Tuesday , January 24 2017
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Backpacking in the Andaman Monsoon!

 

Disclaimer : Strictly unplanned bachelors trip ! Though I pen down my experiences here, there is a strong suggestion to take up travel packages from iTraveller for a chaos-free trip.

Wake Up Time!

It was close to 4:30 am, when I woke up. I had slept rather well in a bunker bed by the chaotic streets of Aberdeen Bazaar. My friend and I woke up to find an auto rikshaw by the street, who would transport us to the DSS(Directorate of Shipping Services), from where paradise would be a few hours only. We sleepily boarded the auto and reached the dredging unit of Port Blair’s ship station. It was pleasantly chill at 5 in the morning, and looking at the wet cemented floor, we could sense that the monsoon was making the kill slowly. We had come right out of the Indian summer in Chennai, into the Andamans a day back, and were pleasantly surprised to find salubrious weather, a huge relief from the sticky humid weather of Chennai. We travelled since Wiki Travel said so, in a picture about a beautiful place called Radhanagar Beach. We saw the image at 8 pm, and were on the plane from Chennai to Port Blair next morning and found ourself at 7 am in PortBlair, hiking an auto for a ride. Since we had not planned our trip, we had missed the ship to Paradise, and had to come the next day and that’s where we were now.

On the ‘Ramanujam’

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The ‘Ramanujam’, sets sail slowly on the Indian Ocean, even as the Cumulo-nimbus clouds, blocked the sun from wishing us a safe trip in the high seas. Boarding the ship, we saw a bunch of can-like items and on looking closely, we figured out that they were life jackets. Did we have enough for everyone aboard? That question becomes likely after watching the Titanic, and given it’s the start of the monsoon season in the Andamans, I am told that ships are usually cancelled since the seas get rough in the monsoons. The ship has probably gone a few knots, when I spot mountains in the background, having clouds settling over them. There is a chill gripping the air, and singing a lullabye to most on the ship, that most of us are catching a few winks, an hour, right after we have woken up. The ship has mostly sitting seats, and a few sofa like seats, and since the crowd isn’t full on the ship, some people have already laid themselves flat on the sofa.

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The ‘Ramanujam’ as it leaves a trail of bluish-white formations in the water through its propeller, is detecting rough weather ahead. There are dark clouds in the distance that seem to be converging at some far off point, and we are told its raining some distance away. I am enjoying the breeze on the ship, and I am totally fine with the weather playing spoilsport for a while, as long as we reach our scheduled paradise. The weather stays like that and it clears in a while, as we see Dolphins jumping in mid sea near our ship. I switch back mentally to the movie ‘Titanic’ because of the dolphins jumping near the ship and the movie ‘The Beach’ since we go in search of a paradise, escaping the Indian summer. Its been an hour since I switched back, as I have fallen asleep, and I detect noise from people around, which tells me that this is the unrest people usually have when the destination is near.

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Paradise- ‘Are We There Yet?’

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We reach the port of Havelock Island, where the dock is near greenish waters, flanking the white sand on the beach, interspersed with little mangroves and hills in the distance. We get down and take a whole 15 minutes to appreciate the fact that we are in paradise. A Maruti van offers us a ride to Radha Nagar beach for 1000 Rs. My friend and I look at each other, and our state of paralysis of decision-making is interrupted by a swerving bus that honks at us, urging us to make way for the bus to park. We are told that this is the only public transport option, and a few locals get in. We ask if it goes to any beach, and the conductor says it goes to Radhanagar Beach and at 6 rupees a ticket.

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We gladly get in, and feel comfortable in the rickety bus, despite the rain showering down our windows. The monsoon smell and the greenery around keep us interested in peeping outside the window and enjoying the rains. My friend says it looks like Kerala. I observe that people speak Tamil and Bengali in the bus. Its starting to be a microcosm of cultures, with my friend adding the 4th angle to the diversity, coming from Gurgaon. The Yellow and Red bus, snakes through roads meant for one vehicle with consummate ease. There is no such thing called a traffic jam, nor are there sounds of honking, and to add to this picture of peace, we also have extensive greenery, freshly washed by the rains.

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There are banana plantations all over, and the conductor asks us where are we planning to stay? My friend and I again give each other a blank expression, and spotting that we are clueless, he offers us a tip to get down a stop ahead of the Radhanagar Beach bus stop. He points to a hut, and says that these are good places for travellers like us. We go in and check out. There’s no fan in the wooden cottage which is a metre or so above the ground, and covered on all sides by trees and leafy vegetation’s. Actually there’s no power here at all. At 150 Rupees a night, it offers us a place to keep our luggage and hit the beach. We do just that.

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The Beach and endless cups of Chai

Laptops, Mobiles and clothes are abandoned in the preserve of our ‘middle-of-nowhere’ hut, and we walk it to the beach in the rains.

