Day 1 – January 21, 2019
Corbin’s Cove beach was not far off from the Cellular Jail. In the late afternoon sunlight, the beach was full of tourists. Encircled by lush green coconut palms, the beach happened to be a favourite choice of the tourists. Most of them were simply relaxing and having green cocoanut water, while some others were making rounds in the sea with jet-bike.
There was a small island deep into the sea. Adventure prone tourists were going up to the island with jet-bikes at high speed and were coming back up to the shore with eyes full of joy and satisfaction. Most of them were youngsters, who supposedly preferred doing adventure sports instead of sitting idle. We were told that scuba diving, surfing, and boating facilities were also available.
Since we were tired after roaming about in the Cellular jail for quite some time, we preferred to sit at a tranquil corner under palm tree to have tea to rejuvenate ourselves.
There were a lot of beachside shops to serve freshly prepared snacks & refreshments. Some memento shops were also there. Though the beach was crowded, but we managed to find a tranquil corner to spend some cool moments, then went back to Cellular Jail to watch the light & sound show.
Before entering the Cellular Jail, we visited the Veer Savarkar Park situated opposite to the main gate of the Jail. There were statues of seven immortal freedom fighters like Mohit Moitra (originated from Pabna of un-divided Bengal, he belonged to the Yugantar Party and left for heavenly abode untimely on 28th May 1933 due to force feeding); Mohan Kishore Namadas (resident of Mymensigh of un-divided Bengal, he was a member of the Anushilan Samity and faced untimely death on 26th May 1933 due to force feeding) and Mahavir Singh (resident of Shahpur of UP, he was attached to Hindustan Socialist Republican Army and breathed his last on 17th May 1933 due to force feeding)
Also commemorated were Pandit Ram Rakha (resident of Hoshiyarpur, Punjab, he was arrested in Mandalay Conspiracy case and breathed his last in 1919 due to hunger strike); Baba Bhan Singh (resident of Ludhiana, Punjab, he was arrested in Lahore Conspiracy case and died in 1917 following extreme torture by jail authority); Indu Bhushan Roy (resident of Khulna of un-divided Bengal, arrested in Alipore Bomb case and attained martyrdom on 29th April 1912) and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (originated from Bhagur, Nashik, Maharastra, he was deported to Cellular Jail in 1911 in Nashik Conspiracy case and was repatriated in May 1921).
All such revered freedom fighters made great amount of sacrifices to make our country free from the shackles of British rule.
The light & sound show
The show in Hindi language started at around 7.25pm. Those, who have already seen light & sound show at Golconda Fort (Hyderabad) or at Red Fort (Delhi) may have some idea about the show. But, this show is totally different from the others. It’s a well balanced combination of history, freedom fighting and martyrdom.
The brutal torturing methods followed by the jail authorities inflicted upon Indian revolutionaries were presented with the help of long narrations and special illumination system, which left the viewers awestruck. You have to attend the show to know why Andaman islands are called ‘Kalapani’. The script was written in a such a manner as if entire episode was told by a Peepal tree.
Visit to the Cellular Jail and watching the light & sound show was an unforgettable experience. To summarise, I have to borrow the words of Mr. S Gurumurthy, “Anyone visiting cellular jail can’t sleep that night. We know how much human cost has been paid for the freedom which liberals and pseudo-seculars are misusing to support the tukde tukde gang that wants to tear India apart.”
Day 2 – January 22, 2019
Visit To Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep (Ross Island)
Next day morning, we had early breakfast. The dining area of Hotel Sunrise was at the roof. Entire roof of this four storey building was covered with temporary iron shed with all sides open. We could see far away from all sides, which created an open-air-restaurant type feeling. The top shed saved us from direct sun, while we were able to have a 360º view of the surroundings.
We were a 10-member group. While our breakfast together, we had a flash meeting covering our itinerary for the day. As per schedule, we were to visit Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep (Ross island) and North Bay island. Our tempo traveller took us from the hotel and dropped us at the Phoenix Bay jetty.
We booked a 10-seater speed boat for Rs.7,500/- (@Rs.750/- each for 10 persons) only. The booking covered these trips: (A) to start from Port Blair for dropping at Ross island, (B) after one and a quarter hour, to start from Ross island and to drop at North Bay island. (C) after two hour again to start from North Bay island to come back to Port Blair.
At Phoenix Bay jetty, we also paid Rs.18,500/- (@Rs.1850/- each for 10 persons) for booking our seats in advance in semi submarine for coral safari at North Bay island.
The journey from Phoenix Bay jetty at Port Blair upto Ross jetty took 15 minutes. Boarding into the speed boat at Phoenix Bay jetty was difficult, as the sea was rough. Two young Bengali boatmen helped us to get into the boat carefully and to put on life jackets.
It’s a rule in Andaman that no boat should start the journey unless all the passengers wear life jacket properly. The journey was also bouncy, as the waves were almost dancing on the sea. Taking photo during the journey was impossible. By grace of God, we reached Ross jetty safely at around at 11 am. While entering in Ross island, we paid entry fee @Rs.30 per head.
