Sunday, September 2, 2012

Walking through the clouds – Panghoot & around

Walking through the clouds – Panghoot & around

Garh Mukteshwar - now it looks like River Ganges

              As usual the travel bug had started troubling me and coupled with my agenda of ‘Having a piece of Heaven in Heaven’ (refer to my earlier blog by same title), we embarked on our journey to Uttarakhand, during the extended weekend in August, 2012.  We were five persons and one amongst us arranged for an Innova for embarking upon the travel and another friend arranged for the stay at ‘Ashoka’s Naini Chalet’ in Pangot.  Although I had heard much about the place, being a active briding site, but this was my first opportunity to visit this destination.  Panghoot is a village in the Kosiyakutoli tehsil of Nanital District in Uttarakhand, India and the distance from Delhi to Pangot is about 305 Kms.  Accordingly, we started early in the morning and got picked up from the pre-arranged point’s en-route.  By the time we left Delhi it was almost 8.00 A.M, but luckily as it was a Saturday, we did not face much of a traffic enroute.  However, the first topic was as to whether have B’fast at the famous Skylark Restaurant at Garh Mukteshewar or to partake the home prepared one.  After much deliberation, it was decided that we would take a break for the B’fast and as there were no good eating joints beyond Moradabad, we would partake the home prepared meal for lunch.  Thus, we took our first break at Garh Mukteshwar.

Just entering the Kaladhungi forest area

Headed for the hills - monsoon magic

Friends posing for a photo

A small rivulet on the way

            After having had some sumptuous Aloo Pranthas et al, we embarked upon our journey further.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the water of River Ganges overflowing its banks at Garh Mukteshwar, as it is a mere trickle during the summer season, when I usually pass by this spot.  So I got down from the vehicle and took some shots.  We traveled at a leisurely pace and as we drove further towards the Nainital hills, the cloud cover started getting denser.  We took a turn from the main Highway towards Tanda and were flabbergasted on seeing the condition of the road, to say the least, there was no road at all, but a series of pot-holes of varying sizes & shapes.   This entrapment continued for about 16 odd Kms. and all our entire body parts were put though a rollercoaster ride.  It had started drizzling and as we entered the Kaladhungi stretch, it started raining ‘cats & dogs’.

View of Nainital lake from Kilbury

One from the car - monsoon magic

Birds galore - at Kilbury

           We negotiated the roads slowly, till we reached the Bara Pathar crossing, wherefrom just after entering the Nainital, we turned left towards the Mall road leading to Kilbury hills, this road leads to Pangot.  After traversing some distance, we found locals armed with telescopes enticing tourists to take a look at the panoramic view of Nainital lake & surrounding areas below.  We too got down and took some photographs and also had a look through the telescope, so as to understand the topography of the place @Rs.20/- for five points shown by the vendors.  It was still overcast and by the time, we headed for Pangot, it was getting dark.  We were driving cautiously, as the road was winding and covered with Rhododendron & Oak forests of either side, it was all the more darker.  Suddenly, we reached a clearing with a few shops on the road and the road sign read “Panghoot”, as we slowed the vehicle and man came towards us enquiring as to whether we were booked for ‘Ashoka’s Naini Chalet’ and led the way, which was hardly 25 meters from the main road.  Thus, we reached Panghot/ Panghoot (as per the Post Office description of name – both in English & Hindi) and checked into our rooms.  The destination and ambience of the Resort was magnificent and we ordered some Pakoras & Tea/Coffee for refreshments.  At night we had a game of snooker & my friends enjoyed some drinks and I gave company partaking a gallon of Cold drinks, I being a teetotaler and also arranged for a guide to take me for some bird watching early next the morning.

