Ride Report from the Tour of Andaman 2022, where 25 riders rode around this gorgeous route crossing multiple islands on their bicycles…
2022 saw the third edition of the successful Tour of Andaman, and we at CyclingMonks are delighted to have been a part of this edition as well.
Read on for the day wise blog of the 2022 7-day tour:
Tour of Andaman 2022
Day 0: Arrival at Port Blair
The bird’s eye view of the islands and ocean from the flight, was something we had only read in books. From the window seat this vision was made reality. A truly tranquil experience. The vast ocean had different shades of blue covering it.
Landing at Veer Savarkar Airport, Port Blair, the warm sun welcomed us with humid weather. The crisp ocean breeze carried with it, the stories of many strangers and promised a potential adventure.
After a quick siesta at our hotel, we made our way to the Hotel Sea Shell Coral Cove where the tour briefing was organized. The tour director briefed us about the ride with the do’s and don’ts. Describing the weather of Andaman as “Hot, Wet and Hot & Wet”.
An icebreaker session was followed by a sumptuous dinner. With new friends and expectations, we all made our way to the hotel to get much-needed sleep.
Day 1: Mount Harriet: Mundapahad and Chidiyatapu
The enthusiasm of the first day’s ride was high, with riders pulling on their gloves hard, fixing their helmets, and cranking up their cycle gears.
The route consisted of a total distance of 60 km. The roads were beautiful as we rode past the shipping dock where huge shipping vessels are repaired. The way to Mundapahad was arduous but fun.
The steep inclines coupled with the sun made the ride more challenging. We rode past the moist deciduous forest, where a variety of birds and a few endemic butterflies were sighted.
Few riders strained their sinew at the last steep stretch, whereas others pushed their bikes up, for a breath-taking view. The forest covering, wide open ocean, and cool breeze, while sipping tea was refreshing. The ride downhill just took about 10 minutes as everyone zoomed past each other.
The riders then made their way to Chidiyatapu where lunch was served. Roads towards Chidiyatapu passed through the historic Tiranga Memorial (Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the tricolour for the first time in 1942 in Andamans).
The terrain was rolling and the thickly covered forest allowed a few sun rays to sneak through. The golden rays, thick foliage, soothing sounds of the waterfalls, and chirping of the birds with the best roads made the ride heavenly.
Upon reaching the destination all riders were awed by the raw beauty of the ocean and marine animals. The bikes were loaded into the truck as the ride for day 1 concluded with many riders sharing their memorable moment of the day, making fun of each other, and just having a laugh.
Day 2: Shoalbay 19
The flag-off was from Hotel Diviyum Manor and good tarmac roads made the ride smoother and the people made it livelier.
This stretch consisted of a combination of towns and villages. The road was buzzing with people commuting to their workplaces in nearby towns. The pace of Andaman is different when compared to the Indian mainland. One feels nostalgia hitting hard as they are exposed to the music, culture, and outfits of a bygone era.
On the way to school, the cheerful kids whistled and cheered. It was a challenging ride with a gradual climb. At almost 25 km we had a hydration station where riders reloaded with bananas, chikki, and dates.
With 25 km to go, the evergreen forest stretch started. It was a welcome note as the trees looming high protected us from the scorching heat. Around 1 PM when our legs started giving up, the heat subsidized and was accompanied by drizzling. The riders were anxious to reach Shoal Bay 19.
Volunteers cheered as the riders closed in on the destination. Simple dal with rice, papad, and pickle was served with love to the hungry riders who relished every single morsel of food.
The backwaters opened up to the isolated beach beyond which was the ocean. The mouth of the backwaters and ocean view was overwhelming. The white sand beach with no human in sight took away all the weariness of the day’s ride.
A few riders swam in the ocean and others clicked pictures. Due to time constraints, the stay was cut short and everyone headed back. The tempo traveller drove swiftly through the schools and villages that we had passed finally arriving at the entrance of the convoy.
