This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Part-0 , Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4 ,Part-5 , Part-6 , Part-7 and Part-8
After a day spent playing at the beach, we ate our lunch and rested at our cottage. At about 3 pm, I decided to look out for the reception person, who I then realized was in the restaurant, based on the little sign that I saw at the reception. The restaurant and reception are about 100-150 metres away in the route to the village at this side of the island. The reception person was from the island of Rangat, further north in the Andaman Islands, and had come to Havelock Island in search of work. I wanted to check with him, if there was any bus service to the jetty, from where I could take another bus to Radhanagar Beach. I had seen the jeep service, which functions like a share-auto service every 45 minutes from Kalapathar Village. Buses/Public transport are the best ways of integrating with the local people, without the airs of being an outsider. The joys of slow rides, with stops in surreal places, helps you understand and assimilate what life in these place could be. It’s a series of jigsaw puzzles that only travelling in public transport can unlock about a place.
I was told, renting a scooty would be a better option owing to the less frequent bus timings and with a couple of hours left for sunset the best option to go and come back would be a scooty. In a while, I had walked over to Beach Number-3 which is a couple of kilometres away. As I walked there, I saw that Airtel’s signals were still not active till the place where I found the 2-wheeler rental shop. My phone was coming to life, and the SMS’s were starting to flood in impatiently to the point when my phone was confused on how to ping and notify me at that instant when the sound can be for one message, but 2 messages decided to come in at that instant.
After I got the vehicle, I quickly went and packed my beach kit for the evening, and at 3 pm it started to look like 5:30 pm and I thought it was already dark, and I should rush. We walked across the lush expanse of our pathway in our resort and set off on a journey on our 2-wheeler to Havelock Island.
As we started to drive on the 2 wheeler, we did not realize that the route to Radhanagar Beach was actually quite long. 16 kilometres on a route dotted with little hills, mud paved roads, little roads and some roads right through scenic beaches and hills for company.
As I started out on my 2 wheeler, I felt a sense of inclusiveness that the little village had towards me. It felt as if the little patch of sand, the trees flanking the hills, the black roads were traveling with me with a hospitable look, trying to tell me that I was about to have a great experience driving through the woods. The roads leading till Vijaynagar had very few people on either sides of the road, and I happen to see people only in the stretch between Vijaynagar and Govind Nagar, as a clutch of resorts passed by. I went inside a Dive Resort (Doongi Dives) to check, if there were slots for a dive the day after. I found that the rooms in the resort had a Television and the resort had Wifi. It actually felt like, I had been transported back to the rigors of civilisation, and I was feeling like I had just woken up after a beautiful dream. After 15 minutes of wait, I realised that there were no slots on the next days’ morning rides to the nearby islands for dives. I also realised that I had started to take a liking for the quiet life of the forest, away from telephone signals, Wi-fi, People, Television and Air-conditioning. I was waiting to get back to my ‘dream state’ post the trip to Radhanagar, which was probably going to be the most crowded place on this island.
The roads are modest, are there are bends and curves as the road meanders its way part into the jungle and suddenly opens out on the right with vistas of a beautiful blue sea by a white sand beach, often interrupted by huge broken roots of trees. Can a ‘Castaway’ type patch of sand co-exist with all the modern trappings of civilisation? It seemed so.
The forests thinned after a while, with open fields on my left. On these fields every few metres were small tea-shops. The coconut trees and the betel trees were lying in unison, creating a surreal green cover that you drive through. The sun was playing hide and seek, every now and then prompting me to drive faster to be in time for the evening sun-set show, but the bad roads ahead slowed me down.
As I was driving like a little speck on a giant green canvas, I felt so connected to the place, curious at every turn on what my senses would take in. I was driving along the only patch of road on my way to Radhanagar, and beyond a point I just trusted the open road to take me to some place magical. The thing with such soul stirring scenery is that you start discovering a new-younger-at-heart side of you. I was not afraid of getting lost, since the possibility of getting something new as an experience was also there and what’s the point of coming to a pristine island and not being able to explore at your own pace. All that really matters is you leave the place with a smile, being able to be transported to the place, when you are back in the constipated city lives, stuck in a traffic jam and lost in thoughts. Driving through pristine scenery has some kind of therapeutic powers and the more the roads became rugged and difficult to ride with the muddy paths, I knew that nature would compensate me with something more surreal and visceral. How right I was!
I arrived at Radhanagar Beach Number 7 (That’s how beaches in the Andamans are called for some reason, by a number), and the giant Mahua forests greeted me. The sky was not visible from the normal line of sight, since the trees were tall and you only saw the greenery around and the beautiful complementing colour of the blue sea in the background. Such a view immideately has music playing in your ears, your body feels pregnant with excitement of connecting to something as primal as nature. You wish you were part of this place, and this place is part of you. There is so much of love and vibes between your mind and the environment that takes place, if you can observe in silence. Since I had been here in 2008, I knew that I could choose to walk right into the forests that open out into the beach, avoiding the crowds that throng the fringes of the beach, just to get back to connecting with the pristine environment.
As I came out of the forest, I showed my son some games that were going on, and I am glad that he observed something about how nice it is to be playing in a place that has so many colors. The beach cricket was doused in a background of an impending sunset layer of light pink, while the beach volleyball was bathed in a army of green leaves and white sand. Nandu saw new colors that his set of sketch pens could not produce. I felt that being one with nature and seeing such surreal scenery has a way of calming your mind down, and you are just curious to know how so much beauty is around us and we still choose the life that gets clogged in polluted roads, traffic jams and ugly waste lying around (all for some percieved pot of gold at the end of the rainbow)
I spent the next few minutes just basking the silence in the woods and looking at that shade of green. There was something magical about staring into the shades of green. It looked like the brighter green was doing the marketing and was doing it very well. It had ‘acquired a lead’ and I was going through their ‘sales funnel’
G E T T I N G T H E R E
Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.
There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet Airways, Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book. It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.
There are no international flights from Port Blair yet.