Once you getaway from touristy spots, it gets better in terms of pollution, crowded places and garbage. Andaman is no exception to it. When an Indian tourist will realize an importance of keeping beaches or places, they visit to keep it clean. As soon as you start travelling to Middle and North Andaman, the places are better and cleaner and pollution free. The proportion of vehicles and pollution per kms gets lower, so as litter on ground. Every tourist who is not in a hurry to rush back should explore the mountains in Andaman as well.
Nomad’s Nomadism took him atop one of the highest mountain of Andamans and a not so habitated Virgin Island’s cleanest beach – Long Island …
Diglipur turned out to be better than Port Blair, capital of A & N. Surrounded by a mountain range on one side and sea on other. Digglipur is a story of how early Nomads reaching new place and using the resources to earn their livelihood. Digglipur story takes a step beyond a Nomadic life. Story of human’s prosperity fighting the odds and prospering.
After disembarking my bus at Digglipur market, called up my host who was hosting me for couple of nights for directions. I had pre-booked this hotel keeping my check-in flexible as there was no clue of reaching in time or that particular day. The host was gracious enough to adjust my days as it was a slack period for the travel industry. My aim of a visit to Digglipur was to scale one of the highest peak – Saddle Peak of A & N. This hotel was at its base though was slightly far away from City centre. Also I wanted to stay away from the hustle of city. This proved to be a best gambit. This small cottage hotel nestled at the base of a jungle was like a surprise to me. Cost and location was perfect. Though I didn’t stay here for more than 2 nights, but the stay was an absolute delight.
The wooden cottages were built tastefully and they fitted in a a small plot. The over enthusiastic host was ready to help on each call. A second generation of immigrants from BanglaDesh, became an engineer with a background of government contractor had lots of time in his hand, was my local guide. With his car, he was always ready to drop me, either to market to pick-up liquor or to Saddle Peak base.
One thing about entire Andman’s beaches is a blanket warning about Crocodiles spotting. Sometimes its true or sometimes, its heresay . Though locals have lots of stories of spotting and people getting killed by Crocodiles, but it’s a fault of the government that they released some crocodiles from zoo to ocean when it was difficult to maintain after their growth due to space constraint.
Government is planning to bring Digglipur on tourism map as well like Port Blair and other islands. The work on expansion of 200 + kms of Andman Grand Trunk is in full swing and looks like in 2/3 years, it will be completed. Also an air strip is getting ready for domestic aircrafts to get tourists flow to this North side as well.
Next day morning, I had decided to go for Saddle Peak trek alone. All the reviews said, it requires anywhere between 7 hours to 10 hours. Taking into account early sunrise and sun set, I had to start by 5/5.30 in the morning.
Saddle Peak, an intriguing trek:
A very well marked trek route, so chances of getting lost were very miniscule, but host had cautioned me of calling him once I reach top as he was worried of me being alone. He packed some parathas to have it on the way. After making the register entries at entry point, I started my long walk, yes it was a long walk as even after crossing 6 kms at the base, there was no sign of route climbing upwards. I was happy that I decided to go for this trek because entire 6 kms of flat trek was full of small springs crossings to meet ocean on the left. Yes, the entire base trek has sea as a company on left and jungle with tree trunks as huge as an Amazon forest trees. Finally, ascent started with nice indigenous steps made of small bamboos to stop skidding on slope. For a Sahyadri mountaineer who is used of slippery routes, this was a boon. Those steps were kind of route markings baring very few places. With consistent speed managed to reach the top which a breathtaking sight.
Top was covered with clouds and glimpses of surrounding vast expanse of Andaman Sea till horizon with the feel of an ocean is kneeling at the mountain’s feet but with a gracious glory and saying you have a height but I have an expanse, so we are equals and mountain returning the gratitude with the same respect by sending fresh water to add in its enormous expanse…
This was a truly an intriguing trek with a salt water on just few meters away and mountain springs full of heavenly refreshing sweet water. Though all my journeys are solo, which has huge advantages, but drawbacks as well. I couldn’t visit Ross and Smith islands because entire boat renting rates were anywhere between 3/4000 and was a huge cost for a solo budget traveler. Also I had reached on a weekday when there were no tourists due to slack season. I boat renting cost, I would have reached Mumbai. Due to the same reason, I also skipped Baratang’s Limestone caves and small mud volcano point, but with other tourist’s reviews, my repentance was reduced as these attractions are over hyped by tourist agents.
