This post is continuation of Part-2.
As per schedule, we were supposed to reach Port Blair on Monday morning. In order to see last sunrise being on ship we had decided get up as early as possible. In deep sleep, I woke up suddenly and saw my watch, it was showing 5.30 ! So, I jumped off my bed immediately and shouted on everyone, to wake up. Only Suhas responded, relax .. it's still 2.30 am. By mistake, I had seen wrong display of my digital watch. After realization, I continued my sleep and later got up at actual 5 am.
After getting up, I immediately went to the front deck. There Bhupathi and Senthil were doing some experimentation with photography. I joined them and took snaps of full moon on western side. The ship was standstill, 5km from port blair, waiting for the orders. In distance, we witnessed lighthouses around Port Blair were flashing lights periodically. After spending few minutes at the deck, we went top floor canteen and had coffee and waited for sunrise to happen. Like previous day, sunrise was disappointing again. I came back to cabin, finished all morning activities. Then Bhupathi took me to bunk-class canteen for breakfast. We came back to front deck again, but this time it was crowded like anything and the ship was slowly approaching port of Port Blair.
After some time a small pilot ship came towards our ship and one official from it came on board. When the ship reached front of passenger terminal, the pilot ship took one rope and attached to terminal. Then our ship pulled using the same and got itself attached to the terminal. When this process was going on, I had a small chat with a co-passenger who looked similar to Carlos Moya. His name was Clemente, he was from France and had nothing to do with Carlos Moya.
Finally, at 8.30 am our ship got attached to the terminal. Because of bottleneck around the exit, it took 20 minutes to get down. It was end of our maiden ship journey of 60 hours approximate. First day experience was good especially sunrise, flying fish etc. But second days onwards we got bored a bit. The gadgets which we were carrying and also DVD collection of Bhupathi kept us occupied throughout the trip. I had a nice time interacting with co passengers of different backgrounds. No doubt, a memorable journey, I will cherish the experience for many days. I recommended everyone experience this ship journey once in their lifetime.
We came out of the port, and boarded a tempo traveler(TT) arranged by YHAI to the lodge, which was 10 km from the port. While traveling to our lodge we had curious glance left and right and compared the actual city to our imagination. The city had resemblance to a coastal city like Mangalore. On the way to the lodge, from a viewpoint we saw a plane taking of from Port Blair airport. The complete stretch of runway was visible. Our TT driver halted for a while, and enabled us to see the complete take off.
At 9.15 am, we were at the hotel. Its name was Palm Groove Eco Resort. As soon as we got down, buffe system breakfast was ready for us. It was dosa, chutney and sambar. Nice breakfast and good looking reception raised my expectations about the accommodation. After breakfast, Subramani took us to a room which had no windows, no wardrobe and more than that four people were expected to sleep in 10feetX10feet room. Frankly speaking, it was the worst accommodation I had seen in my life so far. Then we came to know that it is not really an accommodation. It is just a makeshift room for us, as actual rooms were not available. Come on YHAI, we had booked for this program 2 months back. How come there won’t be any accommodations available in Port Blair, so many days back.
Carbyns Cove Beach
Cursing YHAI and of course Subramani, we finished our bathing and washing activities. Then we were taken to Carbyns Cove beach for time pass. We had photo sessions at several potential subject points. The beach was designated as litter free zone and due to his there wasn't a single vendour on the beach. At the same beach, some bulldozer activity was going on; it was taking out remains of chopped coconut tree.
After spending one hour at the beach, we came back to hotel for lunch. There was a slight delay, so we played 2-3 games of poker. Since the hotel’s owners was a Tamilian, we were expecting a decent South Indian lunch. We were disappointed again, it was just place rice, dal and some gravy. I asked the server for a curd, he replied curd won’t be part of our menu. Well, we had no other choice, our hotel was in outskirts of Port Blair, so no good restaurant were nearby. On eating spicy dal and rice, there was a burning sensation in our stomach. To quench our burning sensation, we had mosambees which we had bought in Chennai and fortunately carried it so far.