Ross Island was the first administrative settlement of the British, which recently has been renamed as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep. Going straight from the jetty, we found a perpendicular road crossing. On the left, along the road, there were series of display boards meant for tourist awareness. An indicative route map of the island, places of interest, snapshot description of Japanese invasion, the massive earthquake of 1941, the Tsunami of 2004 etc. were mentioned in separate boards. All those were quite helpful for an inquisitive tourist like me.
Deep inside the island, we were amazed to see that deer, peacocks etc. were trailing fearlessly here and there. They came close to the visiting tourists, which gave ample opportunity to get photographed. Screaming of peacocks was very common during our trip. While walking further deep into the island, we found the famous lady guide Ms. Anuradha Rao sharing her knowledge and experience with a group of visitors.
Being an erstwhile administrative head quarter, Ross Island was the home to the Britishers, including high officials. For functioning of the Government, various buildings and support system were in place. Like Chief Commissioner’s bungalow, secretariat building, subordinates’ club, Presbyterian church, water distilling plant, printing press, bakery, Farzand Ali store, troops’ barrack – all were there.
But now, most of them were in ruins. We saw all of them one by one. Tourist guiding boards helped us a lot, as we did not have to ask any body to know about physical location of a particular building. The barrack was found to be in good condition. It appeared that this building was under use. Before the barrack, on the left side there was MES Power House.
The main road adjacent to the barrack went upto the end point of the island. There was a view point in that area. A big iron anchor was placed near the view point as an object of tourist attraction. Standing over there, we extended our vision far away to find out some miniscule ships plying through deep blue sea surface. There was a light house down below the view point, which also caught attention of many visitors, who went down to have a glimpse.
In this way, we spent more than one hour in Ross island. After getting repeated calls from out speed boat driver, we came down to the jetty area and boarded our boat. It is my request to prospective tourists that, please allocate minimum one & a half hour to cover Ross Island, if not more. As per the schedule, our next destination was North Bay Island.
Visit To North Bay Island
Journey from Ross island to North Bay island by speed boat took half an hour. In this island, visitors can do snorkelling, scuba diving, sea walking etc. This island offers tourists with beautiful coral reefs (North bay island is also known as coral island), which can be seen by taking glass bottom boat ride and semi submarine ride. But the most important attraction of this island is the North Point Light House. On the reverse side of old Rs. 20 currency note, we can see a sketch of North Bay island with the light house.
After reaching the island, we first had green coconut water followed by some snacks. We had not eaten anything since long. And then, while having refreshments, we got the bad news flying in the air. We were told that due to technical reasons, coral safari in semi submarine ride was not possible.
We rushed to the relevant counter and told that we had already paid full advance at Phoenix Bay jetty at Port Blair. But that was of no use. However, we were promised to get 100% refund once we go back to Port Blair. So, what to do? We had enough time to do whatever we wanted to do. Hence we decided to undertake glass bottom boat ride. It took Rs. 6,500/- total, @Rs. 650/- per head for 10 persons.
The young boatman was a migrant Bengali from Nadia district. We gossiped a lot all through the ride. A glass bottom boat is simply a speed boat fitted with glass floor. We were told not to put any step on the glass portion. So passengers were required to walk along the corner area, where the vertical wall merges with the base frame.
The boat sailed through the shallow area, which helped us to see various types of corals fixed with the sea bed (coast bed rather). Corals were of many colours, belonging to different types, living and dead – all were there to meet our quest. The ride took place for almost 25 minutes with detail description narrated by the boatman. It was a new experience for all of us.
After the boat ride, we moved to the famous North Point Light House. It was situated at some height, placed approx. 300 metres away from the sea beach. We slowly walked along the uphill road and reached at the base of the light house. There were some security guards keeping vigil around the tower. They told that for that day visiting inside the light house was not possible.
We were unlucky once again. Peeping through the door of the tower, we noticed a spiral type stair going up to the top from the inside base. I requested security personnel very sincerely and repeatedly to let me in. They were merciful enough to allow me only to visit the inside ground floor area. I left my shoes outside and entered inside the ground floor area of the light house. I noticed a lot of electrical panels and other control systems placed there. Nothing more were there to catch my attention.
After visiting the light house we came back to the jetty area of the North Bay island. The return journey to Port Blair was uneventful, but it took more than 45 minutes. We could not reach the jetty at Port Blair, as low tide was going on. We left the speed boat inside the sea at less than knee deep water level, took shoes / chappals in our hand and walked up to the beach through sea water. That was a lovely experience.
From the beach, we went straight to the ticket counter and got full refund due to the cancellation of coral safari in semi submarine ride. We did not have to explain much. They had a good system in place to co-operate with the tourists.
In this way, our day 2 in Andaman concluded in all happiness. As per our plan, on the next day, we had to make outbound journey for Havelock and Neil islands for two days. Since, we were told by the travel agency to get up very early next morning, we had our dinner quickly and went to bed faster to dream about lovely blue Havelock and Neil islands.
…contd. to part-4