This blog has been long due. Truly, there is nothing more frustrating than being thrown into a busy schedule with no connectivity right after a refreshing and awesome holiday. That is what happened to me after a beautiful 10-day break in Lakshadweep and Kerala, as my joining in the new job followed right after. Can you imagine a stint with quiet deserted waters terminating in the crazy city of Mumbai where the human sea not just engulfs you in its entirety, but also makes the ever-awe-inspiring ocean a non-entity?! Anyway, I have enough and more to say on Bombay, but I suppose its not the right content for a travel blog.
To return to Lakshadweep – the group of small islands still stands largely unexplored as a tourist destination, and is perhaps more so beautiful for the same reason. A government authority called SPORTS is trying to promote tourism in the area with attractive packages.(http://www.lakshadweeptourism.com/). We had taken one of these Sports authority tour packages called Coral reef, which comprised of 5 nights stay on the ship with the days spent on the islands.
We started the ship journey from Cochin aboard the MS Tipu Sultan. If you have seen too many of the Star cruise advertisements, let me tell you upfront that this ship and the journey is far removed from the glossy image imprinted on your mind. The ship is essentially a passanger ship, and you will see more people aboard than you have seen on a train journey to Bihar. Unfortunately, the ship is filled with people way beyond its capacity, and courts an acute danger if any untoward incident happens mid-ocean. Thanks to the same, all our plans to spend the nights on the deck staring at starry skies went astray. We were holed in to our cabins in the night, except for the very few times when we managed to claim a piece of the deck to stand on and enjoy the lovely breeze or wonder at the flight of small fishes.
Our first destination was Minicoy – an island isolated from the main group of islands and lying about 200 kms south of the northern group. To reach the island, we were put into really rickety rocketty boats, which creaked their way to the island in a jiffy. It was so much fun just riding those boats – yet the best treat came when we landed on the island, for coral islands are very different from the normal beaches that I had experienced before this. For one, you can walk far into the sea and still keep standing, and even the waves are held still by the innocuous looking coral to give a sense of absolute calm.
Minicoy has a very nice lighthouse. With Virginia woolf and discovery shows of haunted lighthouses playing as background themes, I have always been fascinated with lighthouses. Though I did see my share of those in France – this was the first tall lighthouse which I climbed, getting a breathtaking view in return. As you look down, you see the sea merging into trees, which merge into lagoons that merge back into the sea; and you have an entire palette before your eyes – with greens, blues, whites and so many hues which you can’t even name. I wish I could capture the view and hold it, but alas, cameras were not allowed atop(May be to permit us time to see the beauty with the naked eye rather than though the lens of the camera). On this sparsely populated island (a qualification that we found to be true for most islands in lakshadweep), we managed to convince a shop girl to lend us her cycle that we rode upon for sometime on the tree-lined roads. I do wish that we could do this longer, only if all of us had managed to convince a native each to lend us their cycles (if you were wondering – thats the main means of commute in the place)
Our second destination was Kavaratti – the capital of the islands. And the highpoint of this place was scuba diving! That was my first stint at scuba, and was it amazing! The world below the water is so much more colorful and richer than the one above – and this I am saying after delving into merely 2.5 meters of it. And surprisingly, it’s not even remotely scary except when they give you about ten thousand instructions before diving in. To reinforce the underwater experience we were taken on a glass bottom boat ride after the scuba – right into the middle of the land of corals. And even at the cost of repeating myself I will say, we merely see the tip of the iceberg every day. Below the water level, there were mountains of corals, going deep inside, nurturing a range of sea flora and fauna that you otherwise see only in acquariums.
The last island was Kalpeni, and it was the prettiest one. The moment we landed at the tourist spot – it was picture perfect. We took a boat to a very small island away from the shore, stayed there all day and did endless amount of snorkeling, kayaking and swimming. In the course of fun, even stepped on a few sea cucumbers and suffered their wrath 🙂
The day ended with a visit to the northern tip of Kalpeni. The spot is surrounded with water from three sides, seperated from it only by a random array of stones, where you could sit and lose yourself – at the threat of not finding yourself ever again. Even the scorching sun begins to fade in the backdrop of the awe-inspiring endlessness.
And that was all. We went back to the ship and sailed back to cochin. Yet the virgin beauty of the islands, hidden away from the sight of rushing tourists returns often as a sigh in the middle of a mad, busy and stressful day.