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Sunday 27 Mar 2011
Havelock Island, India

No escaping them queues...

"To leave Havelock Island, you have to buy the ticket on the day of travel". This I was reliably told by the officious prick behind the counter after he saw me queueing for about 2 hours at the port the day before. Were there signs, or some staff that could inform me of such? Nah mate, that's not how India works.

The rather bizarre rules for getting a boat back to Port Blair confounded me. I hoped I could get a catamaran back, and assumed I could get this from the main ticket office in the port (I would later discover that the Makruz catamaran office was nearby... and they DO allow booking the day before... although conveniently they were fully pre-booked so it didn't matter anyway).

So ensued one of my favourite Indian past-times: queueing and dealing with bureaucrats that seemed to relish the opportunity to make it as difficult for you to get what you want, until you ultimately get down on your knees and beg.

After checking out of my hut at 9.30, I rushed down to the port to hopefully beat the queues (as I had seen what they were like the day before when I had been turned away). What was I thinking? Predictably it was already packed solid. After 30 mins it moved halfway...

I was sure I had all the documentation I would need (there were no signs around, you'd have to queue to find out that information ... I had to rely on my Lonely Planet). Luckily a French couple warned me about a yellow form I was missing, and fetched one for me. Later on I discovered you needed a photocopy of your permit and had to leave the queue to find a place with a photocopier, but eventually managed to jump back into my space.

About 2 hours pass (amidst queue jumpers and typical Indian queue ethics) and I got to the counter only to discover that I couldn't buy a ticket for the 4.30 pm boat until 2pm. Doh!

I calmly went back to hotel amidst the rain and splashed in the waves for a few hours before having lunch (lovely Fish Masala with Roti) and shower and went back around 2pm to get my ticket.

Boat delayed, so I couldn't buy a ticket until 3pm!

Chilled out in a nearby restaurant where I got chatting to a young Indian couple. The husband is an assistant captain of an Italian oil-carrying vessel and so travels the world for free. Me very jealous!

Eventually I managed to buy ticket at 3pm. No queue for the office this time.. gah!

I got on the boat just as the rain ended and a beautiful sunset opened on the horizon, signalling the end of the bad weather and that the next week was going to be sunshine as usual. Bloody typical!

I met a nice Indian family on the boat who initially wanted several hundred photos of me, before asking me what job I did (and salary I earned). This seems to be a fairly common line of enquiry in India and many Indians will have no qualms about telling you their salary (unless it's ridiculously small of course!).

The son in the family later went on to teach me some Hindi, especially important sentences like "I want the food to be EXTRA spicy!" (I had YET to have a genuinely spicy meal in India)

Got a very basic bed in the lobby of guesthouse near the port for only 150 Rs (2 euro). Lovely family and met some great people there including a cheerful 13 year old called Regina whose parents were unfortunately killed in the 2004 tsunami. She made one excellent Chai Masala.

That night I was eaten alive by mozzies, a great way to signal the end of my trip to the Andamans!

1 Comment for this Travel blog entry

Neha Says:

19 November 2011

Do you happen to know the name of the guesthouse that you stayed near the port? I am planning a trip and would love to stay there.

peterforan Replies:

19 November 2011

I don't I'm afraid... it was up a small hill that is directly left of the entrance/exit when you are leaving the port (if that's any help!)

In Search of the World's Hottest Chili

Travel blog by peterforan

Sacred cow chillaxing

Sacred cow chillaxing

... and other misadventures. A whistle-stop tour of India to get a taste of the north, south, Andaman isles, and some of the hottest foods known to man including the nefarious Bhut Jolokia chili.

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