought to myself that the highlight of the trip was surely over. But this was before we went to Radhanagar beach. Known for its sunset, this beach was selected by TIME magazine in 2004 as the best beach in Asia. And it was mind-blowing! Too scared to be a blemish on the perfect shoreline, I couldn’t convince myself to get into water. A never ending walk next to the bluish-green water, waves tickling my ankles, beautiful sand patterns, a hundred tiny crabs running around my feet, an elephant which for once didn’t look that majestic next to the magnificent beach, a green forest encircling the coastline, smooth white sand, turning around just in time to see the sun disappearing behind some clouds… heaven cannot be better than this! No way! I had to return, come back here once more…

… And I did. The next morning some of us ditched scuba-diving plans and the beach in front of our resort to come back to Radhanagar beach. Lying down on the sand, reading a book, chatting up with friends and then I couldn’t resist it any more. The water was fantastic! Playing 20 questions as the waves hit us with amazing consistency was simply brilliant! I don’t know how long we were there, I don’t care. That place made me genuinely happy. No worries, no issues. Quite simply, heaven on earth!

We had to leave Havelock that night. Dinner at Gagan, a late night walk next to the shore, yet nothing could get rid of the memories of a still perfect shoreline in my head. The next morning we visited Ross Island (of interesting historical significance), Viper Island (of a building, boredom and nothing else) and a beach (with some name, dirty water and mafia). Perhaps the best part of the day was walking a mile at night looking into the sea. On the penultimate day we went shopping, looking at a drab aquarium skipped several other non-water places. The last day was interesting though.

We got up at 3 in the morning, having been promised of a scary ride through a tribal reserve. Errrm, we saw 3 tribals looking at us with such indifference that it hurt my little ego. And then we had to cross over in a huge boat to go to the next island. Some of us could have swum faster, but the area was apparently ‘crocodile-infested’. Errrm, we didn’t see a single fish. An interesting motorboat ride through canvassing mangroves lead us to see some sterile limestone caves. After which was supposed to be the ultimate destination – active-mud volcano! We trekked our way to the site, only to see a bucketful of cold mud and the occasional plop of a mud-bubble. Yeah yeah! Not so much of a great day! That’s what we thought, until… you have to read this in the second part of this post! Just have to!

We wrapped up the trip by a second visit to Corbyn’s cove where we ran around playing chain. Our last dinner at Gagan, a good night’s sleep and the next morning we were on a flight again, looking at the same islands. As I sat back in my seat, I thought of the good times. My most memorable moment though had to be sitting on a bench at the edge of Dolphin resort at Havelock with a friend, waves crashing at our feet, a conversation about the past, the future and innumerable bollywood beach songs.

Go to Andaman… someday! You might just run in to me, because I’m definitely going back.

3 comments:

Devika said...

Second part of post, where?

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

I was there in January, loved it, but was a little underwhelmed by Elephant Beach. Radhanagar for mine.

J.A.P.

AC said...

Wow... this is one of the places I desperately want to visit in India (the others being Lakshadweep, Ladakh and Sikkim), but haven't been able to yet :(