Day 5 – Havelock Island


What a day! What a rare day! Ever since we came to these islands, it had been raining… all the time. For the first time in days, the sun was out and all the colours changed. We reached the port early in the morning to board the boat (MV Rani Lakshmi) that will take us to Havelock via Neil Island.

The map of Havelock will put my later ramblings into a lucid context. I hope!

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Boats lined up on the docks at Port Blair. All of them are run by the government and are subsidised for the locals. While we paid Rs 235 per head for the journey from Port Blair to Havelock, for locals its Rs 25.

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Jetty lights against the clear blue sky!

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Thats the colour of the sea when the sun is shining. Port Blair recedes to the distance as the boat starts its eastward crawl towards Neil and Havelock

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North Bay. The entire region is surrounded with coral reefs and forms the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. When you look at the back-side of a Rs 20 note, you will see an island with lots of coconut trees and a lighthouse. Thats the north bay island and the lighthouse (which is just left of  this photo’s left limit) is known as Wandoor.

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The seating area of the boat.

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Once the boat reached the high seas, there was nothing to do on the deck so i sat down and caught up with a couple of episodes of SCRUBS. The photograph was taken by ma while i was busy in the aforementioned fashion.

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The deep, blue sea!

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The boat makes the first stop at Neil Island. On the background is one of Neil’s beaches while the lighthouse in the foreground, a tiny lighthouse marks a coral reef so that the ships and bigger boats like the one we were on,  stay clear.

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That, they say is the real colour of the sea around here.

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These pillars too, mark the coral reefs. All these pics were taken when the boat was approaching Neil jetty.

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One more

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Men relax on the jetty, suspended above the glassy waters.

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Boats around the Neil island shoreline

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The jetty at Neil Island

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While you wait for the boat to pick up and drop passengers and begin the next leg of the journey towards Havelock, you can chill with some coconut water at the jetty

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or with some paan and cigarettes!

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The sea, painted a million shades of blue!

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Approaching Havelock

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Near the Havelock Jetty. Look at how crystal clear the water is

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What can i say!

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This is at the jetty. All these fishes were in a large school and were circling around the jetty pillars.

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And then there were smaller fishes!

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Just like people have cars in cities, people in Havelock and other islands have boats and this is how they park them!

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Thats the view we enjoyed sitting at our resort!

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The wall was put up so that the high tide water cannot rush in.

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Why do people rave about Thailand so much. Are they not aware of these places in India itself?

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The resort lawns

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There you go! half a day of sunny bliss coming to an end. The rain clouds start rolling in… that too when i had just finished renting an Enfield! Damn you rains!

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Thats the red Bullet i rented. It was called Red Bull for the day!

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And thats Andaman’s finest Brew! The fact is, if you are wet and you are sitting in a shack on the beach and waiting for your shirt to dry, any brew is good brew!

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Havelock’s prime attraction – Radhanagar Beach. This 3 km long stretch of white sand is considered to be one of the best in the world.

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And it attracts not only loud Bengali tourist and bikini-clad westerners, but also the canines.

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I wish i knew how to swim…i wish i knew how to surf!

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Have you ever seen a beach this large so empty?

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Just to stress on the point i just made.

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framed with forests…

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Driftwood on the beach

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HA HA HA! Crabs are the best. These little fellows are barely two inches across. Whenever the waves go back, they appear for seconds, only to disappear into the sand in the wink of an eye. If you happen to catch one of them, like i did, they just play dead! the moment you let them off your hand, schoom…they are off!

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The beauty of this beach! The trees look as if they have been planted according to a plan. They grow naturally in a neat row across the length of the beach

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Just like this…

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And like this…

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At times there are rocks that jut into the sea. The rocks are covered with algae and they can be very slippery. I found out the hard way and to this day, more than a week after i am back, there is still a bluish black patch on my butt!

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The sand in this stretch of the beach was rather soft. Your entire foot disappears with every step.

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Ma being a little girl!

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I like this pic!

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The sun says Good Bye!

