Friday, November 03, 2006

Lakshadweep-II: Agatti to Cochin by MV Bharat Seema

Around 10 in the morning we have been told about the departure time. Departure time is dictated by any news of arrival of the ship. With a deep heart we bade goodbye to the Agatti at around 11:30 am. Everyone probably wished - could be it one more day! Most of the resort staff accompanied us in the boat. The weather was clear and shining bright. On the jetty and also in the boat we had discussed about the possible adventure of climbing up to the ship, because none of us forgot the tough experience of climbing down. In fact climbing up would be more difficult.

The boat headed for the local jetty first. The boatman needs to know as to where the ship will come. The information is known only to the jetty people. The news from the jetty was that ship will come on the western side of the island, i.e., roughly the same side as the resort is. The ship by which came arrived on the eastern side of the island.

The boat turned to the west and started moving slowly. How about trying to find a ship in the sea! The boat staff did exactly that and tried to find the ship in the horizon. Nothing was visible to me or any one of us. After some discussion among them, they moved further out into the deep sea. But still there was no sign of the ship. It was another funny experience for us. We were floating in the sea searching for our ship. After about 20 min. of wandering, the ship was sighted in far horizon. To me it appeared stationary. I asked one of the staff whether the ship is standstill or moving. He said that it is moving, but very slowly. Now the boatman had a direction to move and so he increased the speed. Yet it took another 20 min or so for us to reach the ship.

As we came closer and closer, the size of the ship grew. There it is- the MV Bharat Seema, the big white ship majestically waiting against a backdrop of deep blue water. It was a real big ship, almost twice the size of MV Minicoy. We all have heaved a sigh relief when we saw people disembarking through a big door on its lower hold. This meant that we could almost walk into the ship from our boat. No ladder, no rope. By the time we had arrived, major action of embarkation and disembarkation was already over. So we hardly had to wait to get into the ship. The AIBER staff helped us in getting the luggage up to the first floor deck where our cabins were located. They also brought packed lunch for us thus saving us from the agony of a meal in the ship. After seeing us off into the rooms, the AIBER staff bade good bye to us. All of them were quite nice and well mannered. There was no inbound tourist that day as next ship would be coming only after 7 days. Though we were told a group of German tourists would be arriving next week.

The ship is now on its penultimate stop of this voyage. It had set sail from Cochin 2 days back and already had been to 5 islands. Kavaratti will be its last stop before proceeding to Cochin. So there was no introduction on safety tips this time. I decided to have a look around the ship. From the drawings hanged on walls, I found that this ship originally belonged to the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) and is now given to LDCL. It was built at Arhus, Denmark in the year 1973. That meant it is almost as old as me. I am told that the normal life of a ship is about 40 years. All that it got in the name of maintenance is probably coating after coatings of paints on it to make it look new. The ship was 85 feet long and could carry almost 500 people on board plus large amount of cargo. Six large life boats (3 on each side) were hanging on the sides and each had a capacity to carry 60 people. There were two more levels of deck where one can go up and enjoy the sea breeze. Even the big halls with bench like seats at the bottom hold were quite spacious. There were TVs in them, but not in our cabins. There are two restaurants – one ordinary and the other executive class. We were entitled for food in the executive class one. One need not pay for meals as price is included in the ticket. Further we did not have to pay here even for the evening tea. (We had to buy that in MV Minicoy).There was very little difference between the two restaurants, but the executive one opens only on specified hours. The ordinary restaurant remains open for most of the time and also had a counter for buying snacks and cold drinks. The food was much better than in MV Minicoy. This is what you call a ship. MV Minicoy will appear to be a ferry in its comparison.