Panghoot village entry & market square

Panghoot - monsoon magic

Ashoka's Naini Chalet - view from Jungle lodge

Ashoka's Naini Chalet

Ashoka's Naini Chalet - view by night

            We had a good night’s sleep and I was awakened early hearing chirping of birds and some ruckus being created by the Rhesus monkeys, who were busy eating moths & insects in the verandah, that had been attracted to the lights during the night.  I found that it was still raining and had to postpone my sojourn into the forests for the time being.   Panghoot is a nondescript but serene & visually enticing village, tucked away into the confines of the Kumaon hills, with forests of Rhododendrons & Oaks enveloping the hills in a ‘Chador’ of green coupled with echoing the tweets of many a colourful birds and with little trails that disappear into interior of forests, that's Panghoot for all the nature lovers. A birdwatcher's paradise, Pangot is 15 kms from Nainital and the drive is through the bird habitats of Cheena Peak range forests via Snow View Point and Kilbury. Some of the commonly encountered birds here are the Lammergeier, Himalayan griffon, Blue-winged minla, spotted & Slaty-backed forktail, Rufous-bellied woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Khalij pheasant, variety of thrushes etc. Almost 150 bird species have been recorded at Panghoot and its surrounding areas.   Life in this quaint little village is tranquility redefined; the activity of villagers either remains restricted to the confines to their homes or at the small market square, with a laid back life style.  As soon as the rain took a breather, we embarked on the trek into the forests for shooting (I mean photographing) the birds.  It was steep climb through the forests and the first bird sighted was a Blue Whistling Thrush, but due to dense fog the reduced visibility the Camera could not capture a good image, the next bird I spotted was the Niltava but again the light played truant and due to slow shutter speed, the photographs were not good.  However, having trudged some few hundred meters, we heard a loud tweeting sound, I started emulating the same by whistling similarly and as the bird descended, I found that it was a Striated Laughing Thrush.  I could hear many birds chirping but due to dense fog and tree foliage, could not spot them and as I had to return back for the onward journey, I retraced my way back to the Resort.

Another birder's group in discussion in another Resort

Rofous sibia - right at the Resort itself

Monsoon magic

Panghoot - bird pecking on fern spores

Another warbler - Panghoot

            On the way back, I encountered my friends who were eagerly waiting for me for the scheduled visit to Chorsa village and they chided me for delaying them and I quickly had Breakfast and we were off.  We crossed Nainital, which was not all that crowded because of the intense rain that had precipitated in the region during the previous night and reached Bhowali.  However, the person who was scheduled to meet us there had not arrived and informed us that he was near Sattal for running an errand, we took our vehicle and headed there to bring him back so that he could guide us.  The road to Chorsa village is being newly constructed and runs from below the Bhowlai Sanatorium gate.  The road is unpaved and due to rain there were quite a few potholes, however, enroute we met the JCB operator, who informed us that road upto Bhowali village was reachable, but beyond that the road was almost non-existent.  We therefore, drove till Bhowali village and thereafter, started the 13 Kms. trek to Garam Pani, having asked the driver to reach the Highway at Garam Pani and wait for us there.  There were several landslides on the way, with hardly any space to squeeze across huge boulders that had slid down the mountain side at many a places and accompanied with water & sludge, through which we had to slog.  However, finally we came to a point where the road was totally blocked and we had to slide down the mountain side and cross along the old bridle path that lay below.  The valley was totally untouched and pristine, it was nature’s best display of wildflowers and birds et al.  But due to the intensity of the trek and treacherous paths, I could not photograph them (only a handful) but it was a trek to remember.  The rain Gods who had been playing spoil sport till now, had relented a bit and it continued to be clear till we reached Chorsa village, but as soon as we started with our descent, it started drizzling again.  The villagers are always welcoming and warm hearted and they insisted that we wait for some time at their house for the rain clouds to pass through, and we were pleasantly surprised at having been offered tea, to totally unknown persons and it was a very pleasing experience.  I was feeling a bit soggy in my right leg and took the opportunity to check out my shoes, thinking that they might have developed some hole or something of the kind and rain water had soaked in, but to my disgust I found that my socks were drenched in fresh blood.  We found out the culprit too, it was the Leech that had hitched on my legs, either en-route during the trek or while I was in Pangoot forest.  The descent thereafter, was uneventful and after long 5 hours journey, we reached Garam Pani and by this time we were totally famished as well as dead tired.