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The beach is covered in a fine layer of white sand, flanked by tall trees that lead to a forest on one side, and has the Indian ocean in a shade of green. If you get closer the water is more clearer, but has a tow that it creates before it hits the coast. We play in the water for more than a couple of hours, before hunger reminds us that we need to eat in paradise as well.
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We walk over to the nearby ‘Barefoot’ resort, even as the clouds above us threaten to break the surreal scenery that surrounds us. We walk through the little forest to get seated at the low seats, that packs in a hippie vibe at the Barefoot resort. The dim light are on, and I go on to pick a couple of books from their library. We scan through their menu, and figure out that their prices are far too expensive for back pack travellers like us. The cheapest item on the menu is the tea, which is as expensive as a full course meal back in Chennai. We look at the forks and the spoons and smile at them knowing fully well, that our budgets don’t allow too much cuddling with them in our mouth.

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We order a pot of tea, and bask into staring at the monsoon, playing to a rhythm as we sip tea for the next hour or so. The rains are done, and we’ve been at the resort, drinking tea for well over 90 minutes.  We feel hungry, so decide to take another stab at the menu card, and we order a coupe of special omlettes and the server asks if we want some extra tea. We lap up some more tea to go with the omlettes, as we see the darkness that envelopes the resort. We think its 6 pm, but its only 2 pm now. In an hour, the rain clears, and we pack our bags, and start the walk back, to stare at the azure sea in between the trees. We find our way back to the road leading to the beach, and get back to our room.

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Nightlife!

The whole town has shut by 4 pm, and this time, its seriously dark. Our cottages owner just provides rooms. There’s no food around, unless you’d like to cook yourself. Despite knowing that there’s nothing around, we decide to not plan for the evening dinner right away. Its pouring heavily and we are just hoping that the cottages don’t get blown away. In between, the urge to offload rubbish in my intestines, takes me in the rains to figure that the common bathroom doesn’t have a door, and one has to  pre-arrange for water before you crouch your hips to release your bodily waste. I have to go out in the rains, fill a bucket from the larger bucket and get back to clean myself. I wanted to just go to the loo, but I have now had a bath itself in the rains. The nightlife has just begun!

We lie down, trying to talk to each other, and speak for hours into the evening. Its raining heavily and we have little chances of finding anything for dinner. A seller sold us some Jhalmudi (Bhelpuri in Bengali) as we made our way back earlier in the evening. That  sole item becomes our dinner for the night, as we sleep early by about 11 pm.

More Chai and Conversations

We wake up in time for the first bus to get to the jetty for breakfast since we reason that there’s definitely more civilization around. We find a small tea shop, and yesterday’s newspaper and we start to sip and chat with the tea shop owner on whether he’s following the IPL.

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We meet a long term traveller and he tells us about his travel itinerary.  It seems extremely seducing to forget that we had a flight back. As much as it is raining, our spirits aren’t dampened, as we are just enjoying the chai and the conversations. We’ve been having a breakfast from 6 am lasting till brunch at the Tea Shop, and we’ve probably gulped 10 glasses of tea, a few samosas and a few chapattis.

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We’d love to go back to Radhanagar and have a crack at exploring the island more, but we have a boat back today, and its raining heavily. The 11 am ship has been cancelled, so we decide to hang around the tea shop till about 3 pm, till the next ferry hopefully comes.

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4 hours passes by extremely quickly, as we get an auto driver to drive us through the jungle and show us a desolate beach. He takes us to Kala Pathar Beach, and we are mesmerized by the blue waters in stark contrast to the greens of the Radhanagar Beach. How can two sides of the same island have so different beaches, we wonder.

We sleep, we run into the sea, and we even attempt to swim a bit. I lose my spectacles nearly in the water, before the auto driver jumped into help me discover it. Before we know it, its 2:45 pm, and we rush back to the jetty to find that the weather has cleared and our ship is ready for us. Paradise will be conquered when I have more time and money to come back to Havelock. For now, I just have to be content drinking chai, eating Jhal Mudi, staring at the rain, and making mental notes of the little paradise we have explored in the last 36 hours.

Even though it’s a short time, our senses get teleported to a different world. Its similar to dreaming and not wanting to get up in the morning, but obviously its in a real life setting. Backpacking without an agenda, helps you appreciate the nature that you live beside and makes you full of gratitude towards the finer things in life, because you see life through a different prism. It doesn’t matter that you spend just 48 hours in this setting, pay over 13,000 Rs for a quick trip, it doesn’t matter that you came in the monsoons. What matters is the memories you take back, the fact that your mind just opened up after being cocooned at work and the fact that you go back feeling the awe that’s usually missing in the cities. A quick monsoon trip, without an agenda never hurts.

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To get an awesome bachelor life trip, the above sounds good, however when you travel on romantic trip or a family vacation, never take this risk, plan it with iTraveller and just enjoy your trip. Experience speaks ! From Kartik Kannan. Visit www.kachutravel.blogspot.in to read more of Kartik’s blogs.

For more details on travel packages , pls visit our website @iTraveller website.

Your trip ! Your way !

About Kartik Kannan

A travel writer, who loves the spirit of exploring and understanding people,customs and culture. Places just happen to be the dots that connects all these experiences.

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