Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The journey just kept getting from bad to worse...

Connor (my irish pal) and I stayed up all night, watching the cable TV in our room and making the most of the A/C.....

A few hours later, shortly before dawn, we hailed a lone rickshaw, took it to the bus-station, and approx. 3:30AM, and waited for the 4:00AM bus..

We were exhausted, having not slept at all the night before - and so when the first VIP bus showed up, we got in.. Sure, we asked the normal 4-5 times if we were on a bus to the right place - and sure enough, the ticket conductor kept nodding.

Fast forward about 12 hours (a rather uneventful trip, no tribespeople seen), and we're dropped off about 3 hours from where we want to be... The previously most vocal ticket-seller is now rather silent, and just smiles guiltily when we ask him how we get to Diglipur.

It was a scam. The usual signs are there: He can't look us in the eye... and so, we have to respond in the only way that works... we lose our cool, and make a scene... We refuse to get off the bus, and repeatedly call him a bad man and a cheat in front of the other customers. In the end, he gives in, and gives us 50 rupees each back (I have a feeling we were overcharged in addition to being sold a ticket to the wrong place).

The next bus to Diglipur isn't for another 4 hours. We're exhausted, pissed off, and we want to arrive at our final destination. What to do?

A rickshaw to the main junction out of town, we sit by the side of the road for a few minutes, and hail the first car going in our direction.. And thus I find myself hitchhiking for the first time in my life.

It didn't take long, and soon enough, we're given a ride in a very nice air conditioned SUV owned by the Save The Children Charity... (thats right, where do you think your money is going? To the kids? Hah!)..

A 1 hour bus trip from Diglipur takes us to Kalipur, where the backpacker-orientated guesthouse (Pristine) awaits us.....


I won't spend too much time on this... but simply put, the Pristine guest house sucked.

The manager was a raging alcholic, a control freak, a retired police officer, and a general bastard. However, he had the only backpacker friendly guesthouse in town.

I cut my foot in port blair the night we left - a very small cut, but after walking around Indian streets all evening (read: human/animal waste) and forgetting to clean the cut - it got infected.... and thus, 3 nights were spent at the Pristine, relaxing in a hammock while I waited for my infection to clear up....

The 3rd morning, I woke up knowing that it was time to go.... it seems like everyone else in the guest-house did too - although scattering their own different ways.

I had intended to go straight to Smith Island once I arrived in Diglipur, but my infection prevented me. Armed with a student-permit from Port Blair (which when waived in front of a non-english reader's eyes, can be very powerful), I paid a fisherman to take me to Smith. I had previously gone to the wildlife warden in town to show him my permit - he surprised my by telling me that the 5 rupee student fee wasn't even worth collecting, and that I could go to Smith as many times as I wanted... (quite nice compared to the normal 500 rupee daily fee).

It really was as beautiful as everyone mentioned.. with a sand-bridge connecting it to nearby Ross Island.

My british friends from Pushkar, along with 3 russians, had been camping there for 3 days, and so I joined them for one night. They cooked amazing food (suplemented by daily fresh food deliveries from some of the people on the island). In the morning, I woke to the sunset, and the sounds of loads of hermit crabs moving around under my feet. In the afternoon, I explored some of the island (while my friends stayed back at the camp, and had an unfortunate run-in with the cops).

I'll tell the story properly tomorrow, but the end result is that we were smuggled out to a far-away beach. In the end, it cost me about $25 USD for the two boat trips, but for a night camping on a tropical island - it was totally worth it.

I'm back in Diglipur now... the guest-houses in town are packed, and I managed to get the last room at the guest-lodge, which I'm sharing with an Indian navy officer (no jokes please, 2 beds). We're both on the 5AM bus back to Port Blair tomorrow, and had it not been for the officer, there was no way I could have conversed enough bengali to get the room. It's the first time i've shared a room with a non-backpacker.. but this guy looks pretty safe.

Looking back, it was totally dodgy going illegally camping on Smith. While day visits are permitted, the illegality of camping over-night greatly increased the complexity and cost of the mission... although, realisticaly, gave it a bit of an edge too.

No more law-breaking for me for a while though. Too stressful.


prashadeshmukh said...

I am very happy to read the travelstory od diglipur. although i reside in port blair, it never came to us such nice camping and joy may be there!
keep it up
p s deshmukh

Anonymous said...

the bus conductors are illiterate and uncouth,once i traveled from port blair to baratang caves, from the time i got in the bus to the end of the journey the conductor keptplaying loud taped rubbish music , i requested to stop saying tourists come here to listen to the sound of birds and forests,he laughed and kept boring all passengers with his blaring music. he treated the jarawa tribals like animals. i can tell you all the indians living in this paradise and the indian administrators have destroyed it- port blair is a big sewage , it is a reflection of the character of the indian administrators. my suggestion to foreigners is dont waste your holidays in andamans islands- port blair is so dirty , stinky . better go to thailand or indonesia or seychelles - avoid andamans .