Panoramic view of Bhimtal lake

Bhowali village

Wild flora 

View from Chorsa village

Lemon rumped warbler 


Grey headed yellow warbler

Long tailed Minivet

Nainital by night

Getting the corns roasted

             As I have narrated hereinabove that it had started raining as soon as we started our descent from Chorsa Village and by now it had become unrelenting.  We stopped by at Kainchi Dham and had some Pakoras and Tea, but I especially had the famous ‘Lime/Nimboo Water/Pani’.  Thereafter, we slowly made our way back to the Resort at Panghoot, crossing by Nainital and had a beautiful view of the lake by night.  Early next morning we started our journey back to Delhi and had a break for some fire roasted corns, which is a specialty of the hill regions and shot some photographs also of more birds that were chirping about.  The remaining part of the journey was very pleasant till Delhi, with the rains following us all through the way – we were, in a way, the harbingers of the rain clouds from Uttarakhand to Delhi.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Havlock – visiting Kalapathar Beach

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Havlock – visiting Kalapathar Beach)

Day 3 (Day 10 since arrival in Port Blair)

The submerged stone because of which the beach is named as Kalapathar

      The next day we started leisurely at around 10.30 A.M, as we had planned to visit Kalapathar Beach, which is situated at a distance of about 5 Kms. from the Dolphin Resort & 10 Kms. away from the jetty, on the extreme end of the Island and draws its name from the similarly named village in its vicinity.  However, the driver of the auto had another reason for the name of this beach, he pointed out towards a huge stone in the middle of the Sea that appeared black in color, he stated that it was a huge rock that has denuded over the years and the place derives its name from it.  The auto driver wanted to cover this beach the previous day itself, but since he had already charged from us and we would have had nothing to do on the third day, we therefore, asked him to make the tour the next day.  The road to the beach runs along the coastline of the island and there are village homes scattered along the inner side, standing in calm seclusion, with small kitchen gardens dotted around.  The area around Kalapathar is surrounded by very dense forests and if one goes about half a kilometer inside from the main beach side along the mud path, one will come across a clearing where young elephants are trained.  Although the beach is very small, but the surrounding crystal clear blue waters make up for it.  In addition to this, being a virgin forest area you come across a plethora of birds chirping away to glory and you may also get an opportunity to photograph a few.  I walked along the jungle path carefully and slowly, my efforts paid dividend and I was able to spot & photograph a few birds here.

Black naped Oriole - Kalapathar beach

Kalapathar Beach - fishermen at work

Another view of Kalapathar Beach

We lazed around the place for quite some time and at around 1.00 P.M headed back to hotel, but as we were already late, we had to go to a local restaurant (that served south Indian food) for lunch.  Later we retired for the day as we had to head back to Port Blair the next day. 

Day 4 (Day 11 since arrival in Port Blair)

