Updated: 4 days ago
Living a routine life for several decades in this universe won't even get closer to what you learn from a decade of adventures life. Isn't life exciting when you wake up everyday and see a new sky somewhere remote?
It was 2014 and I was in my late twenties. If you are in your late twenties while reading this article, you should be very familiar with I am going to say next. Suddenly, everyone around you cares so much about you and urges you to 'Settle down', 'Marry someone'. Well, I know most of the adventurous souls had an untold answer 'No thanks!'.
At that time, I got a promotion and was wondering how to celebrate. Should I buy a thing or two that I don't really want, just because it was there and I can afford it? or Should I buy me an experience of my life time? I chose the latter. And hence this blog. Just a week before the trip, I was looking at my calendar and saw an extended weekend coming. My inner devil said "Stay indoors like always, it's awesome to do nothing". I rebelled. I wanted to go to a place, which should be far away from the city life. I was ready to leave behind the honks, dust clouds, rushing souls just for a weekend.
The trips you go with your friends and family are fun, I don't deny that. But when you go alone, your attention is completely on the environment and your time is not spent on chit-chats. You tend to talk to strangers. You feel like you have more than 24 hours, the clock ticks slower. It gives you all the possible seconds to spend just by yourself. Just in case, if I got bored from my own thoughts, I decided to carry a book (Into the Wild: Jon Krakauer), the best companion who is not a conversation starter.
Boarded my flight from Chennai with a little excitement that grew along the journey. Have never been to an Island and never gone anywhere alone. Flying several miles on top of the tiny planet, up above the clouds, a slight escape from gravity. All those white clouds, spread across like a huge cotton bed. After just couple of hours, I witnessed a bunch of small bumps, dense green dots, scattered across the ocean like a broken bracelet. Hilly as well as Coastal. Green as well as Clean. Yes, I landed in Andaman all by myself with a back-pack and didn't even book a place to stay. A big thanks to the bureaucrats who decided that this beautiful pieces of island belongs to India, even though it is located around 1350 kms away from the country's land mass. It is just around 450 kms from Burma's land mass. Andaman and Nicobar contains around 3000 small to big islands, comprises of a long range of hills with evergreen forests. And yes, many of them might not have seen a human foot print even now.
Port Blair, the capital, a small town with a non luxury Airport, a small Harbor with some rusted Ships and Ferries, few Industries, one popular Bazaar and not to forget, friendly people. I started rambling on the just-rained-wet streets, not looking for any destination, of-course. After a while, I stopped a auto-rick, asked him to drop me in his favorite seafood restaurant to have my lunch, I hopped in:
'Are you from Andaman?' 'I was born here, but my actual origin is Pudhukottai, Tamilnadu' 'Nice' 'Where are you from?' 'Karur, Tamilnadu' 'It is very rare to see someone from Karur, they like to live in Karur and do business, Right?' 'Exactly, most of them' 'You came with your friends?' 'No, I came alone' 'Alone?! Ok, let me ask you this, why Andaman? and moreover alone, what pulled you here?' 'Well, I have never been to an Island and I thought this place is definitely the best break free location' 'Good, I always wanted to know, how people feels about the place I am living' 'You are living in a Heaven, ok, don't you worry! And nice to see you, your name?' 'Shankar' 'Take care Shankar, I might see you again in this little island'
Monsoons are good to ramble on, you won't feel tired as much because of the breezy weather. Another good thing about monsoons, they do not attract lot of tourists, voila! It was showering on and off making the air humid. After my lunch, I was just walking around and stopped in front of a war tanker which is right in the middle of a public park. This park name is trying to remind me that I am still in India, Gandhi park. It is just adjacent to the sea, local people were taking a walk. This park, the roads, the beach, all of them were clean as a whistle and well maintained. And for a change, traffic signals were strictly obeyed, I mean a cab was waiting for the signal to turn green on a completely empty street. I found a place to stay that night, it was a small hotel run by a family. Also, booked a ferry to go to Havelock island the next day.
Morning came too soon. Andaman is following Indian Time Zone, but ultimately we have to think 1.5 hrs ahead in our biological clock. It gets damn bright at 5 in the morning and pitch dark at 6 in the evening, especially during September. Another day to ramble! I was walking on the streets before boarding the ferry. Lots of greasy workshops near the harbor. There was this rusty-oil-smell all around the harbor, a smell I am very familiar with, a smell I get whenever I walk into my dad's electrical workshop. While waiting for the ferry, met three European travelers, they must have been in their teens. One guy was from Spain and the other two guys were from Germany. Believe it or not, they came to India 3 months back for their studies, and this was their 3rd trip already. Not a surprise!
I like Europeans for couple of reasons, they follow pretty much the same culture as India in terms of diverse languages and rich history.
Europe is a continent with bunch of countries where people speak different languages, India is a country with bunch of states where people speak different languages.
The wait is over, the super-rusty ferry has arrived at the shore to pick up the passengers. This small ferry got 2 decks with close to 140 seats and an open space at the top. I was spending my first quarter of the journey sitting in the lower deck of the ferry. I knew that was floating over ocean but couldn't feel the actual ride until I stepped out to the upper deck of the ferry. The view was stunning! This small ferry floating up and down over the clear bluish ocean, to the left side of the ferry I could see a long range of green forest covered with dark rain clouds and to the right a thin line where the sky meets the ocean. As the ferry moves, it was leaving behind a white bubble-road on top. After few hours, ferry reached Havelock. Havelock island is located 50 kms to the east from Port Blair. Asia's second largest beach is here in this small island, its name is Radha-nagar beach.
Havelock was completely covered in green, the moist in the air was almost close to a rain forest. I was jealous of the folks who live such a peaceful life, close to nature. The country side was covered with agriculture lands, cattle farms, small tea/coffee huts and on the other side to attract foreign tourists they got few dive-in beach resorts and multi-cuisine restaurants. By the afternoon, I found a local guide who helped me to rent a two wheeler, asked for no deposit, nothing. Just pay the money upfront and tell where you stay and off you go. The ride in the middle of hilly island with some music on my phone, was a bliss. The breeze on my face was giving me goosebumps. I spent the rest of the afternoon riding by the beach and then returned to a small resort where I had to stay that night.
In the middle of village, for its complete contrast, a wooden furnished restaurant and bar, as I entered they were playing some hippy trance music trying to outplay the calm night. It was monsoon right, so no crowd at all. The tables were mostly empty, I ordered a beer which was then severed in a ceramic mug.
In the morning, slight golden rays were trying to dry up the roads after a thunderstorm which soaked the island the previous night. Took the bike and I was on my way to Kala-bantar beach, one side the calm shore with coconut trees, other side bamboo trees and dense bushes. Bliss. Every place here was breathtaking. Beaches in Havelock were so clean. Amoeba shaped pebbles, unique colored shells and dry leaves spread all over the seashores. Grabbed a hand of beach sand, I felt like my hand was just filled with air. So damn light.
After 24 hours of Havelocking, I boarded a ferry back to Port Blair murmuring to myself, 'I will come back here, another time, for a little longer stay, explore more than this, may be next time will bring my family as well'.
PS: Several years later, whenever I listen to Life of Ram ('Karai vandha piraghe') song from 96 movie, it take me back to the trip of my lifetime.