Visiting Lakshadweep Part 4 - Minicoy/Maliku

Seasoned sailors that we had become, none of us barely even noticed the ship's movements after the eventful day in Kalpeni. Thus MV Kavaratti was able to sneak off the 208 km to Minicoy in the night. We had been warned the day before that all disembarkation for Minicoy would be over by 8 am. So we who never dawdle anyway were up super-early, ready for the last day's adventure and were down at the embarkation doors even before the first boat from Minicoy made its appearance. The sea was quite playful, but we all made it safely into the boat and set off at a spanking pace to the island clearly visible in the distance...

Soon the reason for the hurry was apparent. While the boat rides to the other islands took barely 10 minutes, we didn't reach Minicoy till a full 25 minutes had passed. The funny thing was the island was curved around us like a huge "C", whose middle we were aiming for, but it didn't seem to get any closer for a loooooong time!

But soon it was time to doff our life-vests and climb in to our choice of vehicles to the first point of our Maliku (by which name the islanders prefer to call it) visit...


As usual we were welcomed with tender coconut, but what had DH intrigued was the vehicle they used for the purpose! A bright red Willys, no less!!!


If he had his way, DH would have had it shipped back to mainland in our ship itself. With great reluctance he made his way to the beautiful white lighthouse built by the British way back in 1888...


Till the day I saw this lighthouse, I had this misconception that all lighthouses need to be painted in  regulation red and white stripes.Good to know they can come in other colors too! The ticket seller warned us to leave our bags outside as we would have to climb 200 steps to reach the top and the bags would prove an unnecessary burden. It is a testament to my exercise routine that I reached the top without any unseemly gasping/panting or cramps in my legs which I fully expected. I would love to boast that I didn't even break into a sweat, but that would be an impossibility in 30+ degree Celsius temperatures unless one has anhidrosis!

The interior of the lighthouse was decorated with tasteful pictures of the antique light system etc and had landings that had beautiful old-fashioned wooden shutters. These opened to beautiful increasingly higher vistas of verdure and brine...


The final ascent to the light room and balcony was by means of this intimidating ladder...


As the more cautious of us turned backwards and descended very carefully, I saw an elderly man from our group descend the steps as easily as he was going down a wide staircase!!! At the bottom, we gave a collective gasp and barely kept back the applause when he landed safely. At that moment I told myself, "That is what I wanna be like when I'm old." His hair might have turned all white, but he had the suppleness of a kid. 

As the batch of 10 that went up ahead of us descended from the balcony, we finally made it up there...


I usually don't see the point in panoramic photos since they distort things out of recognition, but this picture somewhat brings home an idea of the "hockey stick" shape of the island, the curved end being on the left of the picture where the ladies are and extending away to a point on the right.

A few more pictures from the top: 


I think we did a good job of hiding that unsightly white communications tower behind us. The tile-roofed building at the top right is the resort which we were going to next. Please don't look at the next picture if you have a fear of heights!!!


And there is MV Kavaratti, resting up from all the running around and patiently waiting for our return in the evening. You can see the color change and the waves stopping where the lagoon starts...


On the onward ride, I told myself that if I were asked to settle in Lakshadweep for good, I would certainly choose Minicoy. The majority of the vegetation on Kavaratti and Kalpeni consisted of coconut trees and little else. But Minicoy has a wide variety of vegetation, we saw plenty of farms and the roads and property along the roads are well-maintained. There is an air of orderliness and prosperity which were absent in the other two islands. 

We were led to the well-appointed resort grounds where we got up close with a hermit crab who probably wanted to say hello...


We all changed and got to the beach with alacrity, only to find that it was still low tide. The water barely covered our ankles!!!! But that didn't stop us from getting some kayaks out. Ani requested my company again, but our kayak was a no-go. With no weight to balance mine, the back of the kayak was stuck in the sand while the end with Ani stayed up in the air!!! I promised to give him a ride when the tide came in and went alone. It was kind of like paddling about in a huge bathtub, the water so shallow and clear and stroking was so easy!


And I think that is when I caught my sunburn! Be warned, one application of SPF-15 sunscreen lotion has no power to withstand the summer sun. Carry at least SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Wish I had read about that before I traveled!  Instead, I believed the worst I could get from the sun was a deep tan. Not so, definitely not so. Fortunately I didn't feel any burning, only got damaged shiny skin on my forearms that itched horribly with rashes two days after the exposure!

We left our life-vest clad kids to paddle about near the beach under the supervision of water sports staff while we took a boat to deeper waters for snorkeling. The staff had to push the boat for at least half a kilometer before the propeller could clear the sand! Our offers to join the pushing fell on deaf ears, so we enjoyed the novel sensation. Finally the engine was started and we made our way to the reef. The ride was enriched by the sighting of two stingrays.

