Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Page 3 of 23

Apo Island & Dauin – Diving the Philippines

I flew into Dumaguete, a booming town, since the last 4 years property prices have quadrupled, no wonder with world class diving round the corner and a tall mountain right next to multiple beaches. The town also has some 400 years old buildings to offer, erected by the Spanish back in the days. A bit away from town I found a place called La Fiesta – Ralf the owner is German, living around with his family for quite some time now. I was longing for some nice German food and I found it right there, Gulasch, Schnitzel, Spätzle also the pizza was bloody tasty. The only down part – the noise from the road, everything else, food and social life is superb, not talking about the amazing live music every Thursday. Hooray to the good times!

What made me come to the area initially was a hint from Sanny, to dive Apo Island… For the first couple of dives I went together with Joe, Martin and Kasper to Dauin, which is famous for macro diving, looking out for the tiniest things underwater with sandy bottom and just a few spots like old tires, sunken jeeps or old ropes – we still managed to spot some wired critters and tiny creatures, but the diving was different, the colors more greenish and you really have to look for stuff. Apo Island the next day was just the opposite, more the diving I’m used to, corals as big as cars, colorful and in all shapes some smaller schools of fish, the typical reef fish and turtles, lots of them, the biggest we saw measuring 2 meters. I was stoked by the corals, Raja Ampat will always be number 1 on my list I reckon but Apo gets pretty close. Of course we saw dolphins on our way back to the shore another perfect day diving!

I’m still drawn to the mountains, not as strong as to the sea but all the peaks send out a magnificent energy and the area has some taller hills to offer, so I went up the slopes to the base of Mt. Talinis at round 500 meters, the peak itself is at 1.903! Volcanic activity, vivid colors, hot pools, sulfuric air and some nice waterfalls can be found up there, I was totally reminded of New Zealand! It was a sweet day with the bike, off-roading is so much fun, way better than riding a simple scooter. I managed to handle the semi-automatic bike quite well, feels even more like getting the bike licence now as soon as I’m home!

A pretty versatile week, learned a lot about the Philippines and the people and had some great fun outdoors. Whoop whoop!

 

Philippines – The former Spanish Americanised colony

After 36 hours of travels I met up with some friends in Palawan the so called last frontier of the Philippines. The country itself is influenced by the Spanish for more than 300 years, so current names still are Spanish like El Nido or San Fernando, the food is Spanish and American influenced as is the language, which is a plus as English is widely understood. If you wanna know more about the history, read along: http://wikitravel.org/en/Philippines

At a first glimpse, the country looks pretty sweet and the people smile a lot, of course – tourism is booming, it’s more expensive as in Indonesia so far, and we’ll see how this develops in the more remote regions without that many tourists.
So after I met Flo, Jules and Krische in San Fernando beach we organized food, drinks and transport for a couple of days, chilled one more day and set sail for an uninhabited island one hour off the main island.
When arriving on Calibangbangan we couldn’t believe the sweet waters which were crystal clear, memories of the Andaman’s shot back to my head. We paid the owner and went for 3 days to the smaller island nearby called Tacling, beautiful sandy beach, an ok coral reef and some rocks.
After setting up a camp and taking care of firewood we did what we could do best, relaxing.
There were also some small expeditions round the island with beautiful trees, full of fern and an access to the hill as well as 3 more bays but all pretty rocky. The only down part was that every day some tour boats arrived with a loads of selfie stick throwing tourists and snorkeler. Luckily every boat went away after one hour, giving us peace again.
On the 3rd day our boats man Marc picked us up again and brought us back to San Fernando.

I relaxed for a bit in El Nido after the trip and the guys went back to Manila to tackle the next big thing, maybe we’ll meet again, I don’t know where, I don’t know when!

Raja Ampat – One step closer to heaven

The islands are nothing but a natural beauty, a paradise in Papua, above and under the water! I often needed to look twice to check if it’s real; it’s just insane, so sick, incredible and beyond belief!

