A piece of the Andamans
This doesn't do it justice
I almost made it (again!) to an easy confluence but fate (or disorganisation) meant that it was not to be.
The Andaman islands had been a destination I'd wanted to visit for many years - another of those exotic places that seemed terribly difficult/expensive to get to until fairly recently. So when I discovered I had the time and money while on my Indian trip, I couldn't resist the temptation of a few days on a tropical island. Besides, I'd realised that there was an unvisited confluence on Havelock Island, and I figured it should be easy to get to.
The flight from Kolkata to Port Blair was pleasant, and the islands from the air looked great. The monsoon had already officially started - in fact the previous week the airport had been flooded...but while I was there, there was hardly any rain. Perhaps the water turbidity wasn't optimal for snorkelling, and there were clouds about, but the upside was that the place wasn't crowded, and the prices were "off-season" - even though it was as good as "on-season"!
Arriving mid-morning meant that the ferry to Havelock Island was already fully booked - so I had the dubious pleasure of an
overnight stay in Port Blair. It's a pleasant enough town, but nothing special.
Havelock Island on the other hand was great. The pictures tell some of the story. Most tourists had departed...just a few keen backpackers and some Indian families were around.
I put some time in snorkelling, and found myself swimming with a bunch of cuttlefish - a first for me.
My confluence visit however was a near disaster. It all started off very promisingly. I walked a few kilometres down the coast road from where I was staying, and sure enough I reached a point where the GPS showed that I was exactly at 12deg North. The 12 deg. point on the road is actually a bridge, where a stream comes out of the jungle and crosses the beach into the ocean. Looking west, I could see what I thought was navigable jungle, and hilly but not impossible terrain...there were even tracks (from elephants) leading in the direction I wanted to go. After a brief inspection I thought I'd be silly to do it alone...so I decided to persuade some others to come on an expedition.
This was a good idea...but they were busy the next morning...so that
meant we got off to a late start, mid afternoon. I'd hired a small Honda motorbike (which I used to ride around most of the island in the morning)..so and English guy, a Finnish guy and myself all piled onto it, local style and headed down the road to the 12deg point.
It probably would have been a good idea if I'd been a lot better at using the GPS too!!! (LOL),
because after stumbling around in the jungle for 15 minutes or so in outrageous humidity and high heat, things got very confusing, and I eventually led us around in a big circle!
Finally, starting to get the hang of the GPS ,(I thought), we were heading correctly and counting down the metres towards success. It was hard going at this stage because we were climbing in and out of the creek in our attempt to travel straight across its meanders. As well, the undergrowth was getting tricky, with very spiny palms, and lawyer vines trying to hold us back. Plus we were racing the sun, because we knew that it gets dark very quickly in the tropics.
Eventually we were at a point where I believed we
simply had about 100 metres to go...just across the creek again. But as we got closer, the GPS started to vary its position. Perhaps it was the terrain (gullies and BIG trees) , because it was having trouble fixing on satellites...perhaps it was just unreliable after all (see previous blog).
With the sun rapidly sinking a sensible decision had to be made to abandon the attempt. Now we had to get ourselves out of the jungle!! We decided that since "all streams lead to the ocean" instead of exhausting and confusing ourselves going up and down hills, we would walk in the stream until we reached the beach.
It was a good thing we'd brought a waterproof bag and worn solid sandals.....but eventually we made it out. I was pleased I wasn't the cause of the other guys having to sleep the night in the jungle!
And because I had to catch the ferry back to Port Blair the next day, that was the end of the confluence hunt for me. I can say though that it's actually going to be a pretty easy confluence for someone else with better planning and GPS to visit. If I was doing it
again, I'd set off early morning, and walk up the creek until I got really close before heading into the undergrowth (hindsight is wonderful). I'd take plenty of water and salt, because we sweated terribly in the jungle. I really did get a feel for what jungle trekking is like and how people can get lost quickly. Normally in the Aussie bush I have a great sense of direction...but in the Northern Hemisphere, in a jungle, with heat stress...I was bamboozled.
At least we could have some pleasant refreshments later, to recover.
The next day, I set out on the ferry back to Port Blair, and along the way helped an Austrian guy repatriate himself - he'd been hit by a local bus (police didn't want to know), and had broken bones and lots of skin missing., but had been self-medicating fairly effectively!
In the morning before my flight back to Kolkata, I also discovered a Buddhist Wat of the Burmese style just behind my hotel. It seems there's been a bit of a Buddhist mission to the Islands in the 40's and 50's.
I'd love to return again...but it's so out-of-the-way from Australia
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