Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ross Island

The first thing that greets you as soon as you land on Ross Island are the deer. They are friendly and gather around you, (mainly looking for food)  

There were instances where the deer tried to escape from the island, maybe due to lack of food or drinking water. 
The island gets its name from Daniel Ross, a marine surveyor. It became the natural choice for the settlers (British) due to its commanding geographical location. Settlers went about recreating a home far away from home with vigour, so much so that the island soon earned the name of “Paris of the East” Soon churches, homes for the  British and Indian officers, store houses, shops, printing press, hospital, post office, tennis court, mineral water plant, swimming pool, bakery, library and general stores came up. An entire bazaar and three separate clubs were constructed. About 500 personnel including officers, troops, Indian merchants and families lived at Ross Island.  

The bakery still stands, but is in ruins. 

And so are some of the living quarters 

Since 1979 the Indian Navy has set up a small permanent post here. No one is allowed to settle on the island.  What you get to see are a few air raid bunkers like this one, built by the Japanese during their reign at the fag end of WW-II   

  There are very few who has been to Ross Island and not met Anuradha Rao. 

Its been a life time that she was on the island and has a good rapport with the animals and the birds. The deer, squirrel, and birds  respond to her call. 

Once while feeding the deer I noticed a squabble between two deer. She immediately called out to them by their name and told them to stop the fight. That is when I realized that she had names for each one of them.
When the Japanese invaded, her grandfather, who was involved in the Indian freedom struggle at that time, was a prisoner of the British on the island. He was executed by the Japanese on the suspicion of being a “British spy” 
The bread that she feeds them is without yeast. She says that Yeast is not good for the deer and can even kill them.

The island which was 200 acres in size, lost about 130 acres due to the earthquake in 1941. The 2004 tsunami also took its toll of the island but on a lesser scale as the main impact was on Nicobar and not Andaman.

Like Ms Anuradha Rao said, its only when you visit such places and understand their history that you can comprehend the scale of the sacrifice made by people of another generation, so that we can live in freedom”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Connie's at Bangalore

Was in Bangalore last month and had been to this eating joint by the name of Connie’s at St Thomas town, Kamanahalli.

After a long time enjoyed a place for its ambiance, service and the food. Need not be in the same order, but then all the boxes get ticked and you don’t mind spending some money to have a good evening.
Their servings are very generous and delicious. The complimentary garlic bread too is great. You pick any meat and they will do it the right way for you. It has been more than a month, but I can still savour those perfectly done ribs. Sorry, I did not click any of the items that we ordered as I was busy enjoying the music. Or rather taking in how the guests were enjoying the music. 

Its very rare that you see the guests enjoy the music and take part in the live music by singing and dancing. 

And when I say dancing, it includes all age group, right from the small kids to elderly couples as can be seen in the video.

I think one of the reasons for the repeat guests are those old classics from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

 Oh yes I clicked the desert and here it is. 

When you visit, do read the comments left by the guests, which adorns the walls. 

The next time I visit, I will make it a point to read all the comments (and may be attach some more to this blog post)
I would recommend that you book in advance before visiting as the tables are limited and the guests are not in a hurry to leave.

Like one of the comments says – Going Home with a Big Smile. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Havelock Island

The ferry from Port Blair to Havelock Island was a pleasant one

We stayed at Dolphin Resort at Havelock Island and I must say it was perfect for the view and the location. 

Run by the government, it was neat and clean with some good staff. The rates too were reasonable when compared to similar accommodation in the vicinity. When we checked in, it was low tide and that gave us some opportunity to explore the beach.

I liked the general ambiance and layout of the place. This tastefully lighted swing is one example 

As Andamans is in the far east, the sun rises before 5 am and sets around 6 pm (compared to IST) So it’s a good reason to get up early to catch the sunrise.

I liked the way they had maintained the huge trees and the landscape, including labeling the trees.

And with all that greenery around, one can’t miss the birds.

Nearly 105 species and subspecies of birds are endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, i.e. not found anywhere else in the world. Some of them are Nicobar Megapode, Edible Nest Swiftlet and Narcondam Hornbill.

I was lucky enough to spot some Edible Nest Swiftlet 

It is intriguing to see them easily hanging on to a wall and building their nest. They are from the swift family and live in colonies. 

They are found in caves, clefts in a cliff, or sometimes even in the nooks of buildings. The nest is made from layers of solidified saliva. These nests are later used by humans to make bird’s nest soup. (hence the name Edible Nest Swiftlet) The Chinese believe that it promotes goodhealth, especially for the skin. The nests have been in Chinese cooking for over 400 years.
Was fascinated by this common sparrow (not so common now a days in the cities)

Noticed many two wheelers with the yellow number plate. They were available on hire - a good way to commute within an island.

 The Radhanagar beach is not far off from this place (about 10 minutes drive) 

This beach is clean and good but as it is famous, the beach is a bit crowded.