The spectacle was already starting when flying in from Jakarta to the capital of the Maluku island chain named Ambon, big cloud formations and the sun rose bringing light to the new day in almost all spectral colors. From Ambon the next flight took me over so many small islands, sometimes even just as big as a house, until the plane came down in Sorong the hub for the Raja Ampat islands. All further travels from this point – by boat. In Waisai I met Githa my local contact who put me forward for a nice homestay, that’s the cheapest option for accommodation over here if you don’t want to stay in a resort charging 200 euros a night. Githa also co owns Arborek Dive Shop together with her husband Marcel.
Round about a hundred people living in the community and it takes 20 minutes to walk around the island, which is about the size of 7 football fields and has everything basic you’re looking for: a well with salty water, not as salty as the sea though, lovely bucket shower – living in paradise with the least effort ever, so good…small shops to buy juice, candy or a beer, sunsets and sunrises right at the doorstep, friendly locals & lovely children jumping around asking for your name, enough shade to beat the midday sun, probably the best seafood ever, lovely beaches and an incredible coral reef, made for snorkeling (In an afternoon session I even saw 2 black tip reef sharks and a small marble ray beside the usual suspects and the wonderful coral) – I love it! As the Batak at Lake Toba, Sunday is a pretty important religious day for the community. No one works and half the island in best clothes, holding the songbook or the bible and going to church, singing accompanied by guitar.

This is how a sunset on the island feels…in time-lapse 😉

https://youtu.be/9DxvNnYGl_Y

 

From Arborek I went diving for 2 days with Marcel, felt sweet just going down with one buddy who’s also the guide. The first time we got in the water and it was just insane! Fish everywhere, visibility of 30 meters, coral gardens until get no, colorful as spring flowers so many different species of soft and hard coral living wherever they could fit, just one square meter had so much living organisms I saw in the Andaman’s within one dive! Unbelievable! Everything here is on big scale! We saw turtles, massive schools of different fish, black tip and white tips reef sharks, multiple manta rays getting cleaned in front of our eyes, the biggest one measuring 5 meters! Magnificent animals! Also eels, lion fish, stone fish, scorpion fish, frog fish, marble rays and dolphins. Fuck yeah it’s been a hell of a ride! I gathered the best clips and made a small movie, go check it out…

 

With Githa and our always smiling boatman Baba Saurab we went to Piaynemo the other day, another natural phenomenon of small rocks covered with plants surrounded by clear emerald blue waters – it’s one of those spots in catalogs and we went there early to beat the heat and the crowds, I could even squeeze in a meditation before the first people came up and inhale the place properly.

My spirit rose again, still can’t believe what I saw during those wonderful days – looking at the pictures makes the memories last but the feeling will stay in my heart…

Before I forget:

  1. The music in the videos is from a friend, check out his sound cloud page
    https://soundcloud.com/m-inc-to 
  2. The island I stayed has a website, go check it out
    http://arborek-rajaampat.com

And now go for the amazing pics!!!

Bukit Lawang – Welcome to the orang jungle

We’ve got fun and games! Guns N Roses – that was the soundtrack in my head after arriving here, sitting 10 hours in a car for 250 kilometers, I really wanted to rock out!

And I did, Saturday night was a big one! A pretty good live band played right at the place I stayed Indra Valley. Vivian a lady from Hungary checked in the 2nd room just in time for the party, we got on pretty well together and shared couple of beer and lots of stories & laughs while listening to the sweet sounds of the “The Valley Boys”.

I bumped into the two Dutch girls I shared a car with from Lake Toba the other day in town and we went to the bat cave together. I didn’t expect anything and was just stoked by the natural beauty, a big cave with awesome rock formations and actual bats living in there. It took us one hour to properly explore the whole system and crawl all over, of course without a guide, we brought a torch!

The main reason, all the tourist venture out here to the jungle is the orang-utans. Once created in the 70’s by a Swiss organisation, a rehabilitation center was used to train orang-utans which were held in captivity to survive again in nature. Also public feedings took place twice a day, so tourists could just visit the viewing platforms to see the apes, in the meantime this has stopped and you have to go on a trek to spot them.

Some quick facts about the big primates:

  • Currently only found in Indonesia (Sumatra and Borneo)
  • Live in trees
  • Up to 4 times stronger than humans
  • Among the most intelligent primates
  • Mainly eat fruits
  • Live over 30 years

You got to go with a guide as the ways of the jungle are pretty entangled. We went up and down, through valleys, over lots of roots, we slipped over rocks, hanging on jungle vines and crawled up holding on them, deep in the massive jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park, it feels wild, although we walk along worn out paths. On our trek we could spot multiple orang-utans it’s just amazing looking at them see how they move or chill in the wild. We also saw lots of leaf monkey’s, some snakes, giant ants, a turtle, fish, insects, butterflies, mosquito’s, cicadas, termites and other insects, big trees and massive entangled jungle vines. I came back to the village by rafting in a big tire – local style, so much fun!

