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Travelories With Woovly – History And Culture Through Ross Island, Mt Harriet And Baratang

Travelories With Woovly – History And Culture Through Ross Island, Mt Harriet And Baratang

We had already seen much of the Andaman Islands for what it was famed. Its pristine beaches, marine diversity and a backdrop of mangrove forests that made it perfect for a romantic and laid back getaway. However, for what it was worth, Andaman and Nicobar Islands came with mysteries waiting to be unfolded. Being Travelories, we have strived to give the raw story of each place we explore, and along with Woovly, it seemed like a wonderful day to head out for a little Indiana Jones-style adventure. Hence, the next two days It was the call of the old island through Ross Island, Mt Harriet and Baratang.

After our days in Havelock Islands and Neill Islands, we decided to head back to Port Blair. We did a roundabout of research and stumbled upon North Bay and Ross Island. With a short discussion at hand, we decided to skip North Bay. We had had enough of lounging for the past four days, and we were looking for some adrenaline rush. Hence, we chose to head to Ross Island. Along with that, we decided to make a trek stop at Mount Harriet and cover the tribal land of Baratang with its caves the next day. It was surely going to be a thrilling journey ahead. 

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The Paris Of The East – Ross Island

 

We started from Port Blair to Ross Island on a morning ferry around 8 o’clock. The weather was breezy and somehow seemed to be beckoning us to Ross Island, or perhaps, it was exactly how we wanted to feel. Ross Island or Ghost Island was a destination for history buffs. Once upon a time, Ross Island was the ideal settlement for British and was knows as the “Paris of the east”.

Moreover, it had a scenic view of the blue Indian ocean from the sunny town. The cobblestone streets, floral gardens and the sloped roofed houses with tainted glass and oak doors made it a beautiful vacation spot. However, the lesser-known fact surmised how the settlement was built from scratch by the prisoners captured during the freedom struggle. The island was cleaned and built brick to brick by the prisoners. In 1941, an earthquake separated Ross Island from the mainland. Soon after, the Japanese took possession of Andaman and Nicobar islands and the fearing their safety, the British soon shifted back to England. However, while leaving the lands, the British carried most of the glass and architectural items leaving mostly bricks behind. Hence, Ross Island came to be known as the Ghost Islands. 

In 2004, the tsunami hit the Ross Island which blocked it from hitting Port Blair. While the island was a saviour of the people, it also took the most damage. It had made the surrounding a tale of more tragedies. 

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A Look Around The Island

Architectural ruins of the settlements filled the land. Roots of peepal trees covered most of the structures giving it a unique texture. The first of colony of Ross Island was the Commissioner’s House. Furthermore, we also found a few signboards around that helped us explore the area better and identify the buildings. A pond, a repainted hospital, lighthouse, man-caves, water treatment plant and the subordinate’s club were few of those which stood out. We also came across a protestant church in its dilapidated state and made with Burma wood so good that it had withstood several calamities that fell upon it. Moreover, closest to the sea, we discovered some old Japanese bunkers along with the Indian Navy base, which was out of reach. 

We walked around the area peacefully going the piece of history. A large amount of its territory was blanketed with shadowing forests that gave it a cool vibe. Through the land, there are several peacocks and deer who have made their homes. As it is a National Sanctuary of sorts, we refrained from getting any closer to them but just enjoyed their distant company.

With the time constraints, we decided to head to our next destination before skipping the ferry. 

Trekking Through Mount Harriet

it was just a 20 minutes ride on the ferry to Mount Harriet in Port Blair from Ross Island. Reaching around 11:30 am, we stopped for lunch at GKM Grand. The staff helped us out with taxis, and soon we were on our way to Timber Land that was 9 km away. Further on, we booked our tickets on a big ferry that took us around Bambooflat town. Interestingly enough, the old Rs 20 note featured its skyline of the same along with the boat.

We soon reached the Mount Harriett National Park. Surprisingly, there weren’t many people around other than us. It extended into a quaint and dense evergreen rainforest. We trekked through the forests for 3km with the hummings of the thousands of the birds for company. However, we didn’t come across any wild animals. With the sun rays filtered through the leaves, it was a blissful trek among towering trees. After the refreshing trek, we headed back to the hotel on the ferry. On our way back, we made a pitstop at the Tiranga Memorial in Port Blair. It stands in the memory of the first Indian flag that was flown here in 1943. Moreover, Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the first flag in the name of the Azad Hind. The twilight sky against the swaying flag looked beautiful. 

With that, we decided to wrap up for the day. We were to save up our energy for the next day early morning visit to Baratang. 

Discovering The Lands Of Baratang

We were up, and sound by 2:45 am to head to Baratang. The idea was to skip the crowd if we headed early. We rode to through rough rocky road for 13-20 km to reach Ziratang. After a long wait, the gate opened to the Jarvan lands of Baratang at 6 am. 

The crowd that had lined in front of the gate early in the morning almost amazed us. Further on, there were police convoys that led the tourists inside. The first and last car of the police took all the tourists through Baratang. The cars went as quietly as they could without any honking or overtaking. Straight ahead of us was the Jarvan Reserve Forests that was home to the native Jarvan tribe. We would have been lucky to get a look at them. Fortunately, they informed us much earlier of the penalty if anyone used camera around Baratang. Furthermore, the driver was a local, and he told us the story of how the locals first spotted and spoke to the Jarvans. 

As his story went along, we told us how one night, the Jarvans had come to cut vegetables from the farms when one of them fell and his leg got stuck. A local lady spotted him and helped him out. Soon, the locals sent the boy to Delhi for treatment and then, he returned to his tribe. Soon enough, they established communication with each other. 

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Touring The Limestone Caves

We spend a surreal ride of 49 km through the thick forests listening to his story. After reaching Baratang, we made our way to the active limestone caves. Once we reached the end of the pool, we walked a small distance of 1.5 km. Small villages dotted the pathway ahead. Luckily, they allowed us to click pictures. The beige cascades of limestone look frozen gushing water of the ceiling as the water underneath shimmered like a lit swimming pool. However, they took us through the cave on a boat in between the mangrove forest. We spent a surreal time touring the caves.

Moreover, our guide, Amit, explained the details of the caves along with the legends that come with it. There is also a theory that the caves might close soon with the limestone growth. The gates of Baratang open at 12:30 pm, and before we knew it, we were out of the island. On our way back, we managed we spotted a haze of Jarva tribe people roaming around. 

Back To The City

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By 5:30 pm, we were back at our hotel in Port Blair. In addition to all the knowledge we gathered, we also found out that there were 572 islands as part of Andaman and Nicobar. Nevertheless, only 12 were accessible to tourists in the Andaman Islands while Nicobar remains off-limits. Packing up our luggage, we headed to catch our flight back to Bangalore. Before we knew it, our uniquely gorgeous holiday was over, and we were back to the city hustle.

Travel Tips

  • When in Ross Island, you are not allowed to feed the peacocks or deer in the National Park. In addition to that, it is advisable not to get too close to them.
  • Refrain from littering the islands, the locals work hard to clean it every day.
  • There are two ferry timings for Baratang. Leave either at 2:30 or 5:30 am. Moreover, the gates open at 6 am an 9 am.
  • Do not honk or try to overtake while entering the gates of Baratang.
  • Strictly not allowed to use camera or phone in Baratahg. Further on, there will be a penalty of 1 lakh or prison of 3 years to both the traveller and the driver.

Stay tuned for our roundup article on all the places we covered in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

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