Experiencing the dark waters
By Saloni Mital - BANGALORE
06th December 2012 09:58 AM
For a long time on my travel wish list, stood Andaman & Nicobar Islands – a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal– a mixture of culture, history, beaches with clear blue waters and deep mysterious forests.
The city of Port Blair is small with winding roads lined with trees on both sides. I had booked a small cottage on the outskirts of the city. The owner was an interesting person who had spent his entire life on the islands and was a good tour guide. He chalked out a plan for me.
The first recommendation was to visit the Jarawa tribes. One of the few primitive tribes left in India, the Jarawas are caught up in time. They do not wear clothes, still use bows and arrows to hunt for food. They have inhabited the islands for thousand of years and now only 350-400 Jarawas are left.
Because the tribe is tagged as hostile, my taxi was accompanied by a convoy of government vehicles. I started from my hotel at 3 am. At that hour, the city looked serene, glimmering in the moonlight. It was a 3-hour-long journey to the edge of the forest area where all the cars entering the forests had gathered. After a quick breakfast, we entered the forest area at 6.30 am. Sunlight streamed through the tall trees, desperate to touch the ground. I saw the first Jarawa sitting on the roadside with a bow and arrow. It was a small boy, with a painted face squatting amongst the bushes. His dark body glistened in the morning sun. As we neared, I noticed he was not alone and his mother and sister accompanied him. They came near my car and asked for food. We were strictly told by the authorities that giving food was forbidden. There have been cases in the past of members of Jarawa tribe dying because of consuming canned food given by the tourists. They still don't cook and their diet chiefly includes fruits and vegetables available in the forest.
My next destination was the limestone caves. After crossing the Jarawa reserve, we took a boat to reach the caves in the Baratang Island. With mangroves on each side, and the vast sea spanning in front of my eyes, the motor boat ride to the island was a journey filled with expectations of adventure. Soon we reached an area thick with mangroves, trees bent down, almost touching the water. The guide told us to be careful as the water was home to a family of crocodiles. I had to walk through a jungle to reach the caves. Trees adorned the path. After some time, the forests cleared and I could see small mud houses with thatched roofs.
Inside the limestone cases, the wondrous natural phenomena of stalactites and stalagmites have withstood the natural process of erosion over a period of time. Inside you can see interesting forms on the walls with the help of a torch.
The caves are narrow and have absolutely no outlet for light. The guide switched off the torch for a minute and I stood inside the dark cold limestone structure lost to the world.
The same day my evening was booked for the light and sound show in the famous Cellular jail. Also known as Kala Pani, the colonial prison has memories of people who gave their lives for our country caged inside the stone walls. Messages of patriotism are engraved on the walls.
The light and sound show narrates the story of the freedom fighters who were tortured and hanged and is a surefire way of evoking patriotism in anyone.
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