Andaman Trip Story (Day 5)

March 7, 2009 at 3:47 PM 2 comments

Towards Jarwa Forest

Time 04.30am we had traveled about half an hour from our hotel I was sitting on the rear seat of the tata sumo victa along with my friend anvith. It was a cold drizzling morning and it was pitch dark outside. I was feeling sleepy but since our party was traveling in darkness in a convoy formation the vehicles tailing us constantly switched on the lights to high beam which constantly disturbed my sleep. Moreover I had to keep a const check on my camera so that it would not come in contact with the moistures of the early morning wind.

 Today we were heading to a place called as baratang which has couple of tourist destinations like the lime stone cave, mud volcano, mangrove forest. Throughout this trip journey what bothered me was why on earth we were traveling so early without any breakfast. Though we had a bed tea served to us at our lodging by now my stomach was already singing A.R. Rehman tunes of “Jai ho” with hunger, all this sacrifice for what? I felt.

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Moreover I just boarded the vehicle in which I saw my family seated not even bothering to see who was driving us. It was not till the same day 05.30am when we stopped at the “JARWA ROAD” police barricade, I realized that these were not regular drivers. When I enquired about the change in our routine with my uncle Chandrasekhar he told me that since we were going to a tribal area the vehicle drivers need a special permit which our former drivers are yet to receive, so our guide had to arrange for some alternative drivers for this particular trip.

But to go to this place we needed to pass through a tribal area called as “Jarwa road” named after the tribes living in the same region. Since the police barricade did not open till 06.00am in the morning the drivers advised our group to refresh our self in the nearby shops. So our entire “Red bandits” decided to freshen up ourselves and then have a grub at a nearby “Tela” (No contemporary English word) and I hate to call these self employment establishments as “Push cart” as I feel it is much more than that.

 

I know some people say Indian roadside food has high calorie it is unhygienic and all that blah blah crap, but guys I am not among them I just love these local people delicacies.

Meet Rajendar

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There I met this fellow called Rajendar he was something in his 60, he had variety of food in his cart to choose from, this guys had excellent Public relation technique just like Sharukh Khan, through which he attracted his customers he insisted me to take whatever I want without being billed and give him accountability only after I am done eating. I know this was another kind of PR (Public relation) tricks but I was impressed.He spoke a lot and called himself as the Laalu Prasad of Bihar. Since this was one of the opportunities were my dad would not discourage me from eating roadside food I did not spare this golden opportunity and I grabbed to some really nice and crispy vada, water dosa again our Mangalore local delicacy and finally for dessert I had gulab jamun which was just being drained from its sugar saturation.

Wrong Timing

Eating Gulab jamoon was a result of a pact between me and Rajendar which was secret till now and if my family had discovered this then I would have had to listen to a lengthy speech from them for having sweet tooth cravings. However till that fateful day I had never understood why one should not try sweets on an empty stomach. They say once in every day 15 minutes god listen to everyone’s wishes randomly perhaps I had just asked for the answer and within 15 minutes after relishing the unforgettable Gulab jamoon I had to rush to wash room for suprabatha.(I would just like to say one thing to God “Wrong timing Boss Very Very Wrong timing”)

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 It was 10 minutes to 06.00am we were close to board our vehicle again our then we were also handed over a paper of instruction which was also read aloud to us by the forest officials which said:

“YOU ARE ABOUT OT ENTER A TRIBAL AREA SO PLEASE FOLLOW THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTION

Do not give anything to the tribal.

Do not engage the tribes in conversation.

Do not disembark your vehicle under any circumstances.

Vehicle will be traveling at the speed of 42/Kph in a convoy formation therefore do not involve in any activities that breaks the formation.

Do not wear red colored clothes; do not put your hand outside the vehicle.

Do not take the pictures of tribes, nor signal them nor make any noise during the travel else you will be detained by the police escorting your vehicle”

 The instruction may not be exactly but it was something like that. The instruction made it very clear in our mind that we are traveling in a possible hostile territory else why would armed guard be escorting us.