Sunrise over Dolphin Resort Bay - last day at Havelock

            The catamaran Makruzz that reaches Havelock at 10.30 in the morning leaves back the same day at 4.30 P.M. and many of the visitors visit the Radhanagar beach and head back to Port Blair the same day.  The check out time in the hotels in Andaman is by 9.00 A.M. in the morning and thus, we had our Breakfast and checked out of our rooms by 9.00 A.M.  As we had nothing to do, we lazed around the reception area, playing games on the tab and wandering around short distances.  We wiled away the time till 2.00 P.M. after which the auto driver came and took us to Jetty No.1, we surveyed the market around to get some snacks, but nothing was available to our liking and thus, we had to do with some Chips, Biscuits and Cold Drinks.  The check in counter of Makruzz has a small reception area, where one can wait and as the boarding was to commence only after 3.30 P.M., we had another hour or so to kill before boarding.  We had purchased some fresh snacks at the counter of the Catamaran during our journey from Port Blair and had planned to purchase the same during the return leg as well, however, to our dismay nothing was available (as they stock up at Port Blair only and do not replenish at Havelock) and we had to do with some chocolates & Cold drinks.  But this became a boon for us, as the sea had started turning a bit choppy by late afternoon, because of the monsoon clouds that were setting in and the return journey was a horrendous experience.  The catamarans are double hulled boats and achieve greater speeds as they skim across the surface of the sea, but very little movement or choppiness in the water makes the fast drive uncomfortable, unlike the bigger ships.  Accordingly, as soon as we left the Havelock jetty, the boat started tossing and diving, like an airplane caught in turbulence and in no time many of the passengers started throwing up.  Despite the best efforts by the crew onboard, who were constantly providing vomit bags and also cleaning up with buckets et al, the journey was far from comfortable.  I was told that the catamaran services usually terminate on the 8th of May every year, but because of LTC benefit being extended to Tamil Nadu Government staff, the services had been extended beyond the scheduled date.  We made it to the Phoenix Bay jetty in Port Blair at about 6.15 P.M. and as we were totally famished, immediately dashed to Ananda Restaurant for an extended lunch cum tea session.  However, my digital camera too was out of battery and I could not take any shots of this mayhem on my way back.  Thereafter, we checked back into the Circuit house and as it was the last day at Port Blair, we were scheduled to return back to our home the next day, we had a small shopping binge at night.  We bid adieu to Port Blair next day morning i.e. 12th day since arrival.
(This concludes my visit to Andaman Islands during the summers of 2012)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Havelock – adventure at Elephant Beach

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Havelock – adventure at Elephant Beach)

Day 2 (Day 9 since arrival in Port Blair)

The Elephant beach

           The next day we started early at around 9.00 A.M, as we had planned to trek through the forest area to reach the Elephant beach.  It normally takes about 45 minutes to traverse the distance through the forest area by foot and the journey commences half way en-route to Radhanagar Beach, where from a path marked as forest inspection path starts.  I was avoiding the dingy speed boat that starts from Havelock jetty number 1, as they are lightweight and hence unstable and as none of us knew how to swim, I did not want to take the unnecessary risk of riding a full 20-25 minutes across deep sea in this kind of ferry.  These small boats with outboard motors cost Rs.2000/- upwards (for you to negotiate) for a round trip, but the bigger stable boats cost upwards of Rs.4000/- for a round trip, looked a bit prohibitive. At the start of the journey itself, the auto driver cum guide, Mr. Shubho Biswas insisted that we wear rubber sandals, but did not tell me the exact reason for the same.  As we commenced with our trek, I found that at the initial stages the path was negotiable; however, as we started trekking deeper into the forest area, I found that the hills were entirely made up of fine clay, which when wet in rains, was not only very slippery but also tended to stick to the soles of the sandals.  The progress through this jungle path became intensely difficult and slow, we were trudging with great difficulty, with the help of the bamboo sticks that the guide had cut for us from the forest.  There were dead trees lying and shrubs’ growing along the pathway and the guide was cutting them with his machete to make way for us.  I was caught in a strange predicament, we could neither return back by this path now nor could we negotiate our way through this forest again on our return leg.  I accosted the guide and berated him for not coming out with the full facts before embarking on this treacherous road, but I think the lure of earning Rs.1000/- for this trip was too much for him & he preferred to kill his conscience rather come out with the factual position.  With great difficulty we negotiated this treacherous & dangerous path, but as soon we came out into the clearing, it seemed that I had stepped ‘out of the frying pan into fire’.  Right in front of our eyes was a vast expanse of mangrove forest with waist deep water, with treacherous sand pits and rotting logs lying below.  I was dumbfounded and could not conjure any ideas for circumventing this menace that lay before us.  Luckily for me a group of young boys and girls started wading through this water and crossed it, this provided us with some solace and we too started wading through the backwater.  But my thought was constantly focused on any chance encounter with sea serpent or the salt water crocodiles, which has attacked humans in the area in the past.  With great difficulty and under tremendous mental stress we crossed this patch of back waters.  However, our agony did not end here, as the water that inundates this backwater during high tides, drains out again and the water gushes out into the sea through a narrow water way.  We had reached the spot when the high tide waters were waning and the water was pouring out to the sea, the guide asked us to make a final dash for the Elephant Beach by crossing the stream through which the sea water was draining out to the sea.  I now put my foot down and berated him for having put all of us in trouble, it was very treacherous to cross the stream, as the fast flowing water could have carried any one of us into the open sea, in case of a slip in these fast currents and none of us knew how to swim.  I accordingly asked him to wade through the water himself and get a boat for us to ferry us to the Elephant Beach.  He understood the tone & tenor of my wordings and without arguing further walked to the beach and got a boat for us.  This boat was manned by a young aged boy in his late teens or early twenties and seemed to be a stunt artist, the manner in which he maneuvered the speed boat while ferrying us, all of us had lumps in our throats.  Was it intentional or instigated???

