We left Kolkata in relative calm. It was 6:30 when we left in our 6:45 cab. That shouldn’t have been a surprise as we received our 6:oo breakfast at 4:15. The young fellow didn’t speak English too well so details we discussed were slightly misinterpreted. I’m glad everything was early and we did not have to scramble for a cab at 7 o’clock.
At that time of the morning Kolkata is just getting going and we only had to maneuver through the beginnings of rush hour. I was a good way to leave the city.
The airport was a breeze. We had walked by the Jet Lite Airlines office yesterday. Stopped in on a whim to see if we could get our boarding passes and lo and behold they had a “city check in” counter. We got our boarding pass in about one minute, No ID or anything. That made the airport super-fast. There was no crowd yet, and security was clear. We were just 2 ½ hours early for a domestic flight.
Soon the islands appeared and we were in a tropical land. After a short very efficient effort we had our RAP (Restricted Area Permit). At the arrivals gate there was a fellow, Johnson, with our name on a sheet of paper. We had a ride. Man, that guy was slow. I could hardly walk as slow as he did and when he drove I almost dosed off. This is India? We had arranged with the hotel to have our ferry tickets bought in advance and the driver and car from the airport to the ferry came with the deal.
The reason for getting the advance ticket was the horror stories that are on the web about how hard it can be to get tickets, and what a scene it is at the ticket wicket when the tickets go on sale and that sometimes the ferry is sold out. We had made hotel reservations for the same day we arrived by plane. So, if the plane was on time we had a 50/50 chance of making to our hotel that night. Anyway, I do not think it was necessary to have the advance arrangements. I cost us 1200Rs for the ride, the driver and the tickets. We probably could have done it for 600Rs or less. The port authority now sells ferry tickets up to 3 days in advance. The advance ticket sale wicket is open 9am to 4pm (lunch 1pm to 2pm) weekdays and 9am to noon on Saturdays. (Don’t know what you do on Sundays) There is no scrum; in fact I did not even see a line up. You just walked up to an available wicket and bought the ticket you need. There are 3 sailings from Port Blair to Havelock, they are at 6:30am, 11:20am, and 2pm. There are 3 classes of tickets,seat (195Rs), chair (260Rs), and bunk (260Rs). I do not know what the difference in accommodation is but we had a ‘seat’, it was downstairs in a rickety old boat with only one small escape stair. Not the best as far as safety is concerned but anyone could access the top deck and if you could find shade you were much more accessible to jumping overboard should the need arise. The price on the ticket was 250Rs, I’m also a little confused about that but,c,est la vie.
We arrived at Havelock, there was calm in the world,and much to our delight there was another driver waiting to shuttle us to the Emerald Gecko. The Gecko is one of the more popular budget hotels on Havelock Island. It is very basic but nice enough. The big reason for choosing it wasduring our email correspondence with Nikhil every question we asked was answered and in a very polite and prompt manner. Anyway, even though our lodge has no creature comforts we are living in a bamboo shack on one of the nicest beaches in India. How bad can it be?
We visited the dive shop that is hooked up with the Gecko, Andaman Bubbles, and the guys are super. We are going to dive 5 of the next 6 days and it looks like it will be fun.
This morning we had basically missed breakfast, and for sure we missed lunch, so we desperately needed supper. Neither of us does well with no fuel. The Clown Fish restaurant is attached to the dive shop and it opened for the evening just as we had ended our dive reservation. We sat and ate. Indian food is not on the menu so; it was chicken and chips for Debbie and mushroom pizza for Mur.
The peace and quiet of the island is taking us over and the bed was calling.