Another month has come and gone and I am still on the move (although proving to be absolutely terrible at writing as I go) so here’s another attempt to get you all back up to speed!
We visited the Cellular Jail in Port Blair which was a colonial prison used by the British largely to exile political prisoners. Many famous Indians were imprisoned here during the struggle for India’s independence and the stories from the jail are terrifying. It is a huge complex on the water that now serves as the national memorial.
From Port Blair we made our way to Havelock island on the very claustrophobic ferry. Our seats were below sea level, so you can’t see outside and you’re knee to knee with other people and seats. Ferry tickets and really the process of buying any ticket in India is the most frustrating experience you’ll have. People line up for hours to buy the cheaper government tickets, but often foreigners get to the counter after waiting in line for 5 hours only to be turned away. I’d classify this as a time where spending a small amount more on a ticket is worth it in order to save yourself time and frustration. Also, book a return so you don’t have to repeat the process.
Once we got to Havelock the peaceful island life set in immediately. Although we didn’t have a place to stay booked, we had a very helpful tuk tuk driver take us around until we found a spot. Unexpectedly, we ended up at Coconut Grove bungalows which is where Matt and I had hoped we’d end up! We had met a lovely girl at our place in Port Blair who had spent the past 3 weeks at Coconut Grove and loved it… she was also planning a big New Years party.. It was the most perfect place to be. We were in simple bungalows, 30 seconds from the beach and the staff were very accommodating and relaxed.
Our days on Havelock were primarily relaxation focused which was exactly what we wanted. Days were spent walking around the island and exploring the different beaches. Though the beaches have proper Indian names, I assume for tourist purposes they have conveniently also been named Beach 1, 2, 3, and so on. It seems silly, but it makes trying to get there easier, rather than butchering the name and ending up somewhere entirely different.
Radhanagar Beach aka Beach No. 7 was by far the most beautiful beach and water I’ve ever been in. I never wanted to get out of the water, truly could have stayed there forever. For that reason, it was no surprise that this is the most popular beach. The tourists are primarily Indian tourists, so after speaking to some of them, they told me that this was the first time they had been in the ocean. When I was in the water I was approach by a father and his two teenaged daughters and he asked me to teach them how to swim. I did my best, but never knew how difficult it was to put into words how to do something I’ve done my whole life. I also mentioned that I am one of the few people I know who has never taught swimming or been a lifeguard.. lucky them.
Our last couple days were torrential rain and wind filled and there were warnings of a cyclone coming through the islands. As my parents and I had our ferry and plane tickets booked and then within 2 days had our flights out of Kolkata the idea of being stuck on the island was not ideal. Luckily we were able to stick to our original bookings and made it hassle and storm free back to Kolkata for our last 2 days in India before parting ways. Matt booked a boat from Port Blair to Chennai, so the wish for no storms was even more crucial for him because on a regular day people were calling him crazy for taking the boat back to the Mainland. Thankfully, besides a late departure, his journey was a success!
This holiday season was completely different in every way to previous years, but absolutely one I will always remember. That being said, I did really miss my siblings and the rest of my family.