We were woken up at 6am by loud heavily amplified music from the shore (a long way off!). No it wasn’t a Bollywood musical number, nor a lovely Hindu mantra, it was a 1950’s style marching band with a man “singing” in German although most of the lyrics appeared to be laughing “ha ha ha, ho ho ho, hee, hee, hee”, something like the Laughing Policeman song much beloved of radio listeners of the 1950s and early 1960s.
“Only in India” I thought as I came on deck and was greeted by a perfect day – sunshine, calm sea and a couple of friendly fishing boats puttering by.
A little earlier we had heard the call to prayer- unlike Indonesia and Malaysia this didn’t come blaring over the water amplified to an inch of its life. It was melodic, gentler and much quieter than any we have heard in SE Asia. There was one more part of the clearance process to undergo – a visit to the Harbour Master to submit our proposed cruising itinerary (there are some Islands, for example those allocated as tribal lands, that visiting yachts are not allowed to go to.)
Our agent Rathnam phoned ahead and found out that the Chief was off sick but the Deputy Harbour master agreed to see us and approve our plans.
Only the skippers went in while the two first mates sat outside surrounded by stacks of hundreds of files. There is obviously a lot of paperwork involved in the work of the Harbour Master’s office!
It turned out the Harbour Master had a cold. As his deputy said “everyone has been getting colds as it’s so very chilly – only 23 degrees at night”!
The deputy Harbour Master also reminded the skippers that they should display their Indian courtesy flags. He had noticed that one of the yachts anchored in the Harbour was not displaying the correct flags.
The Indian flag should be on the starboard spreader, higher than the flag displaying country of origin” said Capt’n Birdseye. “Yes that is correct,” said the Deputy Harbourmaster. After assuring him that both Yantara and Bali Hai were doing the right thing there were handshakes all round.
Our next stop was the anthropological museum which was fascinating, if a little lacking in TLC. There was quite a lot of information about colonisation, the history of the Andaman Islands as a penal colony for political prisoners but for me, the most fascinating information was about the different tribespeople from around the Andaman/Nicobarese Islands.
There are principally six main tribal groupings – the Jarawas, the Great Andamanese (an amalgam of disparate groups) the Onges, the Sentinelese, the Shompen and the Nicobarese.
Intriguingly, the Jarawa people, the Great Andamanese, the Onges and the Sentinalese are negroid in appearance. It is not known how or when they arrived in the islands. Maybe they walked there out of Africa 40,000 years ago? Pehaps they were brought out as slaves and shipwrecked? Nobody knows.
Some of the tribes have had a lot to do with the settlers of the Andaman/ Nicobarese Islands but the Sentinelese have chosen to live in complete isolation and have had no contact with the “outside” world since 1994.
Other tribes have been allocated tribal lands in an attempt to keep the tribes from dying out. In the case of the Jarawa people no outsiders are allowed to enter their allotted 1028 square kilometres but there is a crossover zone around the periphery with eight points where anthropologists and other researchers can meet tribespeople (if they choose) and learn about their way of life.
The location of our lunch venue “Seashells” Hotel was spectacular although the food (sizzling seafood platter) which we ate in the Amaya restaurant on a lower level was disappointing.
The platters came in looking very dramatic in an incredible cloud of smoke/steam and although looked impressive, the seafood was sparse and covered in a sauce. The sizzling vegetable platter was actually a vegetable pattie fried and covered in the same indeterminate sauce.
After lunch we had one more go at the ATM (after many attempts over the past couple of days) and this time both couples were able to withdraw a reasonable sum of money. Patience is the key when it comes to such things in India!
We headed to the market to spend some of our hard gained dosh and bought up all the fruit and vegetables we needed for the week which came to less than Aus$8 (about £5!).
Before going back to our yachts we went into Rathnam’s office again for a cup of chai (Indian spiced tea) and to sign a letter Rathnam had very kindly prepared for us to request Immigration to allow our daughter who was visiting for a few days in the Holi holiday, to enter the Andaman Islands.
Fortunately, Rathnam had picked up on the fact that our daughter had a working visa (as opposed to a tourist visa) which meant she was not allowed to enter the Andaman Islands without the permission of Immigration. Once again, we were extremely pleased that we had employed the services of Rathnam.
The day ended up very pleasantly with Sundowners on Yantara with the crew of Paseafique who had already been in the Andaman Islands for almost four weeks and were soon to head back to Thailand.
For more about our trip to the magical and fascinating Andaman Islands go to:
Or my previous post: