Andaman and Nicobar Islands
It´s only one day ago that I arrived on Havelock Island. I´m already so much relaxed that I miss neither internet nor society. This shouldn´t sound anti-social but the last week was very exhausting: 1 day Trichy, 1 day Thanjavur, 2 days Pondicherry followed by 2 days in Mahabalipuram. Visiting 4 unbelievable stunning a lot-to-offer cities within only 1 week knocked out me a bit, so that I enjoy peace and solitude here on Andamanes (I´m sitting at the moment in the Full Moon café on Havelock which was recommended from a friend in Mahabalipuram). Havelock is already that much touristic I have to look for a location tob e alone. Beach Nr. 5 (Kala Pathar Beach) ist he place to be for searching solitude! When I arrived there, I was bumping in a big crowd of indian tourists at the beginning of the beach. After 10,15 min. of walking at the beach I discovered paradise! I was so alone that I could change my wet bikini on a big tree lying half on the beach half in the ocean without being observed. I sat maybe 30 min naked on the tree and enjoyed the ocean and the coconut tree paradise in the backscenery.
A couple of days later
I went tot he same beach again and walked this time untill the end of the beach. On the way only 1 fisherman and 6 boys passed my way. Because of low tide the ocean showed its edgy site by providing lots of sharp corals to the surface. At the end of the beach I spotted a white sandy 50 m small beach without corals. This beach seemed to be made for me dipping into the ocean and to cool down my heated body for having a welcoming refreshment. I enjoyed the solitude a lot and sat down for a longer time at the beach and let the soft waves rolling over my legs. The coming clouds couldn´t lower my mood. After a while I decided to leave, because I still wanted to see Elephant Beach and sunset at Radhanagar Beach which is close to Elephant Beach. This beach is only available via a 45 min track through the jungle. The track is only opnend from 8 am to 1 pm … maybe because nobody shall get lost. After 1 pm entry is permitted.
Because of that I drove to Radhanagar Beach –
it was already 3 pm! The next morning my ferry to Neil Island should leave at 12:30 so I still had plenty of time in the morning oft he next day.
After arriving at Radhanager Beach, which is said to be the most beautiful beach in India and one of the top 7 beaches in Asia, I walked 30 min up to the North for being almost alone at the beach. Is was very crowdy when I arrived at the beach. A little walk at the beach wasn´t only good for my feet but only for my sense of calmness. After a while I passed a permission sign which pointed out to saltwater crocodiles in the area and that swimming is restricted. I´ve already received my daily swimming ratio so I chilled on the stones to enjoy the sunset. Except of me there were only a couple of tourists, maybe 5 and countless hermit crabs which might have awaited much more the high tide than the setting sun. The orangered of the sun was reflected in the clouds and the colours activated the receptors for „Saudade“ (portuguese word for nostalgia) in my brain deeply!
On the way back to the scooter I could perceive the whole beauty of the beach which was hidden before by the tourist mass:
on the left side the forrest seemed to be more a breathing green jungle made of overgrown trees, shrubs and coconut trees which different tones of green were pointing out to Garden Eden! The Radhanagar beach is dressed for a good reason with the robe of being a paradise beach!
The way back with the scooter was less beautiful but very adventorous because the light didn´t work. The way back to the main street seems to be longer as it is, because the street is quite edgy compared to the air way. For this reason the 8 km seemed tob e more like 20 km and in the dark it was soo dangerous not to be noticed by the crossing cars, scooters and TukTuks! Fortunately 2 other scooter drivers were escorting me, one in front of me and one behind me. Like this I haven´t only had light from the back but also protection from the passing vehicles! When I arrived at the main street I drove first to the „Seaven Heaven“ store where he sells with his cousin clothes and accessories for women and men. I befriended 3 days ago with the owner and he invited me 1 day ago for lunch at his house in the jungle (the food was soo good!! He cooked shrimp pasta with self-made ginger‑, garlic- and lemonjuice-sauce in olive oil). After a short stop over I drove to my lovely bungalow in Imperial Green Resort where I had a fast shower. Then I went for a last time to my favourite café and restaurant „Full Moon café“. I hope so much that I´ll find on Neil Island a restaurant which serves a similar bamboo-cooked fish in ginger-/lemonsauce 🙂
If you´re up for a snack I highly recommend you a Masala Chaat!
