We arrived in the Andamans after two days of travelling in which we took every form of transport. A six hour bus from Kumily to Alleppey, a fourteen hour train from Alleppey to Chennai, a fourty minute rickshaw ride to the airport, a twow hour flight to Port Blair, a 20 minute cab ride to the docks, and finally two and half hours on the boat to Havelock. We got there, were very indecisive about which room we wanted, finally chose, and collapsed.
The main island people visit is Havelock. And it was the first place where we found a real group of people to spend time with. Even though me and Sandro broke up whilst we were there, it was so beautiful, and I had so much fun, that I can't help but love it.
My daily routine was pretty much as follows. At 8am the sun filtered through the cracks in the woven hut walls and woke me. I'd get up, suncreme up and walk the hundred yards from my hut, through the palm trees and down to the turquoise sea. Generally in the morning the tide was mid way out (being there for three weeks and over a full moon, watching how the tide changed was fascinating). So I'd walk out with my shoulders warming in the gentle morning sun until it was deep enough to swim. Swim in the warm sea, then lie on the beach until I was dry.
By this time others were getting up, and in dribs and drabs we'd head down to breakfast. A glass of mango juice is doubly refreshing after 5 minutes of walking in the heat on tarmac. I'd either have fruit museli, or fried egg sandwich and salad.
The day was spent beaching. There were three options.
Beach No.7 was the furthest, and the best when we were in a big group. Voted by the Times as one of the best beaches in Asia it didn't dissapoint with its beauty. A massive expanse of soft white sand bordered by lush forest, it was perpetually picturesque. It was the west facing beach so you could watch the sunset from there. My favourite Indian orange sunset light was at it's absolute best. When the tide was out the gentle slope made a perfect playing field for ultimate frisbee, which we played lots of. Further up you came to the lagoon, where the water was deep and the waves gentle. In the latter half of my time there they actually stopped people from swimming there because of a crocodile attack that happened in 2010. Apparently since the tsunami crocs have been coasting the far out currents and sometimes come into the lagoon. The only animals we ever saw at the lagoon where elephants. The would slowly be lead out of the trees and walk along the sand in the setting sun, and into the deep water to wash. The most dominant wildlife on the beach were the sandcrabs. As they dug their holes they removed the sand in tiny little balls that made the most beautiful and intricate patterns. As the tide went out the holes and there surround patterns multiplied, until there was a dark band of sandballs all along the beach.
As beach No.7 is the most popular tourist stop the food there was good. We found a place that did thali like lightning and brilliant chai. If you weren't feeling so hungry it was as easy to buy some freshly cooked Samosa or a coconut to drink and eat. Also to be seen were many Indian honeymooners. Sweet as anything, and hilarious in their picture posing.
The other beach we frequented was Elephant beach. Although we came here less I preferred it, and I think it was more beautiful than No. 7. Strewn with tree trunks from the tsunami and home to imperious mangrove trees that spiralled out of the sand on their roots at low tide, the beauty here was desolate and strange. The snorkelling was fantastic. Although the corals were dead, due to a 2oC rise in the temperature of the water at monsoon instead of the needed drop, the fish were amply gorgeous for hours of swimming. I saw a pair of long (1.5M?) thin tubular fish with snouts that blended almost perfectly into the sand. Every other fish was getting out of their way very quickly, and when I swam close I could see that they weren't sand coloured, but rather very fine dots of pale pink and green.
The third beach we spent time on was our own, No. 5. These were the laziest days, spent playing cards or chatting on the big old wooden fishing boat that we'd swim out to. The grace of our assent into the boat depended on the tide and how good we were at giving each other a boost. There was large variation in both of these.
The evenings were as long as the days, and as fun. Unless you begged a night off you rarely got to bed before 4am. The waxing moon and the nightly beach campfires were our usual light source, or a bevy of candles. Guitars and bottles of rum meant that the party stayed late. The evening usually started with a game of 21. You have to go round in a circle, each person saying the next number, for the first round instead of 7 you have to remember to say 17, and 7 instead of 17. When you get to 21 you make up a new rule for a new number. Eg, 12 is silent, on 3 you point to the person who'll be 4, 19 is an animal noise etc etc. If you get it wrong, help someone, wrongly accuse someone, you drink, if you get to 21 then you all drink. Believe it or not, a couple of nights we managed to get to 21 with different rules on each number. But regardless or success it was always hilarious.
Every friday night one of our friends, Ed, who was fantastic at guitar and knew a lot of songs that we could dance to, played an accoustic session at the only big resteraunt on the island, B3. They had a big wooden dance floor and it was our regular party. Some weeks it felt like the floor was going to give way under everyone dancing. Afterwards we'd all pile into the back of a pick up truck advertised as "a free lift home". Squished in to the extent you couldn't tell where your feet were, we'd sing all the way home as we drove under the plethra of stars.
Sadly, halfway through my time there me and Sandro broke up. A few days after I went to Neil island for a few days. Neil was a true desert island, no internet, no phone signal and only push bikes on the roads. Everywhere was within 20minutes cycling distance and the whole feel of the island was ultimately relaxed. It's the island where they grow the majority of the fruit and veg for all of the Andamans. The food there was delicious, and you could buy half a kilo of mangos and half a kilo of bananas for 35Rs (50p). Whilst on Neil I walked around everywhere with a tin plate and a knife so I could have a fruit break whenever I wanted. The beach combing was also incredible. I spent hours and hours watching as the sea turned up shells and tiny lumps of orange/red coral in the sand. The only bad thing about neil was the wild dogs, at night it was smart to carry a stick, and not to be afraid to use it. On the night of the full moon the dogs went absolutely ballistic, we could hear them barking all over the Island. The nights around the full moon her light was so strong that you could see your shadow as clear as day. On one of these, we walked out far into the sea at the low tide and sat on one of the mini sandbank islands that form. The moon reflected in the sea all around us and the feel of moonlight on our skins was magical.
During my time on the Andamans I saw sun and moon rise and set, fully. We told the time by where in the sky the sun or the moon where, and by how full or empty our stomachs felt. I made some fantastic friends and I what I want most of all is for those Islands to stay the way they are.