With these memories and the host’s hospitality started my return night journey back to Havelock. On return journey, I had planned to take a different route from Rangat which is in Middle Andmans.
An overnight bus dropped me at Rangat in the wee hours at a hotel’s doorstep. Everyone was in deep sleep barring me and some dogs who decided to form a welcome party. Still their barking didn’t wake up anyone and not even a watchman. Rangat bus stand was a km away. With my entourage of barking dogs, walked to the bus stand to find closed gates. Spent couple of hours at one roadside eatery’s thela (a platform where they serve food to customers).
Rangat is also one of the small towns but a Taluka place of Middle Andmans with small lodges for overnight stays is a gateway to Long Islands. Rangat has an interesting story. During second World War, Japanese ruled A & N. There is a helipad near Rangat and sill people find few packets of WWII around that helipad and none has disclosed packets’ contents. Also in Middle Andamans as well as other parts of Andamans, there are Japanese bunkers of WW II which are yet to be found and opened. One officer of the Japanese Army who had hidden Japanese army’s wealth before surrendering to British at the end of World War II at many places as per local stories and those are yet to be found. The tales are those locals who have found these treasures, have records of it. So Andamans is also a Treasure Hunt for explorers, but none has found so far. The reason to believe is around Andmans, there are still many ship wrecks which are yet to be discovered as Andaman is closer to South East Asian countries like Myanmaar, Thailand and Indonesia than India and in ancient time and ships used to sail in Andaman and Arabian Sea around these islands.
Long Island, an unexplored within explored.
With one of the best beaches and trekking opportunities in this part of Andmans, sadly is not included on tourist’s Andmans trip plan due to poor road conditions to reach Rangat, but foreign tourists who are adventurous and exploratory in nature visit this island. Again, that hopefully will change with Andman Trunk Road work.
From Rangat bus stand, you need to take a local bus or shared jeep to reach jetty which takes you to this one of the 500 + islands.
Though the first impression of Long island is not so encouraging with small houses around jetty. A narrow concrete road lead me to the only staying facility on Long Island which again was completely let down. This was supposed to be a stay facility of Long Island’s only dive Centre.
Ignoring the stay and island conditions, next day went for a short trek of 1.5 hours to it’s only beach – Lalji Bay with low expectations. After passing through an inclined slope, paddy fields and long descend in a jungle, washed up entire disappointment of Long Island. Here awaited a white sand beach and none other than me as if I own this entire stretch of beach. Some wooden cottages on the beach awaiting for tourist and its scarce staff were tucked on its shore like they are alienated from the world. Long Island was deserted when ‘Kitply’ company moved it’s base to other island after sucking off it’s jungle for making plywood. I couldn’t imagine if they had already finished cutting trees, how the jungle would have been in it’s past glory.
A snorkeling in half km area was disappointing as well. The marine life was polished off by overfishing.
I had planned this backpacking from Havelock Islands – Port Blair –Grand Trunk Road through Middle Andamans – Digglipur – return journey via Rangat and Long Island in such a way that while returning to Havelock, I can take a ferry from Long Island to Havelock directly without going back to Port Blair.
Points to note:
- Ferries to Long Island and from Long Island to Havelock are thrice a week.
- Busses to Digglipur from Port Blair to Digglipur takes about 10/12 hours and leave only early in the morning, so that it can reach Digglipur by night.
- This journey is avoidable considering today’s road conditions for those who has back problem and cars without insurance J
- Always keep your Adhar Card or Passport in case foreign nationals ready with you, if inquired by security officials. Though there is no permit needed for Indians. For foreign nationals, there is a special permit needed.
- If you see any Jarwa tribesman, do not try to offer them food or anything. They are not animals, but are Aboriginal and humans like us.
- Avoid getting down on the road in Jarwa tribes areas, though they are socialized now and many a times wear clothes. You canot post tribesman photographs as strict actions are taken if government finds one.
- You need to travel in convoys only. If your vehicle misses one, you need to wait for the next convoy.
Explore and experience Andaman’s exoticism through my view and lens...
Links of other Andaman’s blogs:
“Nomadism is not just about travelling from one place to another, but about changing and shaping your mindset according to situations arising out of surroundings.’
Here ends my 4th part of Andaman stories from Nomad’s Nomadism. Next part will cover the end of my Andaman’s diaries and it might be just a start of nomad surrendering to Andman’s serenity and settling in Andaman for a short period.