Port Blair, Havelock and Neil Islands and Baratang are the only few destinations on Tourist companies itinerary. Let your itinerary expand and go beyond these. Middle and North Andaman which are waiting to get explored. If you really are adventurous, you will find exploration beyond explored.
The long journey beyond regular tourists’ wishlist.
In my last visit, I had just visited four popular diving spots of Andamans and left. The purpose of last visit was to duck for deep dives in Andaman seas. Never thought, this place will become one of my milestone and will settle for longer period in everyone’s dream destination. As I was posting pics on social websites, there were reactions from friends. All of them were positive reactions with hint of jealousy, but everyone knew, I had taken a right call after slogging my ass for years in corporate life. Looking at the reactions and to feed something more to my hungry friends, I had to explore beyond Havelock because doing nothing was getting slightly bored. Before that laziness sank in me, the urge or kida of exploring more took over. One day, one of the staff from resort said, ‘Tomorrow, I am going to Rangat to be with my family for a few days’. My mind jumped after seeing an opportunity to expore beyond explored and asked him about the location. He was very happy to provide more information to my hungry mind. He was faster than he used to provide me food everyday. Though this was supposed to be my last week of vacation, I contemplated on new plan. When I introspected my qualities – quality of making travel plans, not only for myself, but for others as well. In my last corporate job, my colleagues who know my travel enthusiasm and treks, always used to consult me for weekend or long vacation plans as if I have opened a travel desk.
Coming back to this new information and looking at the number of days, made a quick outer plan and started working towards. Informing the resort of my early wrap-up, dropped my diving gear and extra luggage at a friend’s place.
After finishing wrap-up, realized the hurdle of all ferries and buses requires advance booking, right from travelling to Port Blair from Havelock by ferry. Next taking a long road journey of Port Blair to Digglipur which is in North Andaman. None had any clue about bus timings as travelers who come to Havelock, hardly leave Havelock as you get everything here, clean beaches, blue sea and relaxed time. They will go either to Neil and come back to Havelock, but will never visit Middle and North Andaman and leave for their home town.
Another hurdle for making a plan, needed data network to search Google, but here network speed is always at the speed of ‘G’. No sites work for information. Hell with this, like earlier I had mentioned, I make outer plan and give it a shape as per my need, desire to see and available time. Though my wish list was huge, but knew couldn’t manage all.
With the plan in hand reached Havelock jetty for taking early morning ferry. Sometimes, these Andaman ferries can make you sick, if you can’t hold your stomach, if there is a rough sea, but if I compare with British Raj and their infamous second most severe sentence below ‘hang till death’, was Saja-e-Kalapani. All the prisoners were ferried by boat which was a basic one in compare to today’s cruise liners from Kolkata. Many prisoners died on the way before serving sentence.
Though I was warned by my well-wishers that the bus travel is long and no less torturous than boat journey and might take more than 10 hours. Also I might miss the first bus, but who cares. With a ‘Jo hoga, wo dekha jayega’, mindset and working on Mumbai’s Street Smart attitude reached Port Blair ST Stand. Expected first hurdle. There was no bus for Digglipur on that day as direct buses to Digglipur ply on certain days of the week, so asked which is the nearest place to which any other bus will reach. Mayabunder bus was the nearest possible option. If someone would like to take this journey, there are private and Government bus options available, but book bus ticket in advance as buses are always full and Government buses have morning 7 o’clock and alternate days 10 o’clock bus, but do not always rely on timings. You should go personally or use your contacts and book ticket.
In this journey, my belief in two things proved right. One is, luck favours those who take chances and if you look odd or your outlook odd, people remember you and go all out to help you when you need.
I took chance of going upto Mayabunder by booking a seat not knowing what lies ahead and got help on entire travel. Regarding second belief, as mentioned in earlier part, my odd outlook for which people remembers me and advise or come forward to help me even if I don’t ask.
It started with Port Blair bus stop itself. Decided to take a loo break as still there was some time for start of bus and oops.. my bus left without me boarding on it. Asked the bus controller with whom who had chatted earlier while reserving ticket. He immediately found another bus on the same route, but after some point going in other direction and asked bus conductor of other bus to reach me to my original bus. I was completely doubtful about the plan but both of them were confident as both buses – my original and temporary were supposed to be in the same convoy.
CONVOY… I was familiar with this term because, while riding in West Bengal in group, to protect tourists vehicles from frequent road blocks by political parties, we had rode in convoys where security forces give protection to out of state vehicles by placing their vehicles at the lead and tail. I assimilate with the same. Earlier days, when jarwa tribe of Middle Andamans was not comfortable of civilized world had shot arrows on early vehicles from civilized world when the road network was getting built up to protect these islands from enemies like ever hungry China to occupy whichever island looks empty in the world. I won’t be surprised, if Chinese will claim some iceberg in Antartica and settle some Chinese people on it because of ever increasing population and their needs and land mafias alike behavior to grab as much land as possible.
This convoy had the same purpose, but instead of wasting so much man power, cops are placed in leading and trail vehicles. Whom they were protecting from. Jarwa tribe is kind of socialized a lot unlike other couple of tribes who are still in their evolution stage of mankind, wear minimum or no clothes and resembles to Africans, perhaps travelled from that continent many centuries back and settled.
These are Aboriginals and Government Of India is trying their best to keep them at distance from so called progressive mankind i.e. us, so that our deceases are not spread in them. There are six known tribes – Great Andamanese, Nicobarese, Oongies, Jarwa and Sentinels. Not getting in details about them as Googlemata and her cousin Wikipedia is always at a few fingertips away.
