This is continuation of Part-4.
Day-7: 27th Dec 2007
The agenda for the day was to tour the places around Baratang, Middle Andaman (Port Blair is in South Andaman). Like North Bay trip, it was at macro level organized by YHAI and at micro level was a package tour conducted by some travels. The bus to Baratang was at 4 am, so we woke up at 2.45 am and and got ready immediately. We also packed our luggages and dumped at reception as Subramani promised us to move a new room from infamously memorable bhoot bangala. At 3.30 am, a TT came and dropped us to Bathubasti(outskirt of Port Blair), the pick up point of bus. While waiting for the bus we had tea at some shop. While waiting we saw many Aiyappa devotees chanting mantras and walking barefoot towards the port for boarding ship to Chennai and from there obviously to Sabrimalai.
Jarwa Tribal Reserve, Mangrove Forest
At 4.30 am, 'Anu' bus came and we got the last row seats in it. The journey was very uncomfortable because of combination of bad roads, rash driving and poor shock absorbers of the bus. At 5.30 am we reached the check post at Jarwa Tang. From there the vehicles are left in form of convoy. The gates for the first convoy opened at 6 am. The journey through tribal reserve was like a safari ride as we were going amidst dense tropical rainforest and looking for wild animals, Jarwa Tribals to be specific.
At 7.30 am, we were dropped at the banks of Mangrove Strait. A 500 meters before this point we saw a few Jarwa tribe people. I was expecting that the trip organizers will take us near jarva settlement, but it wasn't in the itinerary. The photography of Jarwas is prohitited as some time back a tourist was stabbed a Jarwa, while being photographed. From Mangrove Strait we were taken in a steamer to Bartang. The 30 minutes ride was memorable as it was our first date with Mangroves. At Baratang, we waited till 9 am for boat to Limestone caves.
As part of package packed breakfast(Idly, chutney) was given while traveling in the boat. After traveling for 45 minutes along the Mangrove Strait, we reached a small opening in between Mangrove vegetation. From there we are transfered to a small motor boat. The motor boat takes people in batches of ten to a wooden platform. From the platform a km trek took us to limestone cave. I expected the caves to be something like Yaana, but it was very different and unique. The guide there explained how the calcium carbonate rocks emerged from the earth because of an earthquake, leading to formation of caves. It was pitch dark inside the caves, after taking sufficient photos(mainly with flash) we came out of the caves. Just before starting off return trek we had lime juice at a shop 50 meters from the caves. The masaledar lime juice for Rs. 5 was simply amazing. Just curious was the taste of lime juice had something to do with proximity of the shop to limestone caves ? Then we trekked back to the same wooden platform and transfered to the big boat again by a small motor boat. We experienced the memorable mangrove ride for the second time and captured the same in the video below.
The big boat left after a long delay. The organizers tried to load as much people in the boat. Because of this one person got very angry and started blasting the organizers like anything. After all this the boat left and we reached Baratang around 2 pm. Then we were immediately put into a 10 seater jeep and taken to the Mud Volcano. After photo session and board reading at the site we came back to Bartang and had lunch at a small hotel(inclusive in package). At 3 pm, we were taken by a steamer back to the place where we were dropped in morning by 'Anu' bus. We boarded the bus, this time we made sure that we occupy the front seats. In the initial part of the return journey we saw a few Jarwas again. I slept for a while and when I woke up, we had already reached the check post. There the bus halted for a brief time and we had tea and malpoa at one of the tea shops.
At 7.15 am, we were back in Port Blair. We got down at Bathubasti, there Subramani picked up us in a van and took us back to our hotel, Palm Groove. After reaching there, he handed us key of new romm and told had all the things in the YHAI itinerary are covered and for the remaining days we have to go on our own. We verified the same by looking at online itinerary in yhai tamilnadu website. Hello YHAI, what's the point in condcuting a Andaman trip without Havelock and Wandoor ?. After it was final that we had to go on our own, we did a brief brainstorming for the next day’s plan. Whether go to Havelock, Wandoor or Mt. Hariet etc.