Lovely jungle and I enjoyed every bit, the trek was strenuous with steep climbs and descents, the area around the valley just magnificent and exploding with life but somehow I feel more drawn towards the ocean now, times they are a changing!

Lake Toba – the warm volcanic chill

From Pulau Weh I flew back to Medan – lucky to spot perfect clouds that day, hopped on a car, taking me to Parapat, the eastern transport hub of Lake Toba. The ride was just a bit rough with a lot of traffic ahead and our driver constantly breaking and speeding, overtaking vehicles and turning the music up on his favorite songs, we made it in 4 hours though and in the end it wasn’t too bad.
The ferry for Samosir Island, takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending where one wants to get dropped off.
I’m going to a smaller island which sits in the largest crater lake on the planet, the caldera of a super volcano on the island of Sumatra, funny thought!

I found it quite intriguing when I read it, so I’m quoting Wikipedia this time:

Lake Toba is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption estimated at VEI 8 that occurred 69,000 to 77,000 years ago, representing a climate-changing event. It is the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it had global consequences for human populations: it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make up of the human world-wide population to the present.”
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Toba

Ok enough of the superlatives now 😉
As usual, volcanic areas after some time turn into beautiful nutritious landscapes, like New Zealand, or Hawaii. The same happened in Indonesia. When I arrived I instantly felt the good vibes even though it was beginning to rain.
2 km away from the main tourist drag a more quieter place called Mas cottages was my home for almost a week and I could really drop everything here, yes I had a bit of food poisoning – finally it got me, after all those month in India, but hey, not the worst place to hang around and chill. Staying directly at the water, overlooking the huge lake and the volcanic hills, I really needed to think back of sweet as Aotearoa, some similarities are obvious!

The water temperature is pleasant and screams for swimming, the cottages even have a rope swing 😉
During my extended balcony sessions I could see boats come and go, bringing tourists to mainland and back, locals fishing in traditional floats wearing typical hats, using an old technique and newer nets, birds fishing right next, insects flying all over and wrestling each other and the ants on the floor busy as usual.

The other days I went around with the scooter exploring the landscape and felt welcomed in Batak territory. A German missionary converted the local Batak people to Christianity and one can see many churches around, on Sunday everyone is dressed in their finest outfits when going to their place of worship. I couldn’t believe the eye! The traditional houses with the distinct high roof also jut out of the lush green landscape, some even feature beautiful decor. It’s a different world over here, compared to the rest of the Muslim dominated country and very interesting to read about the Batak, who once were among the most warlike in the country and gave up eating their enemies 200 years ago. They originated from – Thailand / Myanmar migrating to Indonesia and used the surrounding hills as a natural barrier and were isolated for centuries, if you wanna know more:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak

Going up the mountain road offers rewarding lookouts over half the lake on clear days and I saw plenty of rice paddies with jungle backdrops. People follow village life, children sitting on water buffaloes, the mighty animals just don’t care, totally relaxed, no fence most of them just roam free, some on a leach but all so friendly – must be in the local water 😉

Properly re-energized I move on to meet more friends in the jungle…

 

Pulau Weh – Back to island life

I went to Pulau Weh by plane, Pulau is the Indonesian word for island. Flying over Sumatra was just gorgeous, lush green hills and bigger mountains of Gunung Leuser National Park and the northern province of Aceh, so beautiful from above! The half crowded propeller plane touched the tarmac of the country’s most northern island after an hour’s flight. Let the adventures begin!

