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.