For 100 rupees you´ll receive a dish made of mango, papaya, pineapple, apple, star fruit and cucumber plus Masala (only if you like, you can also enjoy without … I love it with Masala!).
My favourite Masala Chaat „shop“ is located in opposite oft he Joye Grand Beach Resort and is actually only a small cart with fruits and coconuts. The owner is a very nice guy from Kolkatta … such a sweetheart! This shop I´ll definitely miss when I´m back on the mainland … if I´ll have any capacities to miss something 🙂
On the next day my journey was going to Neil Island. This island has maybe only ¼ the size of Havelock and the scuba diving world is stunning! My expactations for Neil Island were quite low because I was quite dissapointed from Havelock Island. My dive guide Prashant I was becoming friends with later and who´s actually from Mathura in Rajasthan (he invited me for the Holi fest in Mathura which is very special over there. Holi fest is a fest Krishna is worshipped and Mathura is the birthplace of Krishna) showed me during the 2 dives we did the beauty of Anderman Sea below water. Thousand of colourful banana fishes formed to huge schools of fishes I dived through. I literally felt like one of them! Big triggerfishes, octopusses as well as rays welcomed us. I enjoyed the dives so much I didn´t want to go up again!
On the second day I met Nitou, a local, who brought me to a hidden beach. The path was leading through a forrest with beautiful old trees which roots took fascinating forms. They highlighted the beauty of the place. When we arrived at the beach wem et some dive masters who enjoyed the solitude and the beauty oft he small bay, too. Fort he way back Nitou chose a way at the beach where we walked over corals. Over there I found an old whiskey bottle with the lettering „Freedom“. I took the bottle with me and could manifest it already standing in my living room as a flower vase.
During writing these lines I don´t wanna hide a little bad luck I experienced on Neil Island which wasn´t funny in the situation but now you´ll hardly stop laughing: On the second or third evening I rode with my bicycle I rented, only armed with a headlamp in the dark, to my bamboo hut. On the way a piece of my long dress was caught in between the bicyclechain and within seconds my dress was ripped off my body. I stood suddenly half-naked on the street in the dark on Neil Island! I didn´t wear a bikini top but luckily I was wearing a normal-sized panty. This slighly beige panty must have made me be seen from far away as a crazy nacked white woman! Nobody stopped to help me and I couldn´t get this big piece of textile that caused the blockage off the chain by myself. Fortunately I wore a thin silk scarve that I binded around my breasts and my neck. Like this I wasn´t completely naked on the street. After around 10 min non-succeeding tugging and picking 2 guys appeared to help me. Fortunately they suceed after a while and they still even invited me to Shivaratri fest (an important 3 day Hindu fest in which the marriage of Shiva and Parvatti is worshipped). Unfortunately I´ve never seen them again on Neil Island.
I met so many amazing friendly locals and tourists on Neil Island. One encounter changed my travelling plans completly: My flight at the beginning of march to Hanoi was cancelled and my friend from Hamburg cancelled our motorbike trip from Hanoi to Saygon because of the Corona Virus. I decided to stay in India untill mid of April before heading to Nepal. My flight from Andamanes to Kolkatta should go on the 26.02. and I was thinking to stay longer on Andamanes. In the evening I met Sanjay, a local, who planned to go with his friend Yann (from France) on the 26.02 from Port Blair to Campbell Bay which belongs to Nicobar Islands. Campbell Bay is the capital of Great Nicobar Island which is the southest of Nicobar Islands. They both have been already knowing each other for 10 years and are both fishermen. They´ve already spoken about the 60 cm crabs and many fishes and shrimps they would hunt and eat for dinner … Mjammi! The ferry trip from Port Blair to Campbell Bay takes around 30 hours and the ferry operates only once a week. A real adventure!
I decided to join them spontaneously, cancelled my flight to Kolkatta and booked a new flight fort he 8.3. to Delhi to arrive right on time for the Holi fest in Mathura.
During writing these rows I was lying in the bed on the ferry (exactly 24 hours already have passed…we will arrive in around 6 hours) and revereved the last days. I shared my compartment with a local family from Nicobar Islands, exactly from Tarasa Island. They travelled with a small baby girl at the age of 8 month. Lum, the father, showed me proudly the videos oft he local dances of his tribe which counts only 260 members! I was allowed to play with his 8 month old daughter, I kept her on my arms, cuddled and kissed her. The trust and dedication of these people who has been knowing me for only hardly 1 hour is hard to describe with words.
Boat trips differ from flights, train or car trips. The boat departures slowly: the ropes are opened, the connection stairs between ferry and land are taken away by a truck and the ferry leaves slowly the habour. During staying at the deck of the ferry that was already 1,2 meter away from the land and watching departuring from the harbour (I know I have actually just arrived in Campbell Bay regarding the narrative perspective but sometimes it´s necessary to start from the end) I sensed one more time the full power of nature and soaked up the simplicity that nurtered and overwhelmed me in the last 7 days.
I remember how I relaxed at beach Nr. 8 where only a left house from the Tsunami in 2004 was left over. I remember how I lied down under trees at the beach, feeling the white, fine and heated up sand on my skin, how I watched and listened to the waves smashing sometimes soft sometimes harsh against the small reef. In a couple of hundreds or thousand years the stones might be smooth. The 2 fishermen I travelled with went to the other end of the beach which seemed to be the better fishing opportunity. It was amazing to eat self-catched super fresh fish with tumeric-garlic or tomato-garlic sauce on 2 evenings and to cruise with motor bikes over the island. Nevertheless I was glad that I had more time for myself after travelling with them and for sure I was more independent without them.
We rent 2 motor bikes and explored the island. Hereby we discovered stunning beaches, amazing reefs for snorkelling and we cruised through the urban and wild-grown rain forest of Great Nicobar. Riding on the bumpy, curvy and sometimes steep road was a bit challenging but should be lots of fun for a well-practiced cruiser. Indira Point, which is the southest point of India (quite funny if you think of the location of Nicobar Islands: they are much nearer to Indonesia and India is such a huge country) is also known as the „turtle beach“. Over there the turles put their eggs and after 2,3 month small baby turtles are born. Without a permission from police the beach is restricted to enter – for a good reason! The primal nature of the island let you find the way to yourself or better said: it urges you to perceive the own inner attention sign „Go here“ in a subtle and delightful way. I´m a bit „Saudade“ to return to main land. Although I´m already looking forward for celebrating Holi fest in Mathura, the Great Nicobar Island leaves a deep footprint in my heart. I can´t find the right words to describe how the island touched my heart or how deep I dived into this island.
Back in Port Blair I observed the Corona Virus pandemic situation in a relaxed mood. Actually I wanted to go to Mathura to celebrate Holi fest but my friend over there suggested me to stay on Andamanes. I wasn´t too sad to cancel my flight for a second time to the main land and so I decided to explore 2,3 more weeks the islands. I was lucky to get to know a surf instructor from Basque country who intended to go to Little Andamanes. He wanted to open a surf and dive shop there 5 years ago so he still stored some surf equipment on the island. We decided to travel together. After an 8 hours ferry trip in the deluxe cabin (I was invited by my travel buddy because it was International Women´s Day!) we checked out 2 accomodations and I decided to take a room in Hawka Resort (the AC room was quite expensive for 1800 rupees. Next time I´d stay in the neighbouring Rainbow Resort for only 400 rupees a night including bath room!). During these six days on Little Andamanes my private surf teacher gave me a surf class at the beach in front of our accomodation, I did a tour to the biggest water fall on the island for only 500 rupees (we were 4 people and paid all together 2000 rupees which is a fixed price) and hiked through the rain forest with my new friends Kate, Simone and Lorenzo from Italy. My travel buddy Varuna and I drove on the motor bike to the light house and we stopped at paradise beaches on this beautiful island. We met some Nicobari tribal people who welcomed us with a big smile and even picked some coconuts for us freshly collected from a coconut tree (see the video how they climbed to the top of a coconut tree)!
I denied the news concerning the pandemy but more and more it became difficult for me to stay calm. My travel buddy made me crazy and told me about his nightmare scenarios that arose in his mind. I was seduced to put something in his mouth to make him being quiet! When we came back to Port Blair I decided to take some distance from him for feeling inner peace and calmness. In the LaLaJi Bay Hotel I met Lorenzo again who I had met during the rain forest safari to the water fall on Little Andamanes. He was even more excited and chaotic than Varuna … I guess this is a Latino thing …
Krysz from Poland and I had a similar vibe and therefore I talked a lot with him for responding to the outer chaotic situation. My last days in Port Blair the three of us cruised with a woman from Switzerland through Port Blair and we explored the area.
