This is Part I of the 2009 Big trip – covering Andaman & Nicobar, Port Blair & the Havelock Island trip
It was time for one of our annual holidays and the planning started from the first week of August 09. A few strategically placed leaves, combined with two weekends and some festival holidays resulted in a clear 16 day vacation from the 19th of September up to 4th of October 09!
With her new found swimming skills, Sangeetha was keen on a ‘beach-weech’ trip to indulge in some water sports and I was keen on going for a long drive. Somewhere along the way, a family commitment meant that a trip to Cuddapah also had to be included into our vacation plans.
So we decided to split our holidays into two parts; first a beach vacation + long drive and then a family trip to Cuddapah.
First thought for the beach vacation was Lakshadweep! Calls were made, emails were exchanged, but not much of a progress happened. Looks like Lakshadweep comes to life only from October onwards.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands were the obvious next choice; they are more easily accessible and offer a wider choice of options for stay and activities. Comparatively a package tour to South-East Asia or Maldives would have worked out to be a cheaper deal… but the thought of visiting a remote part of our own country was more exciting. So Andaman it would be!
- Step 1: A bit of research helped us estimate that 5 days would be ideal to cover the places we wanted to see in the Andamans.
- Step 2: Booked air-tickets ex-Chennai for our intended days of arrival and departure.
- Step 3: More research pointed us towards Havelock Island, which has some of the best beaches and adventure activities in the Andamans.
- Step 4: Booked hotels and resort in Port Blair & Havelock.
- Step 5: Googled around to list down the places we wanted to cover during the drive part of the trip and planned the route to balance the drive time & sight-seeing time.
- Step 6: Packed two sets of baggage – one for the Andaman part and one for the drive part.
- Step 7: Got the car serviced, clutch assembly, bearings replaced etc.
- Step 8: Went shopping for some travel essentials and a new camera.
- Step 9: Started the count-down for our holidays to begin 😉
Trip started on 18th September 2009 at 6.30pm.
Trip ended on 30th September 2009 at 11.45pm
- By Car – 2291kms
- By Kingfisher Red – 2738kms
- By Ship – 54kms
- By Helicopter – 54kms
- By Bus – 25kms
- By Auto rickshaw – 35kms
- By Honda Activa – 14kms
- By Cycle rickshaw – 4kms
- By Jeep / Sumo / Taxi etc. – 50kms
- By boats / Kayaks – 20kms
- By walk – 30kms* We missed out on travelling by train; else we would have used all major modes of transport; by land, air, sea & rail.
- 18-Sep : Drive from Bangalore to Chennai
- 19-Sep : Flight from Chennai to Port Blair
- 20-Sep : Ship from Port Blair to Havelock
- 21-Sep : On Havelock
- 22-Sep : On Havelock
- 23-Sep : Helicopter from Havelock to Port Blair
- 24-Sep : Flight from Port Blair to Chennai & drive to Alambrai, Pondicherry, Chidambaram.
- 25-Sep : Drive to Gangaikondacholapuram, Darasuram, Kumbakonam, Tanjore.
- 26-Sep : Drive to Trichy & Srirangam.
- 27-Sep : Drive to Thirumayam, Kanadukathan & Rameshwaram.
- 28-Sep : Drive to Dhanushkodi, Kanyakumari.
- 29-Sep : Drive to Suchindram, Padmanabhapuram & Madurai.
- 30-Sep : Drive to Bangalore.
Trip quick facts & stats.
18th Sep 2009 – Bangalore to Chennai
To avoid the last minute rush, we had been working on the packing from the previous week and had completed around 90% of the preparations… but hey, what’s life without the 11th hour running around 🙂
Original plan was to start work really early and wind up from office post lunch and start off our drive to Chennai. Managed to complete all pending stuff, put an ‘Out of office’ and reached home only by around 5.00pm.
“Did you pack the Sunscreen…” “I thought you did…” “I would have, if you had bought it” “Oops! lets buy it somewhere on the way…” “Where did you keep the charger?” “In the blue bag…” “Where is the blue bag???” “Good question” “Should we take this along? do you think we’ll need that?” “No time to think… just dump them all in the car!” “Get up! What are you doing?” “Wait… I am copying some songs” “WE ARE LATE!!!!” Just one song please.. don’t worry we’ll reach chennai in time… only this song ok?”
As the phrase goes, we pretty much dumped ‘everything, but the kitchen sink’ into the car and completed the last minute packing.
Grabbed an early dinner and finally started off at 6.30pm sharp. We had to catch the flight from Chennai at 4.55am the next day. Which meant that we were probably cutting it a little close.
It was drizzling for most of the way upto Chennai. Initially I did have some niggling worries about the roads being blocked by rains etc. But decided to banish the thoughts and enjoy the drive!
These two guys were happily dozing away in the moving truck and I was wondering, how do they manage not to fall out? Wouldn’t the guy holding the rope release it when he falls asleep??
Great road… we were buzzing away at a constant 100kmph. Crossed 110kmph and the car reminded me of what I had skipped. I had postponed getting the wheels balanced till it was too late and one of the wheels would start a rythmic vibration between 110 & 120. Thought of the vibration as a ‘speed check’ of sorts and kept the speedo at the 100 – 110 mark.
Stopped over at a couple of filling stations for a bio-break… otherwise it was a continous drive all the way to Chennai.
