The Andamans – Port Blair

Somewhat unfairly, Port Blair (the largest town in the Andamans) often gets overlooked by visitors on their way to the beaches and jungles when it’s easily worth a couple of days of traipsing around. First stop – especially for the Indian history buff – Cellular Jail.

 Cellular Jail

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Cellular Jail Facade

The British had been using the Andamans as a transportation colony for Indians ever since the uprisings of 1857. With the growth of the independence movement, Cellular Jail itself got built in the late 19th century. Given the whos-who of independence leaders imprisioned here, it’s now an Indian national monument.

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With all prisoners kept in solitary confinement though and hard labour the norm, there’s no doubt life here was tough – from the prison museum:

“The revolutionary fighters […] found themselves confronted by the cruel Jailor, David Barry, an Irishman who believed it was his God-given destiny to suppress these enemies of Her Majesty the Queen with violence and vile abuse”

Hmmm… so, it would seem I wasn’t quiet the first Irish to visit.

Ross Island

Beyond the prison and just across a short stretch of water – a bit like a ghost town of a long-lost civilisation – lies Ross Island.

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Ross Island, Andaman Islands

For decades the island served as the seat of British administration here. Long abandoned though – partly due to damage caused by both an earthquake and the Japanese occupation – in its heyday Ross Island was said to have been one of the most opulent headquarters within the Raj.

There are still hints of the opulence here and there, but these days its the fig trees and encroaching jungle that rule Ross Island.

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Ross Island Cemetery

And with that – and with some nasty squalls blowing – time to get back to Port Blair and a flight back to the mainland – no three day ferry this time!

 

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The Andamans – Havelock Island

Think tropical island and Havelock Island in the Andamans has it all – sugar-white beaches, palm trees, fantastic sunsets, swimming elephants (retired) and well, rain, lots of rain.

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Port Blair Harbour – next stop Havelock

With the rainy season arriving in the Andamans weeks before the rest of India, it was at times a bit like a wet Summer in Kerry – albeit with temperatures in the 30’s and falling coconuts to be avoided. Not that it was a problem – with both foreign and Indian tourists keen to stay dry, the place was largely empty and totally relaxed.

 

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Inland from the coast, the island is covered with rice paddies that push up against dense jungle. Not being a fan of leeches and trudging through muck – hammock dozing won out over jungle hiking in the rain.

 

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Did I mention the rain?

It wasn’t all just hammock-time though – with Havelock having some of the best diving in Asia, I could hardly pass up the chance to take some lessons. Alas, while I fairly well mastered the ‘how not to drown’ class, my underwater photography needs a bit of work. So, failing miserably to photograph a single fish, I’ll leave you with a blurred underwater selfie for now…

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Anyone seen Nemo?

 

 

One for the Farmers

It had been a long time since I’d been at a cattle market, so when I heard about one of South India’s largest dairy cow markets taking place on Thursdays in Erode – I could hardly give it a miss. So yes, one last dose of cow photos from India…

(Still fixing the hammock on my remote tropical island btw, but this this would be a post I made earlier)

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Located right at the centre of the Indian peninsula, Erode is well placed to draw farmers from all across the south. Its actually only getting back to normal now after being effectively closed for a couple of weeks on account of the general election.

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Organised like farmer marts of old back in Ireland, there was no central market as such – simply turn up at 5-6AM with your cow and hope you find a buyer. Getting there myself just after six, bundles of rupees were already being shuffled between farmers.

No shortage of farmer coyness either – while I saw one young jersey cow go for 12,000 rupees (about 150 euro) – cards were being played close to chests (I believe typical prices would be 2-3 times that). Even for the few posed photos of farmers with cows I had to persuade them I wasn’t a well-dressed big-farm agent disguised as a tourist.

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Most cows were being sold either heavily in-calf or with their calf – like this little fella.

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When they were sure I wasn’t there as a buyer or dealer, farmers were quiet happy to pose with their cows.

There didn’t appear to be much in the way of officialdom either – although without any animal tagging, there’s probably not much to be done. It seems the only tagging is done on larger farms who tag for insurance reasons. Out of the hundreds of animals, perhaps I saw one cow with a tag?

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A rarity and often banned in other countries, here farmers have the horns on their cows sharpened to get a better price.

The bulk of the cows (say 70-80%) on sale were Jerseys – they seem to be better adapted for the  heat of the plains. Friesians and Herefords are said to be popular in the Cauvery Delta for some reason, but are also to be found on higher altitude and larger farms with cooling showers – they accounted for say, 15% of animals. The remainder then were buffalo and local cattle breeds.

 

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And with that, I may just have run out of cow pictures – so farewell from Erode!

 

 

Disconnected

Sorry for there being no updates lately – alas, with Internet access being a scarce to non-existent resource on remote tropical islands, not much that can be done. But don’t worry, as tough and all as living the disconnected life is, they do have nice sunsets – I’ll be fine…

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In case you’re wondering btw, I’m on a dot near the third red dot down in the lower right of the map below

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Map courtesy Wikipedia Maps