The trudge through the jungle

Cashew plantations on the way

Water gushing back into sea after high tide

The speed boat that came to fetch us

Elephant Beach should be accessed by boat from jetty no.1 in Havelock and it would be preferable if one can gets to share a seat in the bigger boats, instead of the smaller outboard engine fitted dinghies/speed boats, in my opinion.   The beach though small is very picturesque and there is ample opportunity for snorkeling also.  We got into a big glass bottom boat to watch the corals again and the boat being bigger and with an overhead canopy provided better opportunity to photograph the corals, as the overhead sun did not reflect from the glass bottom surface, as was the case in Red Skin Island.  The Elephant Island being a bit out of way destination does not attract too many tourists and therefore, the quality of corals and diversity of fauna was stunning.  Having spent a few hours in this enchanting beach, we headed back to Havelock and were lucky to find a bigger boat, which agreed to drop us at the jetty and charged us @Rs.300/- per person for the return one way trip, which we shared with an Assamese family.  On our return leg of journey we saw fishermen with diving equipment, fishing for the lobsters along the coast line.  Further ahead we were suddenly stopped by the Police boat, as a Sea Plane was about to make a landing.  Later on after reaching the jetty, as it had started to drizzle again and it was almost 2.30 P.M, we had lunch at a small joint run by a Bengali woman in the jetty market (behind the big restaurant in the lane), the food was good with a thali/plate comprising of rice & dal (unlimited) accompanied with papad, two vegetables & chutney, priced at Rs.60/- per plate, I found the food to be freshly prepared and reasonably good.  Thereafter, we were dropped back at the hotel for spending rest of the evening.

Brain Coral - as viewed from glass bottom boat at Elephant beach

The Assamese gentlemen with whom we shared the boat ride back to Havelock

Sea Plane landing at Havelock


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Havelock – visiting Radhanagar Beach

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Havelock – visiting Radhanagar Beach)

Day 1 (Day 8 since arrival in Port Blair)

First view of Havlock - from jetty No.1

             After visiting the Ross Island and Viper Island the previous evening, we had rested ourselves during the evening, barely going out to the Aberdeen market to buy a few trinkets & spices for friends & family.  We got up early next morning and were dropped at the specific boarding point at 7.30 A.M by the driver, wherefrom the buses run by Makruzz Company dropped us at the Phoenix bay jetty.  Here we were issued boarding passes and our luggage was checked in and we boarded the Catamaran for Havelock.  It is a very good means for traveling to Havelock, which is at a distance of 50 nautical miles from Port Blair by sea and offers accommodation in three categories i.e. Premium, Deluxe and Royal.  Whereas, the Premium class seats passengers at the deck level and costs Rs.735/- per ticket, the Deluxe class seats are above the deck level and cost Rs.950/- per ticket and the Royal class is also in the same level, but separated through curtains with more plush chairs and cost Rs.1150/- per ticket for a one way journey.  The boat left the shores at 9.00 A.M. sharp and docked at the Havelock jetty in exactly 1½ hours time.