After the building of Andaman Grand Trunk Road, Jarwas have slowly coming up in mainstream and nowadays socialized. They started wearing clothes. One specialty of these tribes is they have vast knowledge about medicinal plants. Actually, our ancestors also had knowledge about these, but as the time passed by, we started relying more on today’s modern age medicines. Through their knowledge, Jarwas don’t require any medicines for any of their illness, even fractures.
By coming in mainstream, they got many bad habits of so called progressive human being. They might snatch a purse. Also some anti-social elements got them addicted to beetle leaves and tobacco. These elements trade deer meat and crabs in exchange of tobacco. That’s a bad news for the tribe.
Coming back to Convoy. The formation is kept till Baarataang, a first ferry point. There are two ferry points on the way and your vehicle, bus or car is carted from one end to another in a barge like certain places in Goa on rivers. The whole journey is through jungle was like Amazon forest. You are transported to the past by imagining Jarwas are throwing arrows, deers are crossing road, fearless Jarwa people in their least modesty i.i.e. birthday suits, roaming on roads. They can be easily identified by their faces as round and dark skin. One precaution to be taken, if you see any tribesman on the road, do not click their pics. Even if you click, you cannot publish their pics anywhere. If found, government levies huge fines, if get caught. Bringing you back to reality, the road right now in a really bad state that 250 kms takes about 10/12 hours due to apathy towards development of this region and also Tsunami. I had last seat ticket in bus and bumpy ride literally form my but flat like a burger Pattie and head had Hulk like formation. This road is good for off-roading and looks like vehicles goes through this circus every day. The bus driver was one hell of a driver, maneuvering every crater of the non-existed road. At first impression, it was Government wanted to keep this area also like Jarwas. Protected from luxuries of good road.
Finally Mayabunder last stop of bus was in vicinity, but that last stop of bus was still 80 kms away from my destination, Digglipur. Like I mentioned before, I make friends everywhere because I like to mingle with locals in public transport and hate using cars. This serves couple of purposes like mixing with locals and saves cost for a backpacker which is a big boon for a budget travel. Also if you compare travelling alone with travelling in a group or companion, you end up opening up more with fellow travelers and are not confined with your partner or group of friends. You hear stories from unknown people who opens up with you for more information. One story, I must share. I was talking to a guy sitting a next to me who looked like one of the government security guys and his eyes were penetrating your mind. Somehow managed to break silence and made him opened up. The information given by him seems to be breaking myths of how one of our great leader had messed up after independence. The great Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru after independence not foreseeing strategic importance of this region gifted couple of islands from 500 plus islands to our neighbor, Myanmar as if like India was his own sultanate and the way Sultans used to gifts their neckless or some personal belonging to their Subjects whenever they are happy or to a person who used to bring good news. The reason for gifting these islands was those were closer to Myanmar. This carelessness is going to cause India a big security concern. Few years back, Myanmar sold these islands to china and now, China has built an air strip which is so close to Indian territory.
While probing further, my neighbor opened up more and told me who he was and his nature of job. He was from a Special Police squad and he is a part of a team of Coast Guard, Police and Forest. This team is stationed on an island called ‘Interview’ island guarding open sea from Myanmar’s fishing boats sneak in. These fisherman sneak in Indian area as spies and surveys Indian installation and pass on information to Chinese Navy. Another example of China is seeing India as their one of the biggest enemy in this region and keep these poor countries indebtedness by giving loans and make them spying in India territory. This becomes sensitive in case of A & N as Andamans is strategically important to keep a watch in Andamans sea and Navy uses it to control the territory.
Coming back to my journey, I had spoken to conductor before and told him my wish to reach Digglipur in the night itself. Just 40 kms before Mayabunder, he gave me a good news. There was one private bus running late by 2 hours due to technical problem and conductor of my bus spoke to me and if I am ready to get off at Mayabunder by-pass, driver of that bus was ready to pick me up from one of the highway side hotel. It was perfectly fitting my plan. Digglipur was well within my site to reach in the night as it was just 80 kms away, about 2 hours as the road was unlike earlier treacherous road because Digglipur is a second largest city of A & N after Port Blair as always the case in other parts of Indian cities in which roads closer to cities are maintained.
Got down at some absolutely obscured place called Nimbudora which had couple of highway hotels. Waited at the said hotel and as always, I had time to chat with locals. The owner of this hotel shared information of his origin and how he came to this place settled about 40 years back from West Bengal and now his sons are managing the business.
Finally after 4 hours of wait, The godsend bus arrived and my further journey started, but in a better way and not – flat butt and hulk like head.
Early morning could see landscape changing from rural to small town. Concrete structures replacing paddy fields next to the road.
Digglipur doesn’t have very long history, but has an interesting story of adaptability, survival and progression of humans to a new place. Post Bangladesh war, Bangladeshi immigrants arrived in Eastern India and requested then Prime Minister to provide them land to settle and they were bought by boats to A & N and given stretches of land in and around this very small village which now turned into a town.
Here ends my Third part of Andaman stories from Nomad’s Nomadism. Next part will cover how a mountaineer can never stay away from mountains and return journey to Havelock and further to Port Blair.
Explore and experience Andaman’s exoticism through my view and lens..
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Nomad lives his life for not reaching to destination, but to explore the journey of life.
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