Despite of relaxing on the beach, snorkeling and scuba diving, there is not that much to do, perfect conditions with 20+ dive sites, just around the corner. I did another 10 dives at Lumba Lumba Dive Center and was directly greeted by the owners Marjon & Ton when checking in. I met more lovely people during my stay, Sanni from Berlin a very relaxed Dive Master – how come I meet so many Berliners the last 2 weeks, something the universe wants to tell me? 🙂 I also dived with Phoebe & Lee and the Pro’s Johan, Sophie, Stefanie & Mike helped me with some diving theory. The diving buddy I got most comfortable with is Jean-Pierre, we spent value time above and below the surface, cheers for the sweet talks with never ending topics and to seeing A LOT OF SHIT down below 😉 great diving, always a pleasure.
Jean-Pierre and Lee were also the ones who joined me on my first beer after 50+ days of cleansing and being straight, perfect to start drinking again with an Irish and a Belgium friend, I felt quite drunk after the first sips; in the end I had three Beer when staggering to my bed 😉

During the dives I saw multiple moray eels – honey comb, zebra, black and spotted ones, banded sea snakes, different sizes of puffer fish, multiple stingrays & octopus, black tip reef sharks, different shrimp, jelly fish, multiple lobster, coddle fish, scorpion fish, stone fish, sea turtles as well as big fan corals, brain corals, multiple soft corals, anemone’s and many more – lovely underwater scenery with big drops and dark blue waters, different as in the Andaman’s, so yeah it’s been great!

If you dig the music, check out my friends soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/m-inc-to

My diving is getting better as does my skills on the scooter, when not floating underwater I rode along the rebuilt roads. Almost 8 years after the devastating Boxing Day tsunami, which hit the island pretty badly with lots of damage in infrastructure, it’s slowly improving. Perfect biking conditions now, many curves and hills, the street snakes up and down, left and right. Some sweet beaches on the way and brilliant lookouts were to be found, but still the island is not that developed which adds a unique feel and on top the locals are so friendly, greeting, waving hands as I pass by, especially when leaving the big road and riding the small trails through villages. The monkeys along the road just waiting for food, otherwise they leave. Sometimes I even saw guys with rifles, but no worries, they just go on the animal hunt – for dinner, of course 😉

On the northern tip of Weh I found kilometre 0, the first kilometre of the country, a monument is being built for 2 years already I wonder when they finally finish…

Also the food is great, a lot of seafood, at lunch times the local eateries have some kind of buffet with rice, vegetables, chicken and fish curry – very yummy and good value for the money. Plus finally avocado is growing here, not to be found in India I get my dosage now every day, the juice is so delicious, you can also add chocolate sauce, or get a salad – mhh come and get some!
One more thing, the rain! It’s raining quite a bit, still alright with temperatures round the 30’s – now I see why it’s called rainforest 😉

It’s been a wonderful week with awesome people, sweet diving, surrounded by natural beauty – a perfect start to the land of the many islands, I’ll keep on walking…

Indonesia – Kick starting new adventures

The vast archipelago of Indonesia spreads out over an unbelievable area of almost 2 million square kilometers from Aceh province- northern Sumatra up to the Papua New Guinenan border with about 13.000 inhabited islands and a lot more uninhabited. If you plan on visiting a new island every day it would take more than 36 years to visit the entire country. Imagine you go 4 times from Berlin to Moscow, that’s about the distance from Medan in northern Sumatra to Jayapura in East Papua. So it’s big and it takes time to get around, flying is popular in our days, the ferry services are barely advertised and bus rides are bumpy as road conditions are not ideal. On top you get a 30 days visa on arrival, that’s 30 islands a day, not even 1% of the country 😉

Going there was a crazy 40+ hours of travels, involving 4 flights and a ferry ride plus some hours of overlay I was tired but always aware! The shortest way from the Andamans to Indonesia would have been by boat (Medan the city I wanted to go in Indonesia is about the same distance from Port Blair as Chennai!) but as that’s not an option, because of political and military reasons, the only connection to India’s beautiful islands are the mainland cities of Chennai or Kolkata. So I went back to mother India, enjoyed the last 10 hours in Chennai going around town and visiting temples, eating the last spicy Indian meal before I flew to Sri Lanka, hopped on a connection flight to Singapore and went further to arrive finally at Medan in northern Sumatra – ready for a good long sleep, the last one I had at the Indian ferry in the Andamans – the most comfortable ever – lovely bunk beds and the shaking see put me to sweet dreams, as did the humming A/C of the comfy hotel bed 🙂

Medan has not that much touristy attractions, I just sorted myself, and relaxed in the fancy hotel with pool – I enjoyed the luxurious life after the bamboo huts of the last weeks but 3 days were enough, ready to start new adventures.