Day-8: 28th Dec 2007
As nothing was planned for the day, the discussion continued. Our planned departure from Port Blair was on Jan 1st. But Subramani was very desperate to leave Andaman as early as possible. He suggested us to spend new year switch in Pondicherry. We declined the offer chose to explore more places in Andaman itself, as Pondicherry is easily reachable from Bangalore, but the same is not true for Andaman. We mentioned that he have to see Havelock and without that our Andaman trip wont be complete. Subramani tried to brainwash us saying there is nothing in Havelock, there one Radhanagar beach just like Marina beach. Come on, Subramani you are comparing the best beach in Asia to Marina beach, I know you were desperate go Pondicherry but not to this extent.
Later after all brainstorming on previous day we decided to go Mt. Hariet and if the sufficient time is there we thought of going to cellular jail museum. Mr. Bhusan’s family also joined us. At 10 am, we left Palm Groove. We went to Birchgunj Junction bus stop and boarded a local bus. Subramani asked us to take tickets till ‘Medical’ stop. We realized that the plan was changed and we were going to Cellular Jail Museum first.
In the museum, there were photographs of Subash Chandra Bose's visit to celluar jail. The model of actual cellular jail, uniform of prison staff were also on display. There was also series of photographs of various Indian president’s visit to cellular jail. Instantaneously, we discussed that the next in the next series will be photo of Pratibha Patil’s visit. We were also allowed inside the prison into bowel house, Veer Savarkar’s cell and prison’s tower.
At 12.30 pm, we came out of the cellular jail and realized that there is not enough time to cover Mt. Hariet. We should have gone there first. Subramani put the blame on Mr. Bhusan’s family saying they wanted to see Cellular jail first. Anyway, we thought of doing better business for the remaining day.
First we went to the shipping corporation for booking ship tickets to Havelock. At the information center we came to know that tickets for Havelock cruise for next day are sold out and booking for the ticket for a particular day opens previous day only. Then we had look at the status display at the reservation center. It was showing that 6 tickets are available. By the time we went to the counter it was lunch time. We waited for 1 hour did sufficient brainstorming. At 2 pm the counter opened, the clerk at the counter rejected our reservation request stating that the 6 tickets are available in the islanders quota not in the tourist quota. I feel it was not the genuine reason, there may be big nexus between official and travel agents. Since Havelock is a happening place, the tickets may be sold to travel agents in black. We had to come out of reservation center empty handed.
It was very late to go back to Palm Groove for lunch. So we decided to have lunch at Hotel Kottabomman(Chettinad hotel). As we were very late, there was no curd, payasa and many of the lunch items were exhausted. After lunch, we had ice cream in a stall next to the hotel. Then went to the market and bought fruits. Subramani took us to Sagarika by walk. Anil bought some stuffs there. Havla(red corals) were not available there, so we went in search us of havla to a shop besides Anthropological museum. There the cost of cylindrical havla was rs. 130 for one bead. I didn’t buy it as my mother needed the spherical ones . While shopping, Subramani interfered like anything. For each and every item he used to say that it's very cheap in Chennai.
After shopping we came back to the hotel. Then for the next day after a lot of 'tu tu main main' Shivamani agreed to arrange a trip to Wandoor(place suggested by Vinay). Later we went for a walk had tea at the junction, we bought curd for the dinner and snacks for the Wandoor trip. After the dinner, and later had a brief gossip session with Mr. Bhusan. He told us that he ever insisted Subramani to take us to cellular jail first. After discussion we came to conclusion that Subramani has exploited the communication gap between us. Later, we had discussion with Vinay(of Vivek travels) for the Havelock trip. He promised us to book us three tickets(obviously in black) for 6 am Havelock cruise on Sunday 30th dec.
Continued in Part-6