I don’t like marine life.
I mean, its ok from a distance but I don’t want it to touch me. At all.
It’s sad, really and I do wish I could change this about myself, but I can’t. So, I continue to not like marine life. This in turn makes me a fraud traveler. Because a real traveler is afraid of nothing. Starfish don’t skeev her out. Seaslugs don’t terrorize her dreams, hermit crabs don’t suddenly become 10 times their size and attack cities.
Last year in January Chola, Hasib & I decided to go to the Andamans.
Chola & Hasib weren’t privy to my all-consuming phobia (And neither was I, obviously, because I hatched this fantastic plan with them. Great!)
These guys left before me and I was to meet them on Havelock Island a couple of days later. I landed in Port Blair and had to take a ferry to Havelock. And I have to say that there is very little in this world as arresting and stunning as the Andamans. The islands make you want to love this Earth with all your soul and they make you realize how truly blessed we are to have this planet to call our own.
Cho & Hass came to the port to fetch me. Our ride was an autorickshaw, but that changed the next day when we got ourselves scooties cos we’re badass like that.
We were staying at this sweet little resort by the sea and decided to just chill for the first two days, which we did with much ease. On day 3 our plan was to go to this tiny island off Havelock called South Button. Everyone we spoke with said that it was great for snorkeling (Which I was seemingly excited about, which in hindsight seems absolutely absurd.) It was a 4 hour boat ride away, we could have lunch there, snorkel a bit (what?!) and come back by evening. We asked around for boat rates and everyone was in the category of 2400-2600 bucks for a round trip. And it seemed fine until we got chatting with our autorickshaw driver who said that his cousin had a great boat and he would take us to and fro for only 1200 rupees! How Fantastic! Could we be so lucky?! (We would save 400 rupees each, which we would then use to buy Vicodin to numb our pain the next day)
So, we sealed the deal.
Spit. Shake. Done bro.
We woke up nice & early the next day, gathered all our gear, had some lunch packed & met our rick driver who took us to the beach, we had to walk a little till we saw it. …. The boat.
And it was just that. A boat. Like the one’s you drew when you were 4.
It had nothing. Which would have been fine had he not described a luxury yacht to us. In front of us was a plank of wood shaped like a gravy pot.
We didn’t have a choice. It was 8 a.m. South Button was our plan. South Button it would be. We got into it and said ‘chalo bhaiyya’ and then he started the ‘engine’.
……………………………… … . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Death.
How do I describe that noise to you? Words fail me.
To begin with, it was loud, like a few sledgehammers together. And it hit our brain with a thunk with each beat. But it wasn’t a beat. It was a punch. And it was constant. I remember our faces when he started the engine. Our mouths were open for a few seconds and there was horror in our eyes. 4 hours of this. Well done crafty travelers!
But lets face it; everyone makes mistakes when traveling impromptu. But we would be above everyone because we would continue to make mistakes and prove to everybody how much we like pain. It became 11 o clock. And there was no South Button in sight. I was sitting under a sarong hiding from the sun & Chola was under a crevice in the ‘boat’. Hiding from the sun. Hassib on the other hand had taken off his shirt & was sunbathing.
Starting from the next day, no one was allowed to touch him for a week because his epidermis was toast and he looked like he’d rolled in mud.
After an hour we saw a clump of rocks jutting out of the sea and our ‘motorboat’ driver told us ‘Yeh lo – South Button.’ The laughter that ensued was manic. Where were we supposed to eat our lunch? Where were we supposed to frolic & chase butterflies & discuss astronomy? According to motorboat man it was on the boat.
Since we’d reached that far & had gone through extreme agony we figured that we might as well snorkel a bit. And that’ when it hit me. I didn’t like snorkeling, that I was a poor swimmer, that if a fish swam close to me I would lose consciousness. Chola laughed at me for a while. I didn’t make any eye contact. Then she put on her snorkeling gear & swam away like a little guppy.
She needed a rope to get her back on the boat 10 minutes later.
We decided to head to another island which wasn’t made of sharp kryptonite to eat lunch & found a lovely place an hour away. It looked so pretty. These guys leapt out like ponies and walked in waist deep water towards the ivory sand. And I was about to do the same when I happened to look below at the water. Seaslugs! Everywhere. EVERYWHERE. The size of cats. I swear.
I couldn’t get into the water. I would die. So I asked the boat guy to take the boat closer to the shore. He said no. The hull might get damaged. (The hull?!?). So while Chola & Hass frolicked on the beach, chased butterflies and talked about stars, I sat in the boat & ate my lunch like a refugee. I don’t want to talk about this any further.
But Karma is a bitch. Don’t diss the Seaslug.
We made our way back home and in 3 hours we could see Havelock. We had newly acquired migraines ……but we could see the shore. Whoop!
But it was low tide. So we had to walk about 50 yards towards the shore in shallow water. And the Seaslug cartel was there to greet me. I remember being close to tears. I offered to pay the ‘bhaiyya’ as much as the entire boat ride to just carry me to shore. He refused. Cho & Hass were now hysterical with laughter (it was the heat) & so, I stepped into the infested water and held their hands and walked to the shore with my slippers on. Then my slippers broke. And that’s all I have to say about that.
The moral of this story is that facing your fear is for pansies. Lie. Lie to the world and to yourself.
The next time I got to South Button, I will have a little dinghy, for low tides and damaged hulls.
♫ Massive Attack – Angel