National Highway 4 (formerly known as the Andaman Trunk Road-ATR) passes through the protected Jarawa reserve forest which restricts the movement of people on two-wheelers, bicycles, or walking. The entrances of the reserve are guarded by the police and forest department officials. In a day only 3 times the gate is opened and people travel only in four-wheelers with closed roof tops. All vehicles line up behind the other with the armed officers in the first and last vehicle.
The average speed to travel through the reserve was about 40 kmph. Overtaking, speeding, or getting out of the vehicle is a strictly prohibited and punishable offense. Such strict measures have been undertaken to protect the indigenous Jarawa tribals residing in that part of the forest. These tribals do not communicate with outsiders. Their exposure to life is entirely different when compared to ours. In order to protect them Government of India with the anthropology department has laid out stringent rules enforced by law. Many times, tourists click the tribal pictures and post them on social media. This has led to unpleasant tourism called ‘Human Safari’.
Once the formalities of the convoy were completed the tempo traveller steadily moved towards Baratang where the ride concluded. After a long day’s ride, cyclists chilled with a few cold ones, music, dance, and a tasty dinner as they sang their way to their rooms.
Day 3: Rest Day: Long Island
Our day began at 5.30 with all the riders headed to the breakfast table and geared up with snorkelling kits and swimwear.
After an hour and a half long journey through thick moist deciduous forests of Andaman. We reached the jetty where we boarded the ferry and were enthralled by the untouched beauty of the mangrove forests and marine life.
Our ferry was trundling through the water at a minimal 3 knots giving us ample time to savour the beauty of Andaman forests. From the ferry we boarded another fibre boat. This was much faster than the slow ferry. It took another 25 minutes and finally we reached Long Island.
The turquoise waters with calm waves crashing in the white sand, with the entire island only for the riders, was more than anything anyone could ask for. It was like a private beach with only the rider’s insight.
All riders changed into the swimwear and jumped into the crystal clear waters for a quick swim. The water was soothing, washing away all the worries and pains of the previous day’s ride. Another group of riders were putting on their fins, face masks, and breathing tubes to go snorkelling, which was an amazing experience.
The coral reef was healthy with a variety of big and small fishes living in it. The number of fishes, sting rays, and other flora of the coral was overwhelming. Under the calm non-existent activity of the water was a mesmerizing marine world bursting with life.
Another set of riders were busy playing Frisbee along the shore. None realized how quickly two and half hours zoomed past. The tour director then had to literally pull us out of the water to eat the sumptuous lunch organized on the beach at Lalaji Bay. The food was thoroughly enjoyed by the riders and it was time for us to head back to the jetty in our fibre boats. We reached the jetty but missed the ferry by 5 mins.
There we stood excited and exhausted at the same time looking at our ferry, as it sailed towards the horizon. The tour director quickly made alternative arrangements as we all slyly sipped on our tea with biscuits in the local shop. We again took the same fibre boats to reach the main jetty and boarded our tempo traveller. Just another 25 minutes and we reached Rangat – our destination for the day. We stayed at a simple hotel (with basic facilities) that night.
Riders freshened up to check out the market of Rangat as we had heard about the famous Bengali sweets and chat that could be relished there. The words met the expectations and what a treat it was to just wander about the Rangat’s bazaar making our way to a local resto-bar.
As each rider shared their experience of the day cherishing new experiences, tired yet with the next day’s excitement, we all headed to our rooms.
Day 4: Rangat to Mayabundher
The ride from Rangat is sort of a highlight of ToA as we get to ride on a blend of both the best asphalt roads and complete off-roading which involves a lot of skill in successfully passing through the slush and rolling terrain. Another honourable mention is riding along the dense forest to our left and the turquoise open blue ocean to our right.
With minimal traffic or vehicle movement, this day is filled with amazing roads, views, and pitstops (everything a rider asks for)!
Just 13 km from the start we had our first sightseeing stop, Moris Dera. There the river meets the ocean. Within a span of 300 meters, we saw the fresh water turning saline before our eyes. Swimming in the freshwater is a feel beyond refreshing and relaxing.
Riders spent 2 hours there, creating a lot of memories, leaving behind the footsteps on the beach. Another 10 km from there is the Dhaninallah – a kilometre-long mangrove walk opening to a deserted beautiful beach.
