Saturday, 31 December 2016

Ruins of Ross Island Andamans

Do ruins tell a story?
Of course yes, if there is a story teller around. With an experienced guide like Ms Anuradha Rao our visit to Ross Island, 2 kms east of Port Blair, turned out to be an exciting experience. It was the administrative HQ under the British rule till 1941 when the earthquake caused widespread destruction. From 1942 to 1945 it was under Japanese occupation. After three decades of neglect, it was handed over to Indian Navy in 1979. Thereafter, it became a tourist attraction in Andamans.

Ghumakkad along with other Naval veterans, visited Ross island in September 2016. Here is a short picture story for you.



On the day of our planned visit to Ross Island, the island was declared closed  for public. Reason: Official visit by 150+ officers from DSSC Wellington. Thanks to Commodore Govindan's excellent liaison, we were accommodated in the same ferry.



We were so ably conducted by Ms Anuradha Rao, a private guide at Ross Island.
For her devotion to duty, she has been commended by the C-in-C, Andaman and Nicobar Command. You can see her proudly wearing her commendation badge.



Water borne diseases had claimed many lives in the island in 19th century. Therefore, a water distillation and treatment plans was installed. Dating back to 1740, remains of the boiler can still be seen.
Here is a short video about the water treatment plant.

We continued the walk around the island. Those who can not walk, a battery operated cart is available. 
To enable the visitors to catch their breath on a hilly track, our guide gave a short pep talk on the importance of caring for aged parents. A short video which also shows the resident spotted deer and their stroll with us:








 Visitors are not allowed to feed the animals or birds in the island. Our guide however was feeding them as we walked past. When questioned, she explained that she gets special bread baked in a bakery at Port Blair which does not use any harmful chemicals like yeast etc. A dedicated environmentalist indeed!

As the Sun was about to go down, we had to complete our walk around and take our seats for the sound and light show. We had already seen the show at the Cellular Jail. But friends had recommended not to miss the show at Ross Island. It had to be better. It certainly is a class apart.
 With photography prohibited during the show, Ghumakkad had to borrow few pictures from Google images to convey the multi-media impact.

Those planning to visit Andamans, please do not miss the sound and light show at Ross Island. You can skip the show at the Cellular Jail but not at Ross Island.

It was time to return to Port Blair whose skyline was well lit by then. A picture.



 Being our last night in Port Blair, we all had a ball on the roof top lounge of our hotel. Apart from deciding the team for the next bash of FFA (what is FFA? scroll down), it was also time to say thanks to Commodore and Mrs Govindan for their selfless service in organising the Andamans trip so well.

Veterans in formals on a vacation? Yes, since we were going to visit the Ross Island along with Defence Services Staff College student officers, we all decided to shed our jeans and tees. The veterans look dashing, isn't it? Not only do they look dashing they also rock!
 And their charming spouses rock harder!
 Here is the complete gang which made it to Andamans together for a week! Simply unforgettable.

We started with our tour logo reproduced below:

This story, 10th in the series, marks the curtains on Andamans. Ghumakkad enjoyed creating and sharing this ten-part story with inputs from all the buddies. Thanks are also due to all the blog readers for their encouragement and feedback. In case you missed browsing any of the the earlier stories, here are the links:

  1. What is FFA?
  2. Port Blair: Kala Paani and beyond
  3. Sailing to Havelock
  4. Havelock- A Fun Place
  5. Scuba Diving@65
  6. Snorkeling at Elephant Beach
  7. Radhanagar Beach where voice of the sea speaks to your soul
  8. Kalapathar Beach where you discover yourself
  9. Chidiyatapu- Where the birds find you 
Although it has already been three months since our visit to the Andamans, we keep dreaming about it.

This story also marks the end of 2016. Ghumakkad wishes you a very happy new year. May 2017 take you to newer places with renewed vigour.

God bless and love
  -Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 30th Dec 2016

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Saying it with flowers

Flowers- Nature's colourful creation. Without flowers, there would be no fruits, no seeds, no further crop of flowers. Flowers are essential for our existence.
We use flowers for decoration, greeting people, gifting, performing 'puja', last rites and so on. Flowers take multiple roles with ease.

With ensuing festive season, Ghumakkad wishes everyone with a common flower from his garden. Its seeds are used for making oil and its leaves make a delicious curry. Tiny bunch of these yellow flowers bloom in winter Sun. Could you guess its name? Yes, it is called mustard or sarson सरसों in Hindi. Sarson ka saag सरसों का साग with मक्के की रोटी is not to be missed in winter in India. 

After I took the pictures of mustard plant and flowers in our garden, I came across a quotation by Henri Matisse who had said "There are always flowers for those who want to see them". So here we are with this picturesque quote (PQ)- wishing everyone the best of everything in 2017 and beyond.

Talking of flowers, we had posted few more PQs earlier. Some of these are reproduced below.
Inspired by Neem नीम flowers, here is a quote by RW Emerson.

Another PQ based on a picture of Aparajita flower which is used for puja in Bengal.

Lilies have their own charm. Here is a larger variety with beautiful colour and a quotation from Anderson.

Next PQ is based on tiny wild flower with a tall stem which sways in the wind, yet stays steadfast.


We all love flowers, but very few of us can appreciate a leaf and that too a dried leaf. Here is a PQ on loving a leaf.

I am reminded of few lines by great Hindi poetess Mahedevi Verma who wrote:
फूलों से तुम हंसना सीखो 
कलियों से मुस्काना 
प्रकृति हमें देती यह शिक्षा 
विपदा से न घबराना 

Roughly translated, it means:
Learn to laugh from flowers
Learn to smile from its buds
Nature teaches us
Not to be afraid of difficulties and challenges.

