Friday, April 8, 2016


The Tour begins

We were all set for the Andaman experience much before the D day. We were to meet our Tour Managers at Mumbai Domestic airport on 22 Feb at 3 am - yes, our flight to Port Blair via Chennai was at 5.50 am. Leaving home in Pune for Mumbai airport at 11 pm on 21st, we tried to catch twenty one winks during the drive. All guests of the Seniors' Special to Andamans with Veena World were requested to wear yellow. The moment we got down at the airport, our eyes searched for 'yellow-donners'. Thus much before 3 am, we managed to find our group - partially - nothing prevents 'non-Veena World guests' from wearing yellow, right? We soon got our tickets and snack packets, met our Managers Kaustubh Junnarkar and Ulka Patwardhan, and finished our formalities to wait in the lounge for boarding, making small talk with our group.

The Go Air flight landed in Chennai after a little over 2 hours. We remained seated while some alighted and others boarded. In half an hour the flight took off for Port Blair. We had the sandwiches we had carried from home for breakfast. In two hours we were nearing Port Blair. 

As we were landing, the islands made a pretty picture.

As we descended further, we caught a glimpse of the colorful city of Port Blair. 

The modest Veer Savarkar Airport saw very few flights daily. The first thing that came to my mind was that my dad was in charge of the airport work in the mid 60's. Those days there was only a weekly flight each from and to Calcutta, no not Chennai!

We collected our baggage and boarded the waiting luxury coach 'Incredible India'. An unexpected snack box and water bottle sat on each of our seats. As we were driving to Rose Valley Resort, we polished off the sandwich, samosa, and cake ; the jangiri (imarti) was menacingly orangish red, so we chose not to try it.

Rose Valley Resort
We got down from the bus and walked the short steep climb to the reception. 

We collected our cottage keys, wrote the number of our cottage on our bags to be delivered in our cottages and walked up some more to our cottages. All of them are named after islands. 

Ours was 110 Neil. We were amused because it is also our grandson's middle name. 

The room was sprawling - each double the size of any standard hotel. Everything was of wood - inner walls, roofs. The lights were dim - old time bulbs, not LEDs. 

The bathroom was huge too.

The bathroom had a curtained area with big pebbles as the floor; when we looked up, we could see some thin pipes projecting all along two sides. When we turned on the tap, mild water jets started pouring out - an apology of a jetted bath was available! We checked out the AC, fridge, TV and even mosquito repellent - all were working. We got endless Tamil and Malayalam channels on TV, which we hadn't even heard off in Pune! You see the majority of the population in Port Blair are Tamilians / Malayalees. We saw women in uniform sarees supplying water bottles / towels - all Tamilians / Malayalees. I spoke to a couple of them in those languages and they were mighty thrilled; so were we. Most of the tourists are Maharashtrians and they were heard cribbing about the absence of Marathi channels.

The dining hall was a stone's throw from our cottages. Lunch was sumptuous - right from the soup to the dessert. The view from there was enticing too. 

The resort was a sprawling area with coconut palms, cashew nut trees, bamboo groves, and flowers. There was a small temple as well as a swimming pool. 

We were lucky to pluck a couple of ripe cashew fruits and eat them - we were biting into the fruit after may be 45 years. We also picked up the fallen fruits, separated the cashews, washed, dried and packed them for home.

Chidiya Tapu / Mundaphar Beach

After a short rest, we got into our bus for the first destination in the itinerary - Chidiya Tapu - a half an hour drive from our resort. I remembered my dad taking us to this beach as well as to Corbyn's Cove on weekends for picnics when we were kids. It was just the beach then, no hawkers in the vicinity. This time I noticed a few tin-shed-shops as well as vendors selling tender coconuts (slurp, slurp), tea and pakodas and some curios too. 

The beach was still a small one, the visitors also not numerous.  

The tall trees seemed like slim versions of the tall Sequoia trees of Yosemite National Park, USA. 

We enjoyed the kiss of the waves and then waited for sunset - at 5 pm. 

As the orangish pink ball of the sun started dipping down in the waters at the horizon, cameras went clickety click. The sunset scene is one which is enthralling every time, anywhere in the world. It is similar whether it is the Bay of Bengal / the Indian Ocean / the Atlantic Ocean. I haven't yet witnessed the sun plunging into the Pacific! 

After sunset, everyone enjoyed coconut water and boarded the bus back to our resort. After a hearty dinner, we retired early to bed to catch up on our sleep. 

The next day had Ross Island, Chatham Saw Mill ... on the cards ...

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