Map of Havelock Island

Boarding the Catamaran - Makruzz at Port Blair

             Havelock is a picture perfect island with beautiful long beaches and lush green forest cover.  It is a nature’s paradise, resplendent with white sand beaches, coral reefs with a colorful array of aquatic life, palm trees, as well as dense forests in the interiors.   Havelock is a longish piece of land (area 113 lying in the group of islands collectively called the Ritchie’s Archipelago. People mainly from Bengal have settled here, but occupy only on the northern, one-third part of the island in small hamlets & villages.  Each village and the adjoining beach are referred to both by a number and a name. The jetty is in the north at Village No.1 and is the conceptual centre of the island. Radhanagar Beach (No.7) is 12 Km. towards South West, Vijaynagar (No.5) is 4 Km. towards South-East of the main Havelock jetty. The main bazaar is situated in vicinity of Village No.3.  Most of the accommodation is however located in Village No.5 (Vijaynagar) area. There are some hotels in Villages No.3, No.1 & No.7 and even at Kalapathar -10 kms away from the jetty.  As we had booked our hotel in advance, known as the Dolphin Resort run by the tourism department, which is situated at Vijaynagar area, I hired an auto to drop us there.  The chap driving the auto was a Bengali fellow called ‘Shubho Biswas’ (Mobile No.09476076338) and had agreed to drop us for Rs.80/-, during the journey to the hotel complex we chatted up with him and on approach to the hotel, found that it was a secluded area and it would be impossible to hire any means of transport easily from the spot.  The auto driver agreed to take us to Radhanagar beach and drop us back for Rs.400/- and accordingly, he was hired and asked to report back at the hotel to pick us up after lunch, at around 3.30 P.M.

Selling wares near Radhanagar Beach

View after the rains at Radhanagar Beach

Rain clouds looming over Radhanagar beach

Sunset over the Radhanagar beach

The Radhanagar Beach on Havelock has been voted as the Best Beach of Asia by The Time Magazine in the year 2004 on the basis of the quality of sand, sea, depth and other parameters. Most of the tourists therefore, flock to the Radhanagar Beach in Havelock. Radhanagar beach is a long, crescent-shaped beach with silver white sand.  It’s foreshore is framed by fine, mature specimen trees of the tropical rainforest and it terminates to the north and south by steeply rising ground which become forest covered buffs dropping down to the sea.   Although, activities like food courts etc. are banned from the core beach area, one can shop for trinkets etc. at the shops nearby.  For those who like to be with the nature, the Department of Tourism offers cozy and eco-friendly tented accommodation right in front of the beach at Radhanagar during the season. The sunsets from this beach is famed as being the picture- perfect view.  Having garnered all the information, we headed for the famed Radhanagar Beach right on the scheduled time, as Mr. Shubho Biswas had turned up right on time.  However, as soon as we boarded his auto, it started drizzling, but being a part of their daily activity, the autos here are well prepared for such eventuality and the covers put in by the driver, did not allow even a single drop of rainwater to breach it to drench us.  Having gone past the market area junction, we embarked on the side road leading to Radhanagar Beach that runs through some hillocks and en-route we found a big snake laying on the road surface, having been trampled under some vehicle tyre.  After driving for a good 30 odd minutes we reached the famed Radhanagar beach, but as it was still raining, we took refuge inside a shop and I ordered some tea for us.  Meanwhile, my wife and daughter literally jumped into the adjoining shop for buying trinkets for themselves and by the time I had finished with my tea, they had purchased a truckload of them.  As the rain had also relented by this time, we headed for the beach, but could not watch any sunset as the cloud cover had shut out the spectacle, but still I managed to get a small solace.

View of the beach from Dolphin Resort

 On our return back the auto driver offered to take us to Elephant Island through the forest route, which he assured was doable and as I wanted to avoid the trip by a small speed boat (Rs.2000/- round trip), I agreed and it was settled that we would pay him Rs.1800/- in total for all the trips in Havlock over the next two days, including the one we had performed on that day.  Accordingly, it was settled that we would head for the Elephant Island the next day and start from the hotel at 10.00 A.M. sharp.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road – Baratang again (Mud Volcano & Parrot Island)

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road)
Part-III – Baratang again (Mud Volcano & Parrot Island)

