I think you already know that nothing surpasses my love for travel and seeing new places. And I think you also already have the context of my childhood being rather dull on this front. So now I do not leave any opportunity at all for stepping out!
While growing up, I was one of those kids who were scared of most things that involved physical activity. Add to that the fact that I had little exposure or push towards anything other than academics. I was generally scared of many other things too, and some of those fears tagged all along. One of them being the fear of being in water. I never thought about learning how to swim, and the related fear was rather obvious. I never saw the sea until I was 22, so I didn’t know what it offers either. Obviously I was scared of the waves when I first saw them!
And then arrived this day for take-off to the Andaman Islands! Vasu had suggested that I should do snorkelling there. Shagun told me that scuba diving is the real deal, and that’s what I should do. I was excited about every tip that I got from people before leaving. I had booked tickets for this January trip more than a month in advance. But deliberately did not plan anything for it because then I usually find it difficult to contain my excitement. So I surfed the internet a day or so in advance to just know what are the places that I should see when I get there. I had beaches on my mind. White sand and turquoise blue is what I pictured. And some peace. I got it all. And a little more. I did what was unthinkable for me till not so long ago. I did what most of my friends would have never expected me to do. I dived! I went under water. Over 30 feet deep.
I first enquired about it at my hotel in Wandoor. Among other things, I was told that I would be taken 15-20 minutes, in a boat, into the sea, for the dive. That was just the beginning of the information-gathering process. The following day I was to take a boat to Ross Island, which is about 15 minutes away from Port Blair. My first sea journey! Everything was perfect, except that I related the “15-20 minutes into the sea” with what I saw just five minutes into the sea. Waves in the middle of the sea are not friendly. That’s the kind of shit that swallows you. I could not fathom how somebody could dive into that. I got reminded of our ZNMD scuba diving scene and had the image of the heroes emerging out of the water somewhere in the middle of the sea. It freaked me out. As much as I liked the idea of scuba diving, there was no way I would have overcome that scare. It was impossible. Add to that the fact that it was something I had to do alone. I thought a lot about it, and finally spoke with Priyam who has done a rather cool certification in this diving business. Her response, “zero or 0.1 per cent” to my doubt about probability of drowning was almost a deciding factor. It was very, very comforting. That was on Wednesday morning. I was on my way to North Bay with Mom and her colleagues. Then I decided that I would go ahead with snorkelling there, and accordingly finalise the diving plan. “Pappu” is really the word that came to my mind after I was done snorkelling! Suddenly I could not wait to go down and see things for real. I got out, messaged Priyam to help me figure details of someone who could take me diving the following day at Havelock Islands, and there I was, talking to Nikhil at Andaman Bubbles. He just asked me my shoe size, my tee size, and we were good to go. My instructor was to receive me as soon as I reach the island in the morning. And there he was! Guy with curly hair, a beard, and a blue PADI tee. Akshay. Greetings, me taking full responsibility for killing myself in the process, and we headed out in a motor boat for that 15-20 minute ride into the sea. Except that it is not ‘into’ the sea. It is to a diving site where the water is also calm. I was made to pull on my suit and shoes, and then began the practice session. Most of it was easy. I took some time getting a hang of how to let water out of my mask, and in the process ended up drinking the salt water too, but I did get it. Things were simple. Akshay was to do the swimming. He was to take care of my breathing apparatus. And he only had full control of my life saving gear. All I had to do was breathe! A lifetime of dealing with cold and living with night guard for bruxism certainly made breathing through the mouth with rubber in there very easy.
I remember exclaiming out loud the moment we set out for the dive. Akshay got slightly concerned, I think. All that had happened though was that I got my first rush. I was floating in the sea. For someone who has never even floated in a pool. Looking up at the open sky, with water beneath me, and a cool breeze making the experience perfect, I was already on a high! Soon we immersed ourselves in, and Akshay went somewhere above me, to my left. I could not see him any more. That made me slightly uncomfortable, but that didn’t last. I had other things vying for my attention. I do not know how to describe what I saw inside. There were so many fishes! So many colours. Sun’s rays. Quiet. And someone to keep a check on how I was doing. Time froze again. There wasn’t a sound that I did not want to hear. There was nowhere else I’d have rather been. While all these thoughts are in retrospect, I did feel a wave of something overwhelming go through me some 20 minutes of being in there. But I let it pass. It was not required.
