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