Updated: Jun 19, 2019
On a hot afternoon in June, over a hangout, Priyanka and I listed out places we'd want to be at and picked out a winner to which we instantly booked tickets! [ A little history : We've been friends since we were kindergarteners with two ponies and sparkling eyes ] Swoon through the picture gallery with us as we take deep sighs in memories of our "frienimoon".
No matter how beautiful the travel destination you choose is, I strongly feel your travel companion plays an important role in making or breaking the trip. Hence having like minded people as travel companion(s) is equally essential as packing basic necessities in your rucksack.
Last week of July we hopped on a plane, flew down from Mumbai-Chennai finally reaching Port Blair after a 12 hour journey full of happy chills! At the airport rolled 3 other same decathlon bags as mine on the luggage belt. Figuring out which bag belonged to whom, we met an Italian couple Isamiranda and Luca who later were with us on the same ferry heading to Havelock.
Having said, we landed at Port Blair - let me tell you we only had a faint thought of heading to Havelock in the 2PM ferry. Our hopes staggered a little when we got to know that the Government ferry ticket office (called STARS - Ship Ticket Advance Reservation System) remains shut on Sundays so only passengers having tickets booked in advance could commute. Of course there are private services too but, 'budget'!
Port Blair to Havelock
Never reach Andaman on a Sunday if :
1. You freakout too soon.
2. and you haven't had your itinerary fixed! Because where's internet? Hello?!
We were to lose a day because of the ticket office being non-operational so we headed to lookout for a place to stay 1 night in Port Blair. On our way the taxi driver suggested we try our luck at the Phoenix Bay Jetty for current tickets; an hour of waiting and chit chatting with the Italian couple had the tickets in our kismet!
Current tickets are available an hour before the ship’s departure on a Sunday - phewph. There’s no online booking option yet for the govt ferries. The 2PM ferry made us reach Havelock at around 5PM. Don't worry, the ferries have more number of cockroaches than it's human capacity and you’d fall short of time counting them, considering the 3 hours of sail time. The sun was to set in no time when after visiting 6 stay options we finally checked into one of them; got cleaned up, grabbed a bite from the market and called off for the day. Slipping into the bed made me realise how tired i was.
The next morning I woke up to the sound of a downpour. In the time both Priyanka and I got ready to head out, it stopped raining and the sky cleared up. So we rented out a bike from the nearest renting shop and rode to Radhanagar which is 12KMS from Vijaynagar - the place we were staying at.
This is the most visited beach as the shore is wider than the other beaches in Havelock. I would suggest that the best time to be here would be after noon when the sea's at a longer distance and the sun's out, that's when you could have the most beautiful view of the endless sky reflected on the wet white sand. I only wish it was Summer and the sky would have had beautiful colours while the sun went down.
You'd find stalls catering local fixed lunches in Andaman with home like food. At one such crowded stall, in Radhanagar, while it suddenly started raining we shared a table with two friends who'd come down from Hyderabad - outgoing Jayprakash and shy Mani. Conversations over the dining table are the best ones to me! We had a short chat sharing good vibes, learning about their journey and how Mani had the trip itinerary set with precision being a very organised person and also a few beautiful places to spend some time at on the island. Taking their suggestion we planned on going to Kalapathar the next day for a morning session at the beach to soak all the blue water and sky.
At the beach were lush mangrove trees falling on the sand, so low that the sea would brush through them every time a wave ran on the shore. The shore is as short in width as that of Vijaynagar beach mostly because of the increasing water level feel. I wonder how the sea would leave no land uncovered in the coming years. The same evening we ran into our friends from lunch again at dinner. Which was also our last evening at Havelock as the next morning had us moving towards North Andaman! (yes another meet and greet with the roaches)
Havelock to North Andaman
It's DAY4 already calling this officially just half of the getaway remaining!
It's a partially cloudy Wednesday sky which had us reaching the STARS office at 6AM is the morning! We did try to book tickets one day in advance but, due to unstable weather conditions only the current updates were to help. The office would have it's door open only until the clock struck 8 but, the usual way had locals lining up as early as possible to the saying "First come, first serve"! Meanwhile sitting I got into a conversation with the men who told me how during the tourist season they would line up from 3AM!