Once we reached the reef, we donned life-vests and snorkels and got off the boat into chest-high water. But it soon deepened near the coral. Our guides held us by the hand as they guided us around a huge, truck-like coral structure and pointed out the marvels. Here too there was such a variety of fish that I will not bore you with enumerating. One thing I saw in abundance was huge clams staying upright among the corals. Some were more than two feet across! Till then I had seen clams only in cartoons. Once we were back in the boat, I was glad to confirm that what I had seen were actually clams!

Just as my guide and I were about to conclude our tour, we suddenly came across a 6-ft-tall purplish brain coral (yes, I found that they are actually called so) that had sprouted a peculiar growth on its top. There were two flat, blue rubbery things on it from which two brown columns with some sort of sparse black fur sprouted. My guide and I surfaced immediately to find that one of the tourists had planted his blue croc-clad feet on the coral and was standing arms akimbo surveying the scene as though he was lord and master of the lagoon!!!! Gosh! My guide shouted at him to get off quickly. As though the heating up of the water is not harming the coral enough, the guy who had refused to have anybody guide him was standing on the coral!

That is one thing that the SPORTS personnel do not stress enough. Although they take very good care of the safety of the tourists, no one instructs us about the importance of leaving the sea-life safe and untouched. In Kalpeni, one of the tourists plucked a "baby" coral clean off the sea-bed and held it above water. Fortunately another tourist who saw him told him to put it back as it was poisonous before I could let out an indignant, "What are you doing sir?" But who was I to censure when I had picked up a sea-cucumber thinking that it was a stone??? I guess they should have an informational video on MV Kavaratti showing the different species of marine life we were likely to encounter and the guidelines we should follow to leave nature's bounty unharmed.

Back at the beach, I fulfilled my promise to go kayaking with Ani. This time I had the sense to call out "left, right" according to which side I wanted him to paddle. The little arms soon tired but he still valiantly kept paddling till we got back. We finally made it out of the water by lunch time, dried off and lazed in the shade after a hearty lunch. 




The ride back to the jetty took a roundabout route through Minicoy. I saw a breadfruit grove that was very shady, inviting and full of fruit!!! Breadfruit stew and varutharacha thoran are my most favorite vegetarian dishes. We were led to a village-house, a sort of communtiy building for that particular village where they meet up to discuss important matters and hold weddings etc. A few ladies were busy near a stove and I was very taken by their costume and the huge "plates" they carried on their head which they use to carry heavy loads.


The Maliku people are similar to Maldivians in culture and language. The ladies who served us tea spoke a little Malayalam, but not enough to discuss the nuances of Maliku culture with me. And then I spied a bright spot of color on the verandah of the village house..


Ever seen such colorful coconut graters before??? Look at this one!


If I didn't have my trusty, older-than-me coconut grater back at Karthi, I certainly would have bought one of these!!!

Then it was time to say goodbye and get on the waiting boat. The sea was definitely choppy this time and  sitting at the prow of the boat, we were treated to a jet-ski like experience as the boat rose and fell. But that excitement too was soon over. We were handed on to the proud ship that had been part of the Operation Raahat of 2015. The Indian navy had helped to evacuate several Indian and foreign nationals fleeing from strife-torn Yemen. MV Kavaratti had sailed to their aid to Djibouti under the escort of naval ships and brought her quota of refugees safely back to Kochi. The crew are understandably proud of this operation as they told us on day one of our voyage.

The next morning saw us a bit relaxed, but we did go up to the top deck to watch the sunrise...


And we stayed on playing guessing games with the cloud shapes...


...until it was time for breakfast. We came out again after packing up to see our ship sail back into the Kochi harbor. But instead of going to the Mattanchery wharf from where we started, she berthed in the Ernakulam wharf on the opposite side of Willingdon Island. And guess who we met there?


No idea? Here, I will give you a clue...


Still no idea? Okay, here, come really close and see...


I guess she was stopping in Kochi on her one of her world-tour cruises. As we passed her, several passengers waved to us from the balconies and we enthusiastically waved back!

After a protracted disembarkation (we waited patiently in our cabin till the rush was over), we thanked the cabin and the ship for having sheltered us for five days and said goodbye to Kochi. A train ride later, we were back home, exhausted, but exhilarated too! 

News you can use: For more info on the Lakshadweep tour packages and booking, visit the SPORTS website . They are very prompt about communication and readily answer any doubt we may have regarding bookings and amenities. For anything too trivial to trouble them with, feel free to mail me! :D

Comments

  1. Hi, Sreekala!

    A friend shared your post 'Thoughts of an Ordinary Malayali Woman' and I loved it (if loved it means I have also lived it and gotten 'soft' in Bangalore for a few years, trying to raise a daughter and getting her karate classes as a prerequisite...that kind of loved). Also read these posts because Lakshadweep has been on my travel list for a long time. You have an engaging style of writing. Thank you for all the info you have given, such a help to someone planning stuff. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

    Sangitha

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    1. Thank you Sangitha! Till I began getting responses to my post this week, I had never known or thought of replying to the comments. Your comment made me search out the comment settings and modify it so that I can reply! :)

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    2. My work for the day is done! :-D Keep writing!

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