Friday, November 10, 2006

Lakshadweep-V : Day 3 at Agatti

Day 3: As usual I got up well before sunrise. However the sun was in no mood for another spectacle of colour. It hid behind large patches of clouyds for most of the time. I decided to walk down to the southern tip and watch the fisherman there. The lagon on the eastern side was small and so relatively large waves come crashing to the shore. The sand was soft and so walking on it was hardwork.

After a brief walk I met some fisherman. My effort to speak to them in Hindi and English did not yield much result. But the guys fishing were young and so they showed me the fishes with great interest. My endeavor for the morning ended there. Back in the resort for breakfast, we were told about the planned activity for that day – a day long trip to the 4 islands in the Bangaram group. All these are unmanned islands. Bangaram Island has a super costly resort and the resort staff are the only occupant of that island. We were to leave at around 8:30 am. The resort advised us carry soft drinks from the resort if we want, as they are very costly at the Bangaram Island Resort. A 500 ml bottle cost Rs.50/- at Agatti and at Bangaram it would cost more!

We got ready for the adventure. But God almighty had other plans for the day. The harmless looking clouds I saw in the morning engulfing the rising sun had turned into dangerous rain clouds in the horizon. The boatmen were experienced enough and so they were waiting. Soon the weather took a turn for the worse and heavy rain with high speed wind lashed us. The waves from the deep sea got carried with some force into the lagoon as well. Standing in the jetty we felt like being in mid sea rather than in a lagoon. The boatmen ran helter-skelter trying to take the boats away from the jetty so that they do not hit and damage the jetty. Visibility was reduced to just few meters. Amidst the rain we saw a motor boat moving in very slowly. We first thought that it as an astray boat that was not anchored properly. But we were told that it is the boat from Bangaram Island Resort bringing passengers to the airport at Agatti. The storm stuck them in the middle of the sea. We wondered about the mental state of the tourist who had this misfortune while coming back. We all probably said a silent thank to God that we were not out there.

The rain went away after about an hour and weather started to got clear. But then the boatmen brooke the news that it would not be possible to go to Bangaram as the entrance for going out into the deep sea is still very rough. Though skeptic, we had no other option but buy their version. So we were offered an alternative package of a speed boat ride and visit to the uninhabited island of Kalpitti located nearby.

After lunch we were taken out into the sea in speed boat in groups. The ride lasted for about half an hour. Once we crossed the lagoon and entered the deep sea, we could feel what the boatmen had told earlier. It was really rough at the entrance even several hours after the storm. The big waves appeared to be hungry to swallow our small speed boat.

The trip to Kalpitti started at around 3 pm. It is located about half km off the southern tip of Agatti. While travelling thorugh the lagoon we saw at least 2 needle fishes. This 1 foot or so long fish suddenly pops out of water and propels itself parallel to the water in a vertcal position with high speed. It appeared like a small stick moving parallel to the water surface. The boat dropped us at one of the island. Being low tide hours, we could see few people including children crossing the half kilometer stretch between Agatti and Kalpitti on foot. It needs practice and experience to cross on foot. With very few bipeds visitng this small island, it was full of beautiful corals and sea shells. We picked as many as we can as memorabilia. Some of them were so beautiful and we had seen them only in markets till now. And now, they are all lying in front of us to be picked up.

One of the boatman turned into our guide and lead us into the island. We all felt like explorers in a lost island. The beach was not sandy. Instead it was filled with kind of paste – may be powders of corals mixed with sea water. We were then lead into a mosquito infested grassland where a monument stood proclaiming this island named Kalpitti as part of the Union of India. Out of it, we then walked through a patch of hard rockified corals. There were crabs everywhere – in thousands and in many varieties. They started running helter-skelter in a bid to get some place to hide. Some of us got scared and started shouting, but the crabs were more scared by this unexpected visit of so many bipeds from mainland.

The walk continued into a coconut forest and grassland. Finally we popped out somewhere on the other side of the island. Though the main area of the island is very small, it had a pretty long coral reef, may be kilometers long on the western side. The boat was waiting on the other side in shallow lagoon water. We could walk into the boat. We all assumed that Bangaram islands would have been no different from this one.

Back in the resort, we all were in water soon to enjoy the sea for a last time. After a brief bath, the 3 of us did some kayaking. My little daughter was sitting in my lap and she was overjoyed to go into the lagoon in the kayak. The sunset brought us back into cottages. A few crackers went up in the adjoining colony of Airport Authority of India that reminded us that it is Diwali. Indeed a unique Diwali for all of us.

The resort people had also arranged for some local dance for our entertainment. The group stared off with a war dance holding wooden swords. They then did a local form of Dandia. Yes it was Dandia in Lakshadivi style. The final item was even more surprising. It was a form of the Bamboo dance which we thought is unique to Nagaland. Now where is Nagaland and where is Lakshadweep. And how this dances unique to Nagaland and Gujarat landed there!

A delicious dinner and a walk ended the day for us. We wanted to savour the moments for the last time. Only God knows whether we will be able to come to such a place again. Whether these beautiful islands will exist next time we think of such a trip!

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