Once again, season's greetings and best wishes for 2017 and beyond,

   -Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 22nd December 2016

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Chidiyatapu Where the birds find YOU

Chidiyatapu चिड़िया टापू which in Hindi means the Birds' Island, is a birdwatchers' paradise in South Andamans. Located 25 kms from Port Blair, it is the southern most point of South Andaman district. It is famous not only for birds but also for stunning views of the sun set. Ghumakkad was fortunate to visit this island in September this year. 



Port Blair has many attractions. For a quick pictorial walk around click here.

The unforgettable birding around Chidiyatapu was made possible because of Ram Vikas who works with the Forest Department of Andaman & Nicobar Administration. It was a chance encounter with Ram's sister in Gurgaon by another close friend Arun Dhupar which led to this connection. Two more birders Arun Singh (whose father worked in the forest department earlier and who runs a tourist agency in Port Blair) and Reuben a student of life sciences in Port Blair, made the foursome with Ghumakkad. My earlier post on Facebook calling birders in the region led me to few birders in Bangalore and another wildlife worker in Baratang island. So, had it not been for Ram, Arun and Reuben, Ghumakkad would have returned without experiencing the excitement of Chidiyatapu. Thanks much you three guys. 
Arun Singh is an excellent photographer as well. Pictures contributed by him have been given due credit. Thanks much Arun.

In fact, our birding trip started with a car ride in Arun's vehicle. It was a wet morning. But birders don't get deterred by rain!
Our car ride was interrupted by a road block. A tree had fallen on the road. Few local residents who also wanted to cross over on their bikes, were making an effort to clear the road. They said they did not need our help. So we pressed on.
These residents of Chidiyatapu appeared pretty experienced in road clearing. See the wedges inserted to roll over the broken tree.
Once on the other side of the blockade, birding began.
Chidiyatapu is a place where the birds find you-- instead of you finding the birds! 

As we continued on foot, the road got cleared. Our first stop was the Biological Park.

No vehicles are allowed inside the park. The Park thrives on rich bio-diversity. Tall trees, thick forest, birds, enclosures for Deer and Eagles, Lotus pond, Machaans for viewing/resting and so on. As I said it is a place where the birds find you! Pictures.


 "If you love a tree, you will be more beautiful than before", these words by Amit Ray seem to describe the experience of being in that park.
 All the birds with Andaman as the prefix in their name are endemic to Andaman islands. Like Andaman Dark Serpent Eagle and so on. Pictures.



















After birding in the Park, we drove to South Bay. You may view short videos recorded at the Bay. A 30 seconds intro by Ghumakkad.

Arun Singh summarises the birds sighted that morning.



Ram Vikas explains the conservation efforts in A&N islands.

Reuben, the youngest birder in the group, summed up his experience.

Here are some pictures of the Bay and sightings done there.

As if on a cue, the kingfisher with its extra long beak flew to another branch of the mangroves. And the Sun obliged us too peeking out of clouds! Ruthland island at the back continued to be dull. Picture for you.

Some more sightings around the South Bay.




On the return leg we drove via Sippighat and Teylrabad wetlands. Few more sightings in the wetlands.






It was already past 10.30 AM and we were to return. As we headed back, I saw these Lotus buds waiting for the Sun to shine when they will show their glory.

Thanks to Ram and Arun, our birding trip had been documented and reported on ebird.org.  A snapshot of the acknowledgement from Cornell University's world famous site is reproduced below:
____________________________________________________ 

From: <ebird-checklist@cornell.edu>
Date: Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 4:37 PM
Subject: eBird Report - Chidiyatapu, Sep 24, 2016
To: 
ram.vikas1@gmail.com


Chidiyatapu, South Andaman, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, IN
Sep 24, 2016 6:00 AM - 8:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 kilometer(s)
Comments:     Birding at Biological park Chidiyatapu with Commodore Harsh Bhargava, Mr.Arun Singh and Mr. Rubean paul
19 species (+1 other taxa)

Cotton Pygmy-Goose  3
heron sp.  1     Andaman little green heron
Andaman Serpent-Eagle  2
White-bellied Sea-Eagle  2     captive a biological park
Andaman Green-Pigeon  2
Green Imperial-Pigeon  4
Glossy Swiftlet  4
Stork-billed Kingfisher  2
White-throated Kingfisher  5
Andaman Woodpecker  1
Long-tailed Parakeet  8
Brown Shrike  1
Black-naped Oriole  2
Andaman Drongo  1
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo  6
Black-naped Monarch  2
Red-whiskered Bulbul  4
Oriental White-eye  1
Asian Fairy-bluebird  4
White-headed Starling  8

View this checklist online at 
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31792590

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (
http://ebird.org)
__________________________________________________ 

Of course all the birds which we sighted that morning could not be photographed. But as all birders will agree, each sighting leaves an imprint in our mind. More than taking pictures, every visit to a jungle or forest is like recharging of a battery. It leaves you rejuvenated, to come back again and to continue exploring.

Ghumakkad did not go to Andamans alone. He was part of the FFA gang (What is FFA? Click here). However, other FFA buddies could not see Chidiyatapu as there was another program lined up that morning.

We now reach the penultimate post on our Andaman trip-- a visit to the historic Ross Island. Wait till the next story.

Thanks for browsing
    -Harsh-the-Ghumakkad with inputs from Arun Singh/ 17th Dec 16