A morning spent exploring Port Blair before setting out for the Phoenix Jetty for the Mazruzz ferry to Havelock Island. Arriving at the gate we were refused entry by the guard who pointed to an old blue pus parked 100 metres away along the road. The procedure, as we discovered, was to board the bus which then drove through the jetty gates and on to the dockside where where there was more paperwork for bags and tickets (it had taken over half an hour of form filling and photocopying documents to buy the tickets yesterday) before we boarded for the two hour trip with a dozen or so newly wedded brides, identified by the henna patterning on hands and feet, to Havelock Island.
For such a romantic place it is curious that Havelock island unimaginatively calls its beaches and villages by number. We embarked at No 1 Village and headed for Number 5 Beach, ending up in a 1200rps fan-cooled hut at the Green Imperial Resort, again an impressively grand name for a few tin roof and palm-thatched huts set around a ‘garden’ of palm trees on the edge of the jungle and across the road from the beach. The electricity went off in the early evening and we ate excellent jack fish by candlelight; we woke up to find that the water had now also gone off but were supplied with a bucket of cold water from the well which was enough for two Indian style showers and a shave. We have no complaints. We slept comfortably beneath the mosquito nets – the mosquitos are malarial here – and were woken by a magical dawn chorus of the most exotic sounding birdsong and the staff couldn’t be friendlier.
Havelock island – Wednesday
Today was a day to orientate ourselves and get some jobs done, the first of which was to head back to Village No 1 to buy return ferry tickets on the government boat. The guide book advice was ‘buy early as tickets sell out fast, particularly if there’s a flight connection to be made.
I’m unable to effectively describe the utter chaos and sense of frustration that the process entails. We’d been warned, and the noisy, jostling crowd around the ticket windows confirmed our worst expectations. There were what looked like four disorderly queues, two with men in and two with women, heading to two ticket windows. Then there were the tiny Indian women trying ferociously to burrow to the front of the queues and gangs of young Indian men pushing to the front from the sides. You had to retain a sense of humour, which the volatile Italian man and his wife in the middle of it all singularly failed to do: ‘No push my wife! No push my wife!!’ he screamed, pushing at suspected offenders on all sides. We knew that we needed photocopies of island permits, passports, visas but when we eventually got close enough to push a handful of rupee notes through the tiny ticket window, it was only to be waved dismissively aside and told that we needed to fill in an application form. ‘Where do we get that from?’ He waved vaguely and turned to someone else. We abandoned the queue to make enquiries and eventually found ourselves directed to a side door of the same ticket office where a third official, sitting behind the two at the window, gave us the required form. 20 minutes of pushing and shoving later we were back in front of the ticket window to hand in the photocopies, the rupees, the passport and the application form. ‘No booking until three days before ferry’ the official grunted. So we have the whole process to go through again in two days’ time.
We consoled ourselves with a cold drink and a tuk tuk ride the 12 klms to Beach No.7, Radhnagar Beach, ‘voted 4th most beautiful beach in the world by Time Magazine, 2004’. It’s certainly a beautiful curving stretch of white sand and turquoise water, but it’s infested with biting sand flies and therefore not somewhere you would want to stretch out for the day and for that reason and its relative isolation we decided against moving there.
We returned to Beach 5 and walked along its length, checking out various places for rooms along the way …. and so we came upon the Orient Beach ….
Tried two Internet Cafés and it looks as if we’ll have to wait until we return to Port Blair to post on WordPress as there is only very limited access on the island and a plea not to upload images because of the narrow bandwidth. It looks as is you are are in for a break from the blog ….