We were caught behind some slow convoys along the way and some unexpected traffic pile-ups at the toll gates, finally reached Chennai by around 11.30pm and had a little bit of a trouble finding our way to our relative’s house where the Xing would be parked till we returned from the Andamans.
Reached home, booked a call-taxi for 3.30am (It is a 20 minute drive from Nanganallur to the Chennnai airport.), set the alarm to 2.30am and tried to grab a couple of hours of rest… it was 12.30am.
19th Sep 2009 – Chennai to Port Blair & Ross Island. ‘Shake’… ‘shhaaake’.. ‘shake’… ‘Slap!!’… What is going on? Why am I shaking?? Is it an earthquake??? and what is that noise in the background ??!! and why is Sangeetha slapping me???…
It took me a few minutes to come out of my stupor and realize that the phone was ringing and Sangeetha was trying to wake me up.
The taxi guy had come in a little ahead of time and was calling up for directions; so there we were, wide awake at 2.00am. No point in trying to sleep anymore.
Freshened up, had some porridge and made sure that we were carrying the correct bags for the Andaman leg of our trip.
‘Tickets’ – Check!; ‘Cash & Cards’ – Check!; ‘Photo IDs’ – Check! and off we went to the airport.
Not much of a crowd at that time of the day. Quickly completed the security and check-in formalities and settled down for the boarding call…
We would be Mr.Mallya’s guests for the next couple of hours…
All set! Andamans… here we come 🙂 Though the ‘Time to destination says 1hr:36mins, the flight takes around 2 hours from takeoff to landing.
The first rays of dawn, lighting up the clouds…
I was busily clicking away… 100s of cloud pics!
Are we there yet? Nope… another 40 minutes or so to go.
Finally the plane started descending and we were eagerly looking out of the window… and caught our first glimpse of the Andaman Islands.
Landed at Port Blair by around 7.00am. Stepping out of the air-conditioned plane, we were greeted by the hot breeze. The outside temperature was at around 29 degrees centigrade, with very high humidity. Got our luggage and came out of the airport to catch an auto to the hotel.
Not a bad place, no lift to the upper floors though. There are several other better hotels around, but given that we just needed a place to crash at night, it served the purpose.
The room came with a weird request…
“You had booked non-AC room, but all non-AC rooms are full, so I’ll give you an AC room, but please don’t switch on the AC.” “Boss, I had booked almost a month in advance… what do you mean no non-AC rooms? Anyway, will the windows open out? Or are they shut because it is an AC room??” “No, no… Windows will open…” “@#$%&… ok, let us not waste time, just show us the room…”
A view from the hotel window…
We freshened up quickly and headed out to see Port Blair. We would have the entire day here + almost half a day on the 23rd when we returned from Havelock.
Well, Port Blair made us feel right at home! Autos standing in a queue… refusing to come to where you want to go… it was as if we had never left Bangalore… 🙂
But first things first; we had to go to the Phoenix Bay Harbor to book ferry-ship tickets to Havelock island for the next day. Reached there by around 9.30am and lo & behold, we were again reminded that we were very much in India!
Only Government ships ply between PB & Havelock, so typical scenario similar to a railway station.
– A big queue at the booking counter;
– managed to get info that we needed to fill up reservation forms;
– searched around and finally found the forms to be filled;
– filled in the forms and stood in the queue for a while till someone told us that we needed Xerox copies of photo-ID cards;
– grumbling about why the hell don’t they put up clear instructions, I step out of the queue complex to find a Xerox machine, only to be told that the nearest one is in the bazaar area, a couple of kms away;
– I walk out of the harbor area to find an auto to go to the Bazaar area, but no autos around;
– While I am outside the harbor, Sangeetha was still in the queue, trying to see if we could get tickets without the Xerox copies.
– She finally reaches the ticket counter and calls me on my mobile
â€œCome back… forget about the Xerox copies… there are no tickets available till the 24th!” “Whaaatttt???… how can that be? There have to be some tickets on some ship at least?” “This guy is saying absolutely no tickets till 24th” “What about alternatives?” “This guy is not being helpful…” “Ok… forget it, we’ll figure out something” We caught hold of a security person at the harbor entrance and explained our predicament and asked him if there are private boats to Havelock…”No. But… you can come to the harbor tomorrow morning and talk to the ship crew, they’ll let you board for a small fee or ‘standing tickets'”. Ok, while that was the last option, we decided to try and get some confirmed seats on the ferry. A couple of calls to the resort offices and we were put in touch with an ‘Agent’; who assured us confirmed tickets on the ferry at Rs.400/- per head (Normally they cost Rs.260 per head.) He asked us to be at the jetty by around 5.30am the next morning.
With the tickets taken care of, we headed off to see Port Blair. First stop was at the Rajiv Gandhi Water sports complex, from where we caught a ferry to Ross Island.
While we waited for the ferry to depart, we saw some schools of fish swimming around in the clear waters…
And we were wondering about how fast the weather seems to change on the Andamans; one moment it will be bright and sunny…
And the next moment it will be raining cats and dogs…
Ross Island is just a couple of 100 meters away from mainland and takes around 20 minutes to reach…
It is essentially a very small island and about 2 hours is good enough to see the place…
Some relics from the time of the Japanese occupation…
A shop / store from the British days…
You’ll find deer and geese wandering around on the island…
The USP of Ross Island are the tree covered buildings all over the place. A text-book example of nature reclaiming its own space…