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I will definitely come back here one day. May that day be very soon and may the company be right!

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Day 4 – Baratang and back to Port Blair


We started from Rangat at the crack of the dawn, as usual. the destination of the day is the limestone cave at Baratang Island – the same place where we had the first ferry crossing just the day before. Only that from the jetty we take speedboats and begin the 40 km ride through the creeks to reach the other side of the island where the cave is located.

Ma and baba seem prepared for the worst

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and i did too, only with a frown:

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The creek at Baratamg. Apparantly they are full of saltwater crocs.

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More traffic on the other side of the creek. The big boat in the distance is the ferry.

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Lifejacket for protection against drowning and dupatta for protection against cold and wind-induced bad hair. Smaart baay, Rabart!

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From the wide creek, the boat took a turn into the narrow mangrove channel. at times the channel was so narrow that the sides of the boat kept bumping into the roots.

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From the jetty, we had to walk for like a kilometre to get to the cave. First, the road took us through the jungles

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Our guide and his brother leading a group of enthusiastic travellers

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More forest roads:

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After some time, things started to rock! i mean the surroundings started getting rockier… and indication of the proximity to the cave.

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A narrow road passes between the sentinel rocks.

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And then there was a narrow bridge over a narrow brook.

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I was tired of no one clicking my pics. So i stood in the middle of the ‘bridge’ till ma snapped one.

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Gone…

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Going…

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Gone!

Entering the foreboding limestone caves. The inside was pitch dark. The guide was carrying an emergency lamp, the only light source once you are in.

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And these, my dear friend, are the rock formations inside the cave. Over thousands of years, water had been dripping down giving rise to rocks of curious shapes. they are in a process of constant growth, sometimes they grow and change so rapidly that the change is discernable even within a few years.

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Various chemicals in the water adds various ishades of colours to the rocks. The colours are not completely understandable as most of the photographs inside the caves were to point to or focus on.

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And yes, it can be very claustrophobic

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A stalactite

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From a wide and lofty opening, the cave gradually goes narrower and narrower and the rocks weirder.

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And there is ma, shouting at the rocks, apparantly. Look at the expression of fear on baba’s face. The cave does weird things to your psychy.

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A stalactite descends from the woof while a stalagmite rises from the floor.. or is it the other way round? whatever… one day they will meet and form a pillar!

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Leaving the caves. The rocks on the right looks like a series of faces carves on the walls.

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The amazing bamboo forest. Spot the bench in the lower right corner? We sat there for a while nursing the straining legs

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Back on the road and exhaustion takes over. This is when the car stopped at the forest checkpost at Jarbatang.

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Who knew there was so much more to the Andamans than just sand and surf?

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Of course there are deserted roads in the middle of thick forests where your car suddenly breaks down, miles away from humanity. The driver went off to the next town, 28 kms away to find us another vehicle while we waited.

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Rampwalking in the forest. What people would do to pass two hours!

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Obviously Baba cant do rampwalk, so he just took a stroll

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and then stopped to admire the lush foliage!

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Finally back in Port Blair. The runway of the town’s airport is to the right. They built two parallal roads – used one for the cars and buses and the other for Airbuses!

lol

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Funny breed of local poultry. Looks like a cross between chicken and turkey to me. Whatever it is, it’s bound to be tasty!

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A pillar erected in 1914 in memory of the few residents of the islands who died fighting in the First World War for a country, they or their descendants would never set foot in.

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Day 3 – Dighlipur to Rangat


Today, i shall take you from Dighlipur where we halted the previous night to Rangat where we will spend this night. On the way we visit the Ross and Smith islands of the coast of Dighlipur. As i mentioned earlier, Dighlipur is the main town of the North Andaman island. Close to Dighlipur is Saddle Peak, the tallest mountain of the Andamans. This map of North Andaman will make things clearer.