 

North Andaman – further off the beaten track

Directly the first night when we arrived at Kalipur, we could see a turtle nesting, we were so lucky as she was right there, starting the dig when we came to the beach – it’s a long procedure! First a hole needs to be dug, then the 130 eggs need to be laid and then the hole needs to be covered with sand and camouflaged – it was great to watch the creature that seems a bit lost on land.

We had quite some rainy days up north, I was longing for rain since months but as soon as it rained for a couple of hours I felt the negative vibes spreading, also no bikes available in Diglipur, the main town around, to explore the area on our own, we first decided to treat ourselves! Nice mango lassi and falooda (a cold sweet as hell beverage) – with that sugar intake the clouds went away and we embarked the rickshaw to visit the mud volcanos – a natural phenomenon of the area. Probably the best short jungle walk on a small narrow trail on the island and every 10 min a grayish spot with bubbling mud in the form of a volcano, the tallest of them being a meter in height, it’s the gas that makes the trick, you can actually light it and it will go up in a small fireball – I learned that after our visit though 😉

A proper hill, “Saddle Peak” with 732 meter the highest spot in the Andamans is just close by, it’s a good day hike. The first 3 kilometer we went along the beach, the wind was pushing big waves ashore, the roaring sound of the ocean was following us constantly – I never saw the Andaman sea so rough, not even in Thailand. The next 5 km were a steep climb up the hill with lots of roots and man-made steps through thick jungle with an awesome amount of butterflies and other insects, crabs and lovely birds – the forest was very much alive. The weather changed during our ascent – big clouds moving in blocking the view once we made it to the top, we could still see some islands off the coast but also big rain clouds wettening the land and the sea further east. On our way down we went right through the clouds and the nebula around with all the moos covered trees made me feel hiking New Zealand! It was a demanding hike we enjoyed it even with the clouds and the rain.

The other day we went snorkeling around Craegy Island – it took us 30 min to swim across, we properly explored the island and it’s rocky north east facing cliff, snorkeling was good with alive and colorful coral, even though the visibility wasn’t great, the second session the waters were more clear to spot bigger fish, snakes, squid and big ass coral – another sweet day in paradise and Thomas’ last, it’s been a pleasure my friend – see you again this year!

With Fotini and Warren the lovely Greek/American couple who always had a story to tell about almost every topic and Rachel and Sam from the UK two full on happy guys who always had a smile and a joke for everyone around, I went on a day trip to Ross & Smith Island. Two islands joined by a small stretch of sand in between which makes it easy to walk between the two. Smith is the bigger one and I walked along the beach to find a deserted recreation spot, of course I took a rest. Ross Island is rather small and no people linger around – being a wildlife sanctuary, still some good photo opportunities with jungle vines can be found 🙂
And the sandy bank that connects both of the white sandy beauties is screaming for a swim on either side, one more shallow and calm, the other rough and deep – of course I dipped in both – surrounded by ocean and the beach in the middle, just awesome!

With Rachel and Sam I also went diving, we explored the area around the left side of Stoney Island with awesome visibility, directly greeted by a sting ray and big schools of small fish, it was my first exploration dive and we had lots of fun! The second dive was at “Hard Rock Café”, the perfect reef off Craegy where Thomas and me snorkeled before, but this time we had better visibility and the perfect guide. Neil showed us around, he was also the one naming the dive site – now we all know why the name 😉 Beautiful intact coral, the biggest I’ve seen, coral walls reaching from 2 to 10 meter below the surface with active reef life happening all around. Soft coral, anemones with colonies of clown fish, moray with the cleaner shrimp, eel, snails, the smallest fish I’ve ever seen, 2 millimeter black with yellow dots – the macro life a reef has to offer is as splendid as the big stuff that can be seen – swimming with 20 humphead parrotfish measuring 1,5 m in size was just another magical moment.
For the next dives with Daniel and Erez we went to explore the right hand side off Stoney Island, Daniel called the site “Ray Rock” as he was the one to spot the biggest Bloached Fantail Ray ever, with 2 meter wingspan easily – a giant among us! The fish life was exploding all around – such an untouched site, feeling good to be part of the first season the diving has opened at Kalipur. The instructor Hanna and her boyfriend Neil a dive master had very much influence on the great dives we had, easy and relaxed and smiling all the time it was the best and longest dives for me in the Andaman’s! It’s been a sweet ride with all of you divers – cheers for the fun!