It would be advisable to avoid the eating outlet by the name of The Mohwa at Radhanagar beach. 

The food was not palatable and things were overpriced.

I walked for some distance on the beach and got this shot nicely framed.

While I was admiring the blue waters a couple decided to take in the view. I clicked once more from the same spot. Now comparing both the pics I think the second one gives more life to the picture.

Next post – The North Bay Island and Ross Island.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Jarawa territory

Even though we were in the Andamans right in the middle of monsoon, we were lucky enough to get abundant sunshine throughout the week (with intermittent rain in the night)

The early morning view from our window was just magnificent. 

There was this little bird who always took his morning walk religiously. I noticed that he was very shy and scooted off at the slightest sound of anyone approaching. 

Left Port Blair to see the Baratang limestone caves. But the interesting part is how you reach there. After an hour’s drive from Port Blair, there is a check point where all the vehicles have to stop. As we are entering the Jarawa territory all vehicles will have to move in a convoy. The convoy proceed at fixed times with a periodic interval of 3 hrs. (only during day time) We were all set for the 9.00 am convoy. 

All have to carry photo ids and a detailed form has to be filled up with the detail of passenger in each car. While that was being done by our driver we had real hot puri bhaji at these stalls 

While writing this blog, I did some reading on the Jarawa. 
Some interesting facts:

They left Africa 70000 years ago. The most ancient people in the world.

The existence of the Jarawa has been recorded in the diaries of Lt Col Broke (1789-90) and Blair (1889-96)

Originally not as hostile towards the settlements, the Jarawa became aggressive when the British befriended the other tribes, apparently their enemies.

The Jarawas underwent another phase of unequal conflict with the outsiders, when during the period of Japanese occupation from 1942-45 their areas were bombed from the air.
Between 1946 and 1961 there were 76 encounters with the Jarawa in which 15 settlers and “many” Jarawa were killed.

The next phase started in the 1960s with the laying of the Andaman Trunk road through the Jarawa territory began. The tribals resisted the project from the beginning and the government was adamant to get it done. There were skirmishes and ambushes and no one knows the number of casualties on both sides. 
Here is a picture of the Jarawa exhibited at the Naval Marine Museum.

One evening a Jarawa boy called ‘Enmey’ fell into a ditch while collecting bananas from a village house in Kadamtala area adjacent to the Jarawa reserve. The boy was injured and rescued by the local police. He was sent to Port Blair for treatment. During his convalescence, he became friendly with the doctors, nurses and the attendants. He started taking cooked food and even picked up a few words in Hindi. The anthropologists and the tribal welfare department dealing with the Jarawa also interacted with the boy and gradually a good rapport developed between the boy and them. The Jarawa community was full of gratitude when he finally rejoined them. This helped in furthering contacts with the whole Jarawa community. Though the Jarawa continued to remain aloof they have, over time, come to accept the presence of civilized world in their reserve as non threatening and also allow occasional interaction with the officials of Andaman and Nicobar administration. In the photograph, Enmey is seen posing proudly with his family. 

As photography was strictly prohibited, I did not click till we reached the other end. But it was a wonderful drive through the tropical rain forest of Jarawa land. We did see a few young Jarawa boys on the way in the morning. On our return trip in the evening we saw more of them especially one extended family standing at the side of the road. In a way I felt sad as it looked as if they were expecting something, maybe some gift or food from the passerby. Maybe that was happening on a daily basis as the escort (police) was only at the start and end of the convoy. Here is a video on YouTube by Alexandre Dereims which will give you some idea of Jarawa and what they have to say.

This two hour drive gets you to a place called Middle Straight where a government ferry takes you across to Baratang. While on the ferry you can take in the lovely greenery just kissing the waters. 

From there you hire a speed boat which takes you to Baratang limestone caves. Again the identity card, paper works etc. (it costs Rs 450/- per head for the speedboat) We were in the boat named Sanjana 

The outboard really zips you through the mangrove forests. We did see an alligator basking in the sun but the boat was too fast for me to click. As you near your destination the boat slows down and you wind your way through the smaller lanes of the mangroves. It’s a wonderful sight and one is reminded about the movie “Black Water” 

Some information regarding the roots

You get off the speed boat near the mangroves and walk. It’s a good trek for about 2 kms with tall trees and lush greenery all around you.

If you slow down the pace and look closely you can see some finer things like a cobweb or the tiny leaves growing on the stones.

The path twists and turns till you reach the limestone caves.

You get to see more stalactites than stalagmites. It is a good place for people who are interested in geology.

I would advice tourists visiting the caves to carry a powerful torch. Walking shoes is an added advantage for the trek.
Have made a six minute video on the journey.

Like I said before, travelling to the place is more fun than the caves (especially when passing through Jarawa territory)