 About 15 minutes later the entire convoy was in motion the drivers stopped playing the music and it was a journey of silence. In the front we could see that some guards were boarding the vehicles randomly. The first sight inside the restricted area gave a very cold picture of the jungle; it was much cooler inside the jungle maybe large number of plants and trees had something to do with it. For nearly 40 minutes we could not even see a single human being or animal for that matter (guys if you have seen that Hindi movie John Abraham starrer “Kaal” this forest entrance was just like that only that here we were traveling on a solid tar road.)

Tribe Spotted

We were about 60 minutes away from destination when our driver told us not to get excited but slowly to look at the left side of the window. We did exactly as instructed it was an unbelievable sight for the first time during our entire journey we saw tribal people. A black tribal lady with African facial structure held a small baby in her arms barely dressed she was just standing by the road, few feet further I could see another kid staring and smiling at the vehicles passing by.

 I still remember those faces it was like they had so many questions for us just like we had on our faces looking at them. As we nearing the exit we saw another group of tribe however this group being close to the civilized people spoke Hindi words and asked for food as we passed by they also wore clothes like ordinary people. 15 minutes from there we finally crossed the forest area and there we boarded a semi passenger barge which took us to the other side of the shore called baratang.

Towards Baratang

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Baratang in itself is a small town but here since tourism has developed people living in this region are very hospitable. Here we met our guide Salaam who showed us a passenger boat that would take us to mangrove forest or lime stone cave. The guide also brought poori and bhaji along with him for breakfast perhaps this was arranged by tour operators but we unaware of this we opted to have food at the “Tela”.

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After a while the boat it was a 25 minutes trip on the ferry during which I also had a chance of striking a conversation with a local cop who was from Nicobar, his badge showed IRF (Indian Reserve Force). I remember this incident while on the boat, when Anvith suddenly saw a crocodile and in excitement he called out my name so loudly that that the entire passengers in the ferry stood up to see the direction that Anvith was pointing at. Much to our embarrassment crocodile had again submerged in water, both of us could not control our laughter and the people already assumed that it was a prank and had started to mumble about it.

Mangrove Forest

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We reached the mangrove forest area but since the water was shallow in this territory we were asked to board a small motor boat and take turn to go to the limestone cave. It was really a creepy area it was although we had come to some other world, mangrove creepers were all over the place.

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We climbed on a bamboo platform which was like a small jetty just then a forest officers asked us to attend a small briefing about the forest and its ecological protection it was similar to the one we had heard in Ross island, even this reserved area was absolutely plastic free zone.

Limestone Cave

The reserved forest was very well nurtured in its natural habitation by the forest officials; the land was filled with greenery but was of non- agricultural cultivation. This forest does not have any wild animal therefore it is totally safe to walk barefoot.

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This again was my first time visit to a lime stone cave and despite the darkness the scenery was too beautiful to be expressed out in words. It was pitch dark inside our guide had to escort us with a flashlight, meanwhile Anvith and his sister where having some serious scientific discussions about whether it was calcite rock formation or something else and as I was really terribly seriously scientifically equationally pathetic in science and math’s I knew I had to shut up and listen to some confusing scientific words and nod my head.

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The cave was as good as the coral reef which I had visited previously in Northbay Island; the only difference was that it was clinging from the top. It looked like heavenly bodies in the sky and almost everything glittered as the light flashed on it. It is very interesting how we Indians associate almost anything in the world with god and goddesses even for its slightest resemblance with any of our gods.

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We had this cave guide who seemed to be very religious so much that while constantly showing us limestone rock he resembled it to Shivling, Ganapathi, elephant and some other things (I was just smiling to myself while advising his fellow in my mind that “Gurudev it is just ground water formation buddy”) but he just went on and on with his mythological theory, since even my family seemed to have accepted the cave guides theory so seriously, I had to silently bear the humor to myself else they might have considered me atheist (secretly I am atheist).

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We visited more than one of such similar caves and when we came out the forest official also told us that there are 39 of such caves in the area however due to their instability visitors are not allowed into it very often.

