We returned to Port Blair to drop off our daughter at the airport. Her flying visit was over too quickly but as always, it was such a pleasure to have her company and to see how much better she looked after a few days of swimming, snorkelling, sailing and sleeping.
After she left we caught up on a few jobs, shopping, laundry etc. Our driver Vijay (who charges 200 rupees an hour – about Aus$4 or £2.40) took us all over Port Blair and showed us where it’s best to buy all the items we were after whether it was eggs, bread, beer or lovely vegetables.
Because of a high rate of alcoholism in Port Blair, the maximum number of beer cans for sale per person is eight, so we had to buy a slab of beer in three transactions (eight cans for Jonathan, eight for me and ostensibly eight for our driver Vijay.)
The bottle shop (off licence) was a hole-in-the wall affair which looked more like a clandestine drugs den than a shop. Vijay scurried up to the window and placed our order and then insisted that we hide our purchase as if it was illegal, bundling cans into whatever bags we had in the car and literally slinging the cans that didn’t fit in a bag onto the car floor. It was very strange. Only once we had the beer cans in the car were we able to count them and check we had the correct number.
We could buy any other provisions that we needed quite easily and many of the goods were very inexpensive – for example, 50 cents (Australian) for a loaf of bread and Aus$1.75 for a 1 kg bag of basmati rice.
We went over to Smart Choice for a meal that night to plan which islands we were going to visit for the second half of our four week stay in the Andamans. To take advantage of any possible wind and currents we decided to meet at Chiryatapu on the southern end of South Andaman (the island on which Port Blair, the capital, sits) and from there travel to Little Andaman Island in one hit.
Smart Choice were heading to Chiryatapu the following day but the Yantaras and the Bali Hais decided to explore the interior a little and had hired a car and driver to take us north on the only road to traverse between South, Middle and North Andaman Islands, with ferries to cross the straits in between the islands.
Because the “highway” goes through land reserved for one of the five native tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, vehicles have to travel in a convoy, are not allowed to stop under any circumstances and are absolutely forbidden to take photographs.
The convoys leave three times a day going north – 6.30am, 9.30 am and 12.30am. We were going on the early convoy and as it was a fairly long way to the checkpoint, we had to meet our driver, bleary eyed,in the dark, at the dinghy dock at 4am.
For more about the wonderful Andaman Islands go to: