Travel DayAndaman Day 1: Friday August 12th
I left my home in Shantimalai today to embark on a three-week whirlwind trip through India and Nepal with my friend James. Hailing from New Jersey, James is one of my oldest friends. Ever since he saw me frolicking naked in his meadow in Switzerland at the tender age of three, and I laid eyes on that glorious mushroom haircut, we knew this was the start of something special. Twenty years later and we're still on speaking terms, which is impressive. For the next few weeks, we will be traveling together--it'll be interesting to see what having a big brother feels like. I'm annoyed already.
James is doing the hippy chic look now, because he knows he can't get away with it in law school
James and I took a taxi at 3 am in order to arrive at the airport in time for our 10 o'clock flight. Indian airport security is a peculiar thing that seems to defy logic.
For example: I was allowed to bring a 2L bottle of water through without so much as a second glance, but I couldn't put my bag on the security belt without the luggage tag I was supposed to be given at check-in (which was never filled out...so they needed a blank luggage tag. Okay...) Then, when I was boarding the plane, they required these tags to have a stamp (that said something completely illegible, to be given at the same security checkpoint that required the tags...the same checkpoint that DIDN'T stamp my tags). Back through the airport I went for the second time. It just makes no sense.
Then the actual boarding of the plane is another feat in itself. They open 2 entrances at the front and rear of the plane, but don't specify who can get on where. This creates the mother of all traffic jams, because instead of sorting this out on the tarmac where there is room for planes to turn around, it now needs to be resolved in the alley between the seats, which is tough for ME to get through, let alone an Indian lady and her entire family. Of course, most Indians don't understand the concept of waiting in line, and will blatantly walk out and around to the front, completely ignorant of the other 200 passengers waiting to board. But they all do this to each other, so it's a backward system that works for them. For us Westerners, it's agonizing to watch. I definitely stuck out a leg a few times to secure my spot in line, and elbowed my fair share of grandmas out of my way, but it's a dog eat dog world: They know just how small and cute they are, and how stupidly polite Canadians are, and sneak in front, plastering an innocent smile on their face, daring you to do something about it. It's more about the principle, and it's infuriating!
The flight's not so bad; the airport in Port Blair is tiny, and is given to the Indian airforce after 3 pm, which explains all the early flights. We were on a tight schedule--our flight was supposed to land at 12:05, and the last ferry to Havelock Island (where we were staying) was at 2 pm, on the other side of Port Blair. After some difficulty in locating the ticket office, we were on the ferry, en route to Havelock. After about two hours of refrigeration in the ship's air-conditioned belly, we made it. We bargained our way to a taxi that would take us to the Emerald Gecko Resort, where we were staying for the next few nights.
The term "Resort" should be used loosely on Havelock Island--make no mistake, this isn't the all-inclusive Caribbean escape you had on Spring Break. A bamboo cabin not more than 20 feet from the ocean was ours for Rs. 625 a night...about 12 dollars total. It came with an open-air bathroom, which included a parade of various creatures making an appearance on the regular--turning the light on before you go in the middle of the night is CRUCIAL. Being a bamboo cabin (allegedly built using rafts that floated ashore from Myanmar, but I remain skeptical about this), it is not exactly air-tight. The bed has a mosquito net surrounding it, which is fun--it really feels like we're camping, tropical style.
After a delicious meal of Butter Chicken and paratha from Blackbeard's Bistro, the restaurant at the resort, we were absolutely exhausted and went to bed by 8 pm. Fantastic schedule. I'm practicing for retirement. I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself..I should probably work on getting a job first. But that's neither here nor there. Day 1 in the books!