The Andaman and Nicobar islands are separated by geography from the Indian subcontinent. And yet this cluster of 500 islands and islets is considered to be an integral part of the Union of India. The time zone is 90 minutes ahead from the time zone in the mainland, the natives here are more closely related to Africans than Asians and yet by a twist of historic fate, the islands came to be considered an extension of Indian pride, Indian territory. Something akin to the Marshall Islands and other numerous islets in the South Pacific which are nominally considered to be US territory.
This would have probably been the last place I would have traveled to. I'd like to call myself more of a mountain man and less of a beach bum. The core objective behind the visit would always be birding, one way or the other. However this trip was decidedly different from all the ones before it, somewhat in a way that the islands themselves were in comparison to India. A twist of fate had gifted me a job as a traveler and that too as one in charge of adventure programs. The islands had a lot of scope for adventure. But why are we talking about the Andamans and the 500 odd islands? Well... that's because two of my colleagues were planning on visiting the place and decided to rope me in. That's the end of the story minus all the fancy ribbon work.
Three of us from one organization decided to plan and execute a trip here. The idea was to explore the natural wealth in terms of adventure and exploration. Limestone caves, mud volcanoes, a fiery and very live volcano if the government would permit among other things to be seen and experienced. A new place, a new adventure, birds to be spotted. Let's go!
As it so happens in a group, planning and execution aren't always prioritized to the degree that they should be and this was only too true in our case and our itinerary only kept on moving in circles until ten days remained. That's when work happened like magic and we were ready with a travel plan and a few vendors who'd help us execute it.
This would be an official expedition for me, a reconnaissance program to gauge the travel potential here and develop a travel package for my new organization. 30th August was the date when the trip was to begin. The midnight of 29th August and we had started from home. It was raining heavily when i started, a bad omen especially if one were to be carrying a camera bag with a laptop and a trekking bag full of clothes.
The airport sports a dull and dreary appearance during the red eye hours of the night. Very little stirs within the complex structure and the usual humdrum of travelers is replaced by a few milling around here and there. The cops guarding the building appear bored. This time even the street dogs outside the airport had seemingly little to do except playfight with a rag doll. i had half a mind to video tape the whole affair but ennui got the better of me. It was the red eye hours and there wasn't much that would make me stir, not even the sight of a dog play fighting with a piece of cloth out of sheer boredom.
A cuppa coffee washed down the alimentary canal whilst one of the trio munched on bread and curry over a multitude of topics from office and life. We slowly ambled on toward the airport toward the first destination. I had carried a Kindle with me expecting to read but then... it was that damned ennui. Nothing yet again. Staying awake during the time when one ought to be sleeping requires a lot of effort but sometimes it is as simple as getting hungry. It was close to 0300 AM and i was hopping hungry and my sleep had simply vanished. Oh... in the meanwhile, we were midway to Madras, the ancient Tamizh citadel not so recently renamed Chennai. The crew on board were happy to regale us boys with extra servings of ice cream which we gratefully washed down with coffee. Do not assume this was our only repast during the minutes before. A croissant was served as a snack during the flight. Hunger now being satiated, sleep was the next thing on the agenda. But then... it was time to land. Had to wake up for that.
The coffee and the sugar high had kicked in and now we were super excited to be running around in the airport lobby. Chennai did not disappoint us with totally empty aisles full of trolleys. Time for some acrobatics, jump photography and much nonsense until the high wore off. 30th August had officially dawned by the time we were done and dusted. And now we were hungry again. A quick ride to a close by restaurant saw us washing down dosas, poories, curry, sheera and coffee before returning back to the airport terminal. We were now a bit tired after all the shenanigans and so decided to sleep it out until the next flight to Port Blair.
Fast forward the flight to Port Blair, some delightful scenery seen from the aircraft, meeting our vendor and deciding the course of action and the beginning of the first road trip on the island. Chidiya Tapu ho!
The name stems from "Bird Island" and the name was well deserved too. We were hurtling through bird rich forests until the forest opened into the sea. We were just in time for the crimson sun to be dipping into the mountains looming over the coastline. At this point, i would like to leave you with this image as the final entry for the day. This adventure was going to be something eventful :)