After lunch, we were taken to anthropological museum. Cameras were not allowed inside the museum. Actually it was blessing in disguise, we went though each and every thing in the museum, instead of just clicking photographs. The museum had description about various foragers of Andaman. The details about formation of Andaman and Nicobar Island could have been better. While coming out of the museum, Suhas had a bad fall, further adding pain to sprain in his ankle.
Cellular Jail and Veer Savarkar Park
After museum, we were taken to cottage industry emporium ‘Saagarika’ for shopping. There I bought Balmuri Shanka (Dakshinamukhi Shanka). After this we were dropped in front of cellular jail entrance. The Light and Audio show was at 5.30, till that time we were supposed to spend time in Veer Savarkar Park, opposite to the entrance. Since Suhas wanted to buy crepe bandage, we decided to go to the market. While going downhill, I took photographs of various landscaping in the park. While walking we saw one VIP movement, it was actually drill for the convoy of Pratibha Patil(President of India), she was coming to the island on 26th Dec for official visit cum vacation.
Walking further, we enquired about the availability of rooms in some lodges, since we were already frustrated with Palm Groove Resort. The rooms were booked till 31st Dec in each and every lodge. We came back to cellular jail, there tickets for 5.30 pm Hindi show were sold out, and so we had to wait for 7 pm English show.
We didn’t have curd rice for 3 consecutive days(2 days in ship). So, I and Anil went in search of curd, to the market. The market is famously known as Aberdeen Bazaar. We enquired about curd at one corner shop in clock tower junction. Thankfully, curd was available at the same shop. We also had Lassi at the same place. It was awesome and made the day for me. We also took the same as parcel to Ragha and Suhas who were waiting for us in the park.
At 6.45 pm, we went inside the jail. While entering, we met Bhupathi’s group. They were staying some accommodation, 2km from the cellular jail. They were discussing that there is a place by name Havelock Island. It’s the must visit place in Andaman and one can go there only by ship from Port Blair. It’s very difficult to get the tickets for the same. We thought of asking about Havelock to Subramani later and is it there in our itinerary or not.
Light and Audio show
At 7 pm, the light and audio show started. It had narration of the story of Kaalapani. It was narrated keeping clock tower as one of the character and a witness to the entire happenings, the voice was of Naseeruddin Shah. There was a brief introduction about Andamans, its name, and when it was geographically plotted etc. Then story of Veer Savarkar, Sher Ali were also narrated. The show was very informative but was boring in patches. In spite of authorities warning people not to click snaps, some people did, that to with flash on. It was really irritating; I lost the track in many places. I feel authorities have to be stricter.
After the show we came back to the hotel. On the way we bought fruits at the shops opposite to bus stand. The prices were very high orange 60, apple 80, grapes 120.
Bhoot Bangla - भूत बंगला
With inspiration from the story of Kaalapani, we had actually thought of doing Veer Savarkar’s type of strike at the hotel for better accommodation. But Subramani seemed to be one step ahead; he came and told us to shift our luggage to a different room. The happiness was short lived, as were taken to some haunted house(भूत बंगला), 500 meter from actual hotel.
The house was spacious with six beds, but the ambience was very bad, lot of dust, no bulbs in bathroom, no washbasin. We thought of using kitchen sink as washbasin, but in the sink there was stagnant water full of larvae of mosquitoes Yuks !! Staying in such a pathetic accommodation, we were helpless. We four were together paying 2000 per day(500 per head) for such a hopeless accommodation. There seemed to be some scandal and we suspected some adjustment between Subramani and hotel owner. The higher authorities of YHAI should make a note of this; there is a threat to YHAI’s reputation.
After realizing the situation, we came back to the hotel for dinner. Again it was same old dal, rice and roti. But we were having our own curd and had it with plain rice. Finally, we ate curd rice after 3 days. Filling our stomach, we went to sleep and hoped that things will get better next day.
Continued in Part-4.