Sunrise over Baratang

Day 3 (Day 6 since we arrived in Andaman)
            The next day, we again started early as we had to reach Baratang by afternoon, since we were scheduled to visit the Parrot islands during the evening.  As per our pre-decided plan, we again went to Danapur near Mayabunder and had a sumptuous Breakfast of Aloo Paranthas (stuffed potato fried Indian bread), made with actual desi ghee (clarified butter), which he charged @ Rs.25/- per parantha, maybe he got smarter overnight.  The driver disappeared for quite some time and I could make out that he had some prior appointment at the place and thus, had been insisting upon visiting Mayabunder during the return leg.  Having stuffed ourselves well we headed for the long journey ahead, we embarked upon the 200 Kms. plus journey back to Baratang.  We broke the journey at first at Rangat, where we had some cold drinks and thereafter, a forced one at Kadamtala, waiting for the ferry and again had some delectable Pineapples there.  After crossing over to Batuktala we made a run upto Baratang and before going towards the jetty side, we headed for the Mud Volcano.

The hoarding at Mud Volcano in Baratang

The scene of the actual site of Mud Volcano in Baratang

            The road leading upto the Mud Volcano is in very bad shape and only bigger vehicles and jeeps can navigate, with difficulty across the terrain.  One has to further trudge another 500 odd meters, 200 of which is upwards to reach the Mud Volcano through some muddy & slipper slush.  The Mud volcano at Baratang came into being on 18th February, 2003 when an explosion at night with fire & mud spews being ejected from the earth, accompanied by minor tremors shook the region.  At present, the Mud Volcano covers an area of about 1000 sq. meters, with a central semi circular dome of about 30 sq. meter diameter and is about 2 meters high.  The main crater now appears to be submerged under a mass of grey colored clay, that is intermittently being ejected alongwith some odorless gasses, at a very slow pace.  However, for a person who is not well conversant with geological presentations, this place does not offer any spectacular views.   Having trudged back to the vehicle, we headed towards Baratang as we were booked at the forest Rest House for the night.  This Rest House was the best one I had seen or lived in during my stay in Andaman’s and the staff too was very courteous and prompt.

On the way back  - spotted a Black Serpent Eagle

The Elephant and Mahout - in the jungle

            We had reached the Forest Rest House at around 3.00 P.M and as we were considerably late, we could not have lunch, but the aloo paranthas that we have had in the morning saved the day for us.  We ordered some Coffee and pakoras (fried snacks) and after partaking these, took a short power nap to rejuvenate ourselves for our evening jaunt.   At around 4.00 P.M. we headed for the Nilambur jetty and boarded the boat that was to take us to the famed Parrot Island.  Parrot Island is another of the famous tourist destinations in Baratang, it takes about 30-40 minutes to reach these Islands by outboard engine fitted boats and cost @ Rs.400/- per round trip per person or Rs.2500/- for full boat.  The boats take off after 4.00 P.M and pass through very deep sea with mangrove forest bearing islands all around.  The Parrot Island is quite distinct from others and the resident Parrots having trimmed off the mangrove forest tops with precision, the entire island appears to have been trimmed by human hands.  The boats drop anchor about 200 odd meters from the shore line and the boats drifts continuously in the sea water, thus, taking long shots (through telephoto) becomes quite a difficult task, because of the instability.  The boatmen carry their fishing lines with them and utilize the free time at their disposal catching some fish for themselves, while the tourists gorge in at the spectacle that unfolds at the Parrot Island.  The Parrots, numbering in thousands, start homing in just after the sun set, first in small groups and then their numbers gradually swell and they roost for the night in these islands.  Due to low light conditions, coupled with continuous swaying movement, it is very difficult to photograph them.  According to my estimation, the number of Parrots is way upward of 7000 and apparently come in from all directions, so it can be conceived that they come in from all the surrounding Islands of Andaman’s, within a diameter of 25 odd Kms. or so.  After the birds had roosted for the night, the overboard engines were started and by this time everything had gone pitch black, only the boatmen knew as to how they navigated their boats during the night & in pitch dark conditions.  It is a spectacle that one watches but rarely in his life and having gorged in copious amounts of natural beauty, we bid adieu to Baratang Islands the next morning.

Parrot Island - on the right hand side - tree tops trimmed like professionals


Parrots roosting on the island