I did not talk after coming up. Akshay had to call out a couple of times before I gave him one little hi!. I had zoned out. And I did not want to come back to reality. I did not even speak during our boat ride back to civilisation. There was peace till deep within. And the sun was shining bright. He was smiling, it seems.
|Bruises from the dive – my only memoir of having done it!|
Some other things that made the trip amazing:
Like I mentioned, it is one of the closest islands to Port Blair, and certainly worth a few hours. I went there absolutely alone, and enjoyed every single moment spent there. The British had some life there in 19th and early 20th century. Now it only has remains of buildings from that time. Now it is just a very well maintained, unpolluted, serene space. I know I stood by one of the boundary walls with my mouth open for long enough to realise so and feel silly about, later. I smiled to myself. I talked to the sea. It was the second day of the trip and I had already begun to feel that I have got my money’s worth!
|It was so good to see these guys not being afraid of humans at all!|
Wandoor is in south Andaman. This is where I stayed. It wasn’t my decision, and certainly not the right choice if you want to see all that there is to the islands. It is about 35 kms from the airport and the main city, and you will end up travelling up north for most of the places that you want to visit. But Wandoor does have a very beautiful beach. It is actually more of a lagoon, but definitely worth spending some time on. Our resort had a private gate opening straight on to the beach, and I quite liked that. On my first day there I paid my homage to the sea and clicked a few pictures of the splendid sunset.
I spent Wednesday evening there again, and I swear, the exhilarating feeling cannot be captured in words. There were hardly any people around. It was just the water, the sun and me. I did spot some pretty big crabs too, but they were minding their own business.
It was the morning of our checkout date that I went for a long walk and discovered that the beach is inhabited by salt water crocodiles and swimming there is prohibited. Thanking my stars, yes, I am. Cursing the hotel staff, yes, I am.
One can go to Jolly Buoy and Red Skin Island from Wandoor, which I hear are quite pretty. But I did not get a chance to go there.
North Bay Island
This one is also called the Coral Island, I hear. And this is where I went snorkelling. There were far too many people for me to enjoy sitting by the sea. And there is no beach here either. However, you can go for a little trek if you like. And that is what I did. But instead of climbing up, I decided to follow a little trail along the sea. The jungle reminded me of the damp monsoons of Western Ghats. I kept walking straight until I found a spot from where I could not see all those people or hear the water scooters. This vacation was meant to be my time away from madness, and I guess that is what I was invariably trying to get at each time I was out. And it worked. You don’t need anything as long as nature keeps you engaged.
Havelock Islands and Radhanagar Beach
I did not do justice to this one. One must spend at least a night there. The journey from Port Blair takes close to 90 minutes by sea. I took the private ship, Macruzz, and am told it is far superior to what the government offers. It surely was clean and smooth.
Radhanagar is all about white sand and turquoise waters. The waves are rhythmic. I don’t think I even need to mention that few things in the world match being there. It is beautiful and I am surely going to go back there.
This is a little beach in Port Blair itself. Not something worth visiting if you have already been to Radhanagar. But very pretty and well maintained for a city beach.
The famous kaala paani! The jail-turned-museum is interesting, but at the same time rather morose with details of the pain that people went through while serving time there. I spent far too much time there – first alone and then with Mom, also stayed back for the light and sound show. I was told it would be interesting, but it wasn’t really so good.
I had planned a day for Baratang, which apparently has limestone caves, but that didn’t work out. And looking at the map, I feel like I should go back and spend another two weeks or so there before coming back to this jungle.
This has been a very, very long post. Possibly my longest ever. But then it was my longest vacation ever, too. Deserved the space.
Oh, I must mention, GoAir was the cherry on my cake. Absolutely no complaints!
7 thoughts on “Sazish Mein Shamil Zamana”
So, so, so, sooooo jealous!!!And. also. SO happy you got to visit 🙂
Wow. Its going up on my wishlist. And WOW.
This was already on my wishlist, it just moved up the priority order! Your longest post (and vacation) is the most inspiring as well 🙂
I've been waiting for this post.Am ecstatic that you made friends with scuba – and I can read a little glimpse of what you must have experienced 'down under' – the feeling is like nothing else!The waters seem so inviting – we must do a beach trip together soon!Been grinning throughout the read 🙂
Avan,:D :DShreya,:) Yeah, you shouldn't miss it.Subhadip,:) Thanks. Dekh ke aao! 0730 pe dive karna!Priyam,:) Thanks for all the pep talk! Chalo jald hi chalein. Swetha ko le ke. Bas let me recover on the monetary front. This was frikkin' expensive!
WOW!Proud and Jealous of you! 🙂
Don't be jealous!