This time we had cabin accommodation. There are 4 berth and 2 berth cabins. We got a 2 berth cabin. Ticket price for cabins were cheaper than what we paid while coming. It was only Rs.980/- for 2 berth cabins in MV Bharat Seema as compared to Rs.1250/- for chair car in the MV Minicoy. My cabin had two bunk beds and a long enough sofa-cum seat. There are two small cabinets for luggage and a wash basin with a mirror. Overall, it was spacious for two of us plus my kid. But the worst part of it was that it had no window. Most cabins do not have windows. And the AC was not working. Probably the ship is so old that most AC vents had got choked. And so it was hot inside and humidity ensured that we had tough time. The saving grace was a small wall fan. But its speed was not high and also it was not throwing air to the upper bed. So we all ended up sleeping on the lower bed and the sofa. The big thing is that we could sleep as there were beds. (I could not sleep in the onward journey by MV Minicoy). Some were lucky to have a side cabin which has two small windows. But cabins having window are very few, may be 4 or 5 out of the 20 odd cabins. Some of the tourist wanted to lodge complain with the welfare officer regarding the AC. But honestly speaking, it hardly mattered for them and nobody cares. For the locals, AC or no ACs, it probably is the same and they constitute 99% regular passengers on the ship. So who will listen to these occasional 1% travelers!

Other worry for us was the dirty bed sheets and pillow covers. The ship had been traveling for last 3 days. We had no idea whether they would be changed. Fortunately, they were changed.

The ship started off for Kavaratti at around 1 pm. Soon we had realized that a big ship sways more and importantly, it sways very slowly. That makes one more prone to sea sickness. Four tourists from the group from Mumbai had fallen victim this time. My wife had decided to bide her time sleeping, under the influence of Avomin, to avoid trouble. By 4:30 pm, the ship had reached the shores of Kavaratti. It had to unload a lot of cargo there and so the halt took almost 2 ½ hors. In between came the sunset – the final sunset of this trip. As usual, I had captured those magical moments in my cameras.

A ship journey becomes boring after sunset as all that you could see is darkness, like a night time flight. So the sooner you can go to the bed, the better it is. The restaurant opened for dinner at 7 pm. We had the early dinner and then went for sleep even before it was 8 pm. It was hopelessly hot inside though we had kept the door opened a little bit. The heat and sewat woke me up after an hour. I decided to head for the deck outside for cooling off. I was back for sleep around midnight and thereafter I do not remember anything.

We got up late next morning. On asking the crew we came to know that the ship will not reach Cochin before 1 pm. This made the group from Mumbai and the couple from Chennai a bit restless as they had to catch 3:30 pm flights. The airport is at least 30 km from the port. In fact, the AIBER office advised me against booking flight around 3 pm as one can not be sure as to when a ship will dock. Sometime a ship gets stucked for hours in wait for a berth in the port. The ship finally docked at around 1:30 pm. As we had spoken to the Welfare Officer, they had agreed to allow us disembark first ahead of regular passengers.

This time the ship had docked at the South Coal Berth Werf. As the ship moved in closer to the werf, autos and taxis kept pouring in to that area. In fact while leaving for Agatti, the autos and taxis that brought in passengers left as quickly as they come. The werf had a deserted look then. I was worried whether I will be able to get something on arrival from Agatti. I was happy to see this altogether different scene on arrival. May be there is some system in place by which the taxis came to know about arrival of a passenger ship and comes to your rescue. I took an auto to the Ernakulum junction. The fare was same Rs.100/- which I paid for coming. As I had told earlier, one need not bargain in Cochin.

I was at the station well in time, but the train arrived 15 min late. We got into the train and bade good bye to Lakshadweep, Cochin and Kerala. Two visits in 3 years and it will be long before another visit to this God’s own country. It's time now to see and explore some other part of India. May be this time it would be MP which I never have been.


Anonymous said...

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Manu Puthumana said...


I read ur blog on Lakshadweep trip... for long i have been planning to go to Lakshadweep. Can you tell me which is the best time to go there? i was thinking of making a trip during end of this august... can you give me some infomration on what will be the climate there during august end? will it be rainy? will it afect the boat trips , snorkling etc?



Rups said...


August probably no. There is no point going there in monsoon. Season
probably starts in September. Peak Nov-Dec. It is located in the
middle of the sea and it can rain any time. We got one spell of rain
even end October which spoiled our trip to Bangaram island. If it
rains, thens ea becomes rough and you will remain stuck inside your
room, which is terrible.

Plan for October. But be there once in your lifetime. Its magical. I
am seriously thinking of making another trip, may be after 2 years to
another island. Certainly, I will go there again.



Manu Puthumana said...

Thanks a lot gor the information. I also felt that rains can spoil the trip
since its in the middle of the sea.

Thanks a lot