The people and the great outdoors made me stay for a longer time. In the end I even met 2 guys from Berlin and we had a German evening with spicy Indian food! And of course there was Alex the all-round talent and resort owner, he could organize everything, he played doctor fixing small wounds, he’s a chef training local guys to cook and in the evening he played the music and else he did what he could do best – entertain everyone! He’s spreading such a good energy and we had deep talks and lots of laughs, when I ever make it back to this lovely piece of land I’ll come to the farm on Smith Island – I’ll take your word for granted Alex 😉

Cheers to all the good people of the two weeks in Pristine Beach Resort, it was a very social time and just the right vibe I needed for my last days in Incredible India, well and not to forget – the fabulous coconut panna cotta @ Pristine did the rest and we ate it all 😉

The next adventure will wait for me in Indonesia, I’m already travelling 4 month now and when looking back it was intense and so diverse. I’ve been to mountains, beaches, so many cities, towns & villages, I was partying quite a bit, spent quality time on my one, let my spirit rise a couple of times and found new friends along the trail – most of the goals I set for myself are reached but I feel there is something waiting ahead I’ll keep my senses alert and my mind sharp, ready to take off!

Long Island – On Robinson’s trail

On the ferry to Long Island I met Thomas from Switzerland, we instantly connected and somehow I was pretty sure we would travel together for the next days – of course that happened 😉

So after a good first chat on deck out in the sea breeze the ferry went to Straight Island, which is off the tourist trail, it’s the home if the Great Andamanes an ancient tribe almost extinct with only 43 members left – just a hand full of people enter – we were not even allowed to take pictures!
The ferry then took us to Long Island. Only 1 guest house for tourists is established, there is not much to do over here, living the Robinson life that’s what the guidebook says, actually there is a small village just by the jetty and it feels good the moment we disembark!
There are just two four wheelers on the island used to transport goods plus a handful of motorbikes, it’s a 20 minutes’ walk to Blue Planet Guest House on concrete trails through the jungle – simple island life with friendly people almost every little wooden house has a proper garden attached, the locals are hiding from the sun but venture out in the evening. The youth is busy at the football field where a couple of hours before the horses had fun with themselves 🙂 We saw a sea snake eating a crab right on the beach at low tide, which must have been a proper sunset feast.

After our visit at the forest department we got the permit for the walk to Lailaji bay, 90 minutes through the jungle with some good old trees – a nice little stroll.
The bay is a lovely stretch of white sand with some huts in the back that give a little shade, but you can find lovely spots underneath some big trees or palms as well, the waters just as splendid as in Havelock – the only difference we’re the only guests on the beach together with the lovely Finnish couple Hanu and Tiana. We tried some snorkelling off the rocks first but were not lucky finding the reef, it was a bit dangerous with the waves crushing at the rocky coast but we managed to get in and out in one piece. Later on we found the reef just the left hand side from the sandy stretch of the beach. In the shallow waters you can see colourful coral and small fish – it’s nice but not superb.
We decided to directly move on to North Andaman and not stay any longer for diving or hanging around, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be better than this and Thomas was running out of time on his trip. Up north the diving supposed to be the best in the Andamans so we went with the 7 a.m. ferry to Rangat, the best ferry ride of my life took us through thick forest of mangroves and lasted 1 hour such a peaceful journey in the early morning it felt like meditation.
From Rangat a rusty bus took us the rest of the way up north, 150 km in 5,5 hours, lots of curves, bad road conditions, lots of passengers squeezing in – a typical Indian bus experience 🙂 The road snaked along the coast and took us through thick mighty jungle, we smelled heavy rains and felt it just a glimpse of an eye later on – the first proper rain since the Nepali snow for me, the air stood thick and tropical this time!

Of course all windows were open in the bus and we had a little rain coming through, as it was one of the old busses, sent away from mainland, good enough to serve its last decades on the islands and lacking all comfort….
We were so done in the evening but if you want to go to the end of the world, where civilization is  scattered and the village becomes random houses along the small bumpy track, hidden in palms and thick bush, you take it as an adventure and the real adventure was just about to begin…

Havelock Island – beach, beach, party, beach, beach, dive!