Driving the Boat

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In this mangrove territory this was the only place of visit and since we also had the plans of visiting mud volcano we had to kind of hurry up. On our way back on the ferry the master of the boat was kind enough to let us climb the control room of the boat and ferry it to a particular distant and this time even Bharthi aunty took turn to drive the boat and she seemed to have enjoyed it. I even saw her taking instruction from the ferry master to perfect her driving skills.

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Later it was mine and Anvith’s turn to drive the boat, as usual I was so happy to drive something without helmet without license without traffic without police without gear and without brake. I somewhere felt that I could make a good captain if I considered this option seriously I mean if “Titanic” were in my command Leonardo-di-caprio and Kate Winslet would have happy ending to their love story. But alas I was not born then (Yeah you guessed it right sometime I do like boasting myself.) Anyway 30 minutes later the three of us came down to the passenger section when it reached the shore.

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Mud Volcano

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By the time we reached the shore even our vehicles had arrived at the other side we boarded the vehicle and next stop was Mud volcano spot. Now initially when I heard rumors about this place from my mother I thought this was like the most dangerous spot of the trip (my mother is very much concerned about our safety so she cautious us. However sometime she exaggerates the details, this mud volcano spot was one such victim of her exaggerations she had told me not to go near it as it world irrupt dangerous fumes, fire and what not). However once I came here I realized that this place was entirely harmless) which even the government had declared in the notice (Kudos to my mother).

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 This is just a place were constant eruption of mud takes place though irruptions spot is a cordoned area one can see the mud emitting out of the land with the distance as close as 5 meter, but it is non- fire volcano and if the FAQ’s are to be believed then during the irruption the mud is said to be cool not hot. We may have spent maybe 15 minutes in that place since there was not much to do in the place we went ahead to have lunch, the lunch was a typical south Indian dhaba with preset menu.

Back to Jarwa Forest

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The ferry’s taking people across have certain timing and probably we were early so we had to wait for sometime after which we got our ferry. But again there was a police check post to cross of Jarwa road, the same which we had come in the morning. So to find some time pass and what other game the BSNL employees are good at than antakshari(Ha ha), but this time I was prepared as while coming on the vehicle our driver had played some old Mohammed Rafi song and I brushed up my memory. So we continued this game for more than 30 minutes or so it was fun even I gave some cues to some old classic songs, but later Padmanabh uncle started old Kannada classic songs including Bhajans and then I was totally clueless, but everybody enjoyed and kept completing every bhajan till its end.

It was almost 15.00pm when the barricade opened up and again we passed were supposed to pass through the same Jarwa forest by which we had come to baratang in the morning. However this time we saw tribes more frequently, in-fact two tribesmen even tried to stop our vehicle but the driver was tactful enough to avoid hitting them while maintaining his steady driving. It was quite sad that the local government is using these people as tourist attraction than approaching them to give them a civilized life.

On the way to Hotel

It was almost 17.45pm in the evening when we came out of the barricade restricted area OF Jarwa forest as usual we stopped at the food stop of Rajendar whom we had met in the morning. He spoke to us quite nicely and offered us to have more food and since it was tea time we had more options in food like Samosa’s, Aloo pattice which was freshly prepared, I was gobbling two each of everything and also found a nice spot to sit where kids playing around the lawn.

After sometime my dad signaled that we had to go so I went ahead to pay the bill to rajendar the “Telawala” but I don’t know why he refused to accept the bill , I had eaten something worth 125Rs, moreover he gave me another parcel and did not charge it. I did not know how to react to this I was humbled by this gesture, I wanted take time and thank him but the convoy had started to move so I just could give him a brief thank you and boarded my vehicle. Even as the vehicle moved slowly he started waving bye at our group.

After this it was a same road same hotel to have food (but today I had Andamani palak) and then same boarding hotel to sleep.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Andaman Trip Story (Day 4) Andaman Trip Story (Day 6)

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ABDUL GAFOOR  |  March 9, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    you are doing a good job keep it up.

  • 2. ABDUL GAFOOR  |  March 9, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    nice jobe keep it up

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