Diglipur (Nord Andaman)
After a couple of days I couldn´t stand the „Corona Hype“ anymore and so I asked my friend Nirman to book a bus ticket for me up to the north of Andamanes. For only 350 rupess I could take a local bus from Port Blair, the south of the main island up to Diglipur, the north of Andamanes – what a bargain! We started at 4 am in the morning and it took 11 hours. During sleeping in the bus my head shaked against a metal nippel at the window and when I suddely woke up I felt huge bruises below my eyebrow and my forehead additionally to an eye infection. The bumpy and dusty bus trip ended at Diglipur Bazar. Over there I took a Tuk Tuk for 600 rupees to my accomodation, the Pristine Resort. My plan was as following: Staying a couple of days in the north for hiking to Saddle Peak and visiting Ross and Smith Island, continuing my way to Mayabunder in Middle Andamanes and staying there in a typically decorated accomodation and then heading to Long Island. Starting from Long Island I wanted to take a ferry back to Port Blair. Unfortunately I couldn´t do anything of these things, because everything was shut down due to safety precautions. After 4 days in Pristine Resort I decided to drive back by bus. This time the trip only took 8 hours. On the way to the north we had a wheel break down and took a couple of long breaks. We missed these long breaks on the way back and after crossing the river two times by ferry and one police convoy through the tribal area we reached Port Blair in the evening. The next time I´ll take a ferry between Port Blair and Diglipur for sure!! This time the ferry was closed due to the special situation.
The situation got more and more crazy: 5 days ago I took the bus from Port Blair to Diglipur without any problems. On the way back all travellers included I had to do a health check up. It was nothing special, only a temperature measurement and answering to some quesions concerning the health condition. I got a written confirmation that everything is fine with me and after 2.5 hours waiting we finally started the bus tour. When we arrived in Rangat which belongs to Middle Andamanes I had a short but unpleasant situation with a man. He thought he could protect himself and others from the virus by asking only me unkindly questions about the name of my father, my birth date and my stay during my time on Andamanes and Nicobar Islands. I answered these questions and paid him attention to wear his mask in a proper way and to change it regularly. The locals in the bus felt quite embarassed and they even paid the ferry fee for me to show their solidarity with me. I saved these people in my heart!
After my arrival in Port Blair (for the 4th time at LaLaJi Bay Hotel!) I booked a flight ticket for the 29th March to Delhi. My flight to London should go on the 30th. Only 1 hour later my friend Rishab from Mumbai told me, that all domestic flights in India are cancelled from the 25th on – and it was the 24th. He got the news from a friend who´s a pilot. Immediatly I booked a flight for the following day for a quite huge amount of money but I was lucky still to get a flight to Delhi before everything should be locked down. By the way: I´m sitting at the moment in the plane from Port Blair to Chennai 😉
At the airport I met the Italian couple and Markus from California again. I felt very sorry for Markus: he took the whole way from Philippines via Malaysia and Indian main land to Andamanes only for going surfing on Little Andamanes. On the second day on Little Andamanes he got fever and had to go into quarantine so that he ended up after his long journey in hospital. Fortunately he suffered only from a short period cold. Moreover I met Sophia from Austria (the second Sophia from Austria I met during my India travels ;-)) at the airport. We had a very interesting discussion and discovered that we have a very similar point of view on this whole situation! I´m excited to stay in contact with her and to hear about her experiences in South East Asia!
Despite the sudden and unexpected end of my stay on Andamanes as well as in India I´m very thankful and blessed spending so much time on these paradise islands and that I could explore each island, especially Great Nicobar and Little Andamanes which show a very special serenity and pure beauty! I couldn´t do better by spending the last time of my first India journey on Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The empty white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, colourful corals, exotic birds cheaping, authenic locals and tribal people who always wear a big smile on their faces as well as the stunning nature have been fascinating me! I will carry this energy for a long time in my heart and take it back to my homeland Germany.
“The trust and dedication of these people who has been knowing me for only hardly 1 hour is hard to describe with words.”