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We woke up in the morning and walked down to the Kalipur beach which is a little distance from the resort. Here’s ma and Baba in front of the hotel

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You have to walk for like a quarter of a mile on the main road before turning into a lane that leads to the beach. Ma and Baba taking the long walk

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From the main road, this narrow lane branches off to the beach. As with everything else on the island, the pathway passed through a very thick forest before opening, almost miraculously onto the wide and wild Kalipur Beach

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It was stormy overnight and it had been pouring torrentially till around an hour before we hit the beach. The winds were high and the sea was rough. Here, take a look:

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…and the rains started all over again. We had to run for shelter at the shack on the beach where we waited for the next hour for it to stop. This poor man was trying to stay dry and guide two stubborn buffaloes at the same time. Poor man!

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How many colours can you see in the water?

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This is the wild and storm lashed Kalipur beach. This is pristine habitat. In November-December, turtles – Olive Ridleys, Leatherbacks, Hawksbills – come ashore to nest on this beach.

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The rain held for a few minutes and i went for a walk on the beach and this is what i found. This is a huuuuuge King Cobra, easily 14 feet in length. Its not surprising that it was murdered, because thats the only thing people can do, but what struck me was the way it was murdered. If you look closely, you will see that it was strangled to death with a rope. What sort of a depraved person would do that??

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Another view of the beach and all the storm debris that have been washed ashore.

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And thats baba and me taking shelter from the strong winds and heavy rains.

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So after we managed to cram in some breakfast, we headed straight to the Ariel Bay jetty to take a boat to Smith Island. The time was just about right as the low tide had just set in. Heres ma in the jetty:

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The simple man guiding his simple boat

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One of my trademark abstract shots. I must stop taking more of these. Its kinda getting repetitive

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When you reach Smith island, you discover that there is no jetty. So the boat goes as far as it can and then you have to jump! Here are two people who have successfully got down from the boat in the manner described before.

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The skies were so dramatic throughout the trip. I love this picture:

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What you see here is the smaller Ross island seen from the larger Smith. As it is low tide, the two islands are connected by this while sand beach. While we were there, the waters receded further and the beach became even broader.

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Thats the beach on the Smith Island side

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As the waves came lapping on the shore, it churned the sand on the seabed into these interesting formations. On a clearer day, this would have been even clearer.

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Resting places for tourists at the Smith island beach

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One more of the beach…it was so beautiful, could not get enough of it.

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Our boat waiting to take us back to the jetty. Check out the hills in the background. Mysterious misty hills.

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And the waters recede even further and reveal what was till a few moments ago, under the waves

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The beach was full of corals and sea shells. This one was huge. It would have easily weighed 2 kgs. Beautiful..only nature can craft such colours and patterns

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Random beach shot

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Another random beach shot

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This is how deserted the place was. We were the only people in the two islands. And look at the sky again. AWESOME

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Beachscape

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Check out how clear the water is. the bottom is crawling with hundreds of crabs and fishes. Wherever you plant a foot, there are a thousand things scuttling around. That place was alive

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Ma taking my pic, i guess

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This is one of my favourite pics from the day. The colour of the water here is so unusual. Adding to the charm are the patchy sky and the cloud topped hills in the distance

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Its time to go. The boatwallah gets the craft as close to us as possible

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Be careful when you get on to that boat‘, he tells her

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Anchors Aweigh!

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Day 2 – Port Blair to Dighlipur


We started at 4 in the morning to get to Dighlipur. Port Blair is at the southernmost tip of the Great Andaman islands while Dighlipur is the northern end. The total distance is around 340 kms. Here’s the map:

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The red line is the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) that connects the two cities. It passes through some of the densest forests in the world, inhabited by the stone age Jarawas. At two pints, you need to get down from whatever vehicle you are in, cross over on ferry – people, cars, buses, et al, and continue from the other side.

The road through forests:

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The first ferry crossing at Middle Strait. You can see how vehicles and people cross over on boats.

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From the boat, you get a very nice view of the creek as well as the numerous small islands and the mangrove forests fringing the waterline

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Here’s a close-up of the lush mangrove thickets:

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We crossed over from middle strait onto Baratang island. Here we waited in little huts built on the water, for the car to come in the next boat. I took some pics while waiting.