We were lucky again, to have gotten the 9am ferry. Also I was the only woman among all the men (undue advantages set everywhere). I must say, the entire week had tables turned our way and today's morning ferry which would usually go down-south (Port Blair) instead was scheduled to middle Andaman to a place called Rangat - Saved us more than 9 hours of traveling!
The sailing schedule each day is subject to weather changes and conditions. So passengers wait until the morning of travel to book seats when it's monsoon!
[ Bonus tip - It's better to be seated in the upper deck than lower ]
It took us 4 hours to reach the port of Rangat. With just a thought of wanting to go North we yet hadn't decided our destination. It was sheer coincidence that a local of Mayabandar whom I had a random chat with on the ferry was heading up north and he had a jeep hired which we hopped into sharing the rent. On the way the driver asked us if he could drop us to our final destination instead of getting down at Mayabandar and waiting for the next bus which departs for Diglipur only at 5PM. It was around 2PM and we went ahead with finalising Diglipur as our next stop.
We hadn't looked up details about this Diglipur and that's when the driver said there were just two stay options there which were both 20KMS from the main city and market. Without any delays we started for Diglipur and got dropped off at the market after 3 hours of the bumpy jeep ride through the lush greens and paddy fields. There were 20 more kilometres to go to reach Pristine Resort and the only possibility was that we rented out a bike. We figured out the shop; hired the bike and started. We had two bags that weighed 15KGS each. Priyanka rode with me at the back hanging my rucksack and her medium medium sized trolley in the front space! [ Of course a rucksack could only be the best option for a backpacking trip ] These 20KMS seemed like a 100 with the conditions of the road and the heavy bag over my shoulder!
At the Pristine Resort's desk we were greeted by Alex who had such easy flowing good vibes that I instantly forgot about the fatigue! How easy it is to comfort if you have positive energy in and around you. I had a feeling like I had returned to home. We ended up staying at Diglipur for 3 days when we'd initially fixed up just a two day stay. There's less to do at Diglipur but it was perfect as we were just looking for spending time relaxing and rejuvenating rather than the traditional sightseeing.
Let me tell you, Pristine tries to be as eco-friendly as possible with reuse and recycling done at most places; plantation at every inch. The Kalipur beach can be reached walking down just 200m; it's a turtle nesting spot during the tourist season.
Ross and Smith
It was a cloudy morning and it rained right when we left to reach the jetty at around 9AM. One afternoon we were at Ross n Smith. To visit once you’ve gotten a speed boat booked with the same signed at verified by the forest check post, you have the permit to trek the forest and explore both the islands. Sadly the officials didn’t tell us that afternoons (in late July) would be best for visiting as the tides are lowest which makes the path in between both the islands accessible. We came back spending three hours at just Ross. The two life guards and both the police official and the boat operator made all sort of unreasonable excuses to not take us for the forest trek.
Diglipur to Port Blair
It was a 12 hours journey to reach Port Blair which we did in the SS Travels bus that runs daily from the main market at 7 AM. We came down a day before our flight back to skip any travel fatigue.
Port Blair unlike the other places we had been to was much more crowded, noisy and the worst of all polluted. The people no more seemed as generous and helping. I'm grateful we didn't stay for long here.
The more I've travelled, the more have I started to learn and observe from the people and surroundings. I feel I'm much more aware of my own-self. I must say it has built my intuition and beliefs stronger. With every new person I meet I've changed for good. I've become calm, an observer and most importantly I feel beautiful on the inside. BTW what do you look for in your ideal travel buddy?
Some quick tips -
1. The first thing you should ideally be doing at the airport is get updates from the info desk - the weather being unpredictable! Also if the islands you've thought of visiting are accessible or not. We did this so we could know how frequent were the ferries as we chose to travel off-season.
2. Both Indians and Non-Indians shall have copies of their identity proofs along - these are for ferry tickets to hop islands. Non-Indians would also need to have the immigration slip from the Airport xeroxed.
3. Do talk about local tide timings to make sure you have the best beach time. The tides shift from high to low in the morning. The sea starts covering the shore as dawn approaches. Of course the sea conditions are subjective to a lot of other scientific conditions. So please don't barge on me.
4. Andaman is surely not short of ATMS, rest assured if you don't wish to carry bundles of money.
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