Staying a longer time on the island and hanging around with Teo I met more people, some of them became friends pretty fast. First there was Jasper & Lene from the Netherlands. He’s traveling with his 10 year old daughter and it’s not their first time in the Andamans. Jasper and me we share quite some common things in life – of course we had to meet here! Later on I got to meet Antti, Teo’s friend also from Finland, on and off between Nepal his home country and the Andamans – also a great soul. With that lovely pack we went to Full Moon Restaurant for some evenings treats – the best place to hang around, eat and drink on the island! A couple of times we went to famous Radhanagar beach or just simply – beach no.7 to enjoy the magic golden sunsets, to snorkel in the shallow waters and to relax. One evening we even saw an Elephant being guided home, it was Raju the last swimming of his kind! During the snorkelling I saw multiple turtles and stingrays, magical creatures they move as if they would fly and so fast, I hardly could believe the eyes, it was wonderful to watch them. Another encounter of a different kind was a sea snake winding along the corals, wearing grey and black rings – one if not the most poisonous snakes around, peacefully made its way until it vanished under a rock, the fish next to it didn’t even pay attention, seems to be a good fellow thou 😉 Of course the reef also had swarms of smaller fish and the 2 lip fish which are a bit bigger in size. As soon as you’re under water the vast variety of life just explodes in places like the Andaman’s, so you’re looking for creatures extremely rare. But I enjoy all of the underwater life, no matter how rare the species is, don’t try to look for something specific, it will come to you and every dive is different, that also includes snorkelling, you can even extrapolate that to life if you want 😉
Now being a certified diver I went to Johnny’s Gauge, and it was the best dive on Havelock for me. Conditions were just perfect, no current and good visibility we saw big schools of barracuda, bannerfish, shrimp, stingrays and even a white tip reef shark, colourful corals and bigger coral structures, giant clams,… life was just exploding 25m below sea level I was just stoaked, as was Miir my dive master – he was pretty focused on the underwater life too and felt happy that the four of us fun divers handled themselves very well…

The place is not a party location like goa although there are “happenings” almost every day like live music or DJ’s, I listened to a couple of acts and music while passing by the different locations on my bike, it was not worth it, but somehow as fate rolled the dice, a finish Psy DJ called Arwar played the other day at Cicanda, some really good tunes from chill to prog more than 4 hours – places shut down before midnight in the Andamans. I was enjoying the freedom of the sound and danced my ass off; don’t know when I did it the last time without being influenced by any mind altering substance like alcohol, tobacco… It felt great – all around me were smokers and drinkers and me drinking water – smiling my ass off, dancing barefoot to the rhythm till the moon rose across the jungle hill and shed bright light through the open roof of palm leaves to the dance floor – it was a trippy moon, clouds moving fast and low, making the moon light switching on and off, like Morse code with light on and off – good times!

Going round the island can be done with multiple means of transportation, bus, rickshaw, scooter, motorbike, bicycle and walking, I preferred the later the most, my bike took me everywhere I wanted in the perfect speed to gaze around and get a glimpse of what is happening around, I almost explored every paved road and some of the dirt roads too, just passing by private homes greeting the people talking to children I was quite a happening, they don’t seem to meet a lot of foreigners and are super friendly.

I also did a small bushwalk up the jungle hill to see the sunset but was not properly prepared – so many mosquitos when I just stopped walking so I returned after 20 min but I still saw many things, the strangest being a stick insect – the one with a very thin body I just saw it in a zoo before.

Walking is the best thing to properly inhale your surroundings and the beach walks on Havelock are just perfect so when the tides were right I walked from Elephant beach to beach no.7, being the only person on the way was great fun, gazing at the nature and life around me without being disturbed – although the Andaman’s are not as bustling as mainland India but Havelock has its moments where you just want to escape. The beach walk reminded me a bit of my trek in Costa Rica along the pacific coast on the Osa peninsula, this here was different though, lots of rocks and mighty trees right at the beach – after 2 hours I reached the best beach on the island and relaxed totally, enjoying the sunset later on for a last time.
Life has been treating me pretty sweet those 2 weeks but I somehow feel that Havelock gets too busy, too much people, too much noise and I need more freedom, we’ll see what north Andaman has to offer for me, I’m still hungry and my eyes are widened!

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