Ma

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There was a boat tied to the pillars. I tried to capture it using the window of the hut as a frame:

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More vehicles cross over to join the melee on our side of the water:

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While we were still in the shack, it started to rain heavily. here is a picture of the deluge

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And this, after the rains..

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People line up to board the state bus to Dighlipur at Baratang jetty

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From here on, we went to see the Mud Volcano, which was just an anthill sized mound issuing bubbles from the top. What a let down! Here is Baba walking through the forest to get there

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This is a beautiful photograph of ma, en route the Mud Volcano. When baba saw this pic, his only comment was ‘aagun laiga jaibo‘!

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Strange palm trees…seen nothing like this anywhere else… locally they are known as the Umbrella Palm

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Baba pretending to be a poet while waiting for the boat at Kadamtala Jetty (the second ferry crossing)

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Kadamtala jetty from the boat

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Stormclouds loom over the mangroves at Kadamtala

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ma and baba on the boat

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and thats me

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Funny pic of ma chilling with some nariyal paani. Baba’s reaction to the pic was ‘khaishe!’

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After ma, it was the dog’s turn to succumb to the kernel desire!

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The waste paper bin becomes a hand resting place. Talk about wildlife suffering under the growing weight of humanity

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Baba…poet…jetty…AGAIN

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Lunch at Rangat

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Just outside the restaurant we had lunch in, i discovered a colony of the half-inch-long Tailor Ants. If you look closely into the following pics, you will see that the ants literally ‘stitch’ leaves of the plants together to make a nest. They are very aggressive and their sting is supposed to be very painful.

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The journey from Rangat to Dighlipur was long. The road passed mostly through forests which got denser and denser with every passing mile. sometimes forests were broken by little hamlets with surrounding paddy fields. The clouds were very low. You could see them drifting through the tops of hills barely 100 meters high.

This one was taken from the moving car. Check out what i was saying about the clouds.

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And this was just before everything plunged into a sudden, early night.

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Day 1 – Port Blair


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We reached Port Blair at 7:30 in the morning. We had to wait till 9 for the tourist office to open so that we could get accommodation. We stayed at Hornbill Nest (above) that commands a stunning view of the sea and the road that snakes by it.

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This was the view from the verandah of the cottage we stayed in. I love the dark clouds… sets a very dramatic mood!

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More views of the sea.

After we had settled down, i went for a walk down to the rocks by the seaside. The hotel was on top of a hill and as i was walking down, i got a nice photograph of the sea through the seas:

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It was low tide when i reached the sea-side rocks. As the waters had receded, it had left several pools where one could see stranded marine creatures. This colourful gentleman is called a hermit crab. Unlike other crabs, he does not have a hard shell and is hence very vulnerable. So to protect itself, it makes its home inside discarded sea shells. As they grow in size, they keep moving from smaller to larger shells.

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And these are starfish..you cant see the whole animal as its hiding under some rocks. They look more like octopuses though!

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The rocks itself were fascinating. They look as if they have been chiselled away in an organised fashion in straight lines. While quarrying could be a possibility, natural causes would make these formations all the more fascinating.

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In the afternoon, the three of us went to Corbyn’s Cove, the only beach of Port Blair

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And that, as you know is me, at Corbyn’s Cove

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..and then, its ma and baba.

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But there were you too, Anindita..or atleast something that reminded me of you

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These are fiddler crabs. They like in little burrows on beaches and rocks. The disproportionately large claws are used for burrowing and also to impress females and help the little fellow get laid.

The road back to the town passes by the sea and i stopped at a couple of places to capture the views. Here are some shots taken from the road.

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Port Blair has an extensive watersports complex. When we went there, however, it was closed. But you could still walk around on the brightly painted piers. Here’s a photo:

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Port Blair is a very picturesque city. It has a feel of a hill station as most of the island is mountainous. Here’s how the Marina (it is to Port Blair what Marine Drive is to Mumbai) looks at night. The photograph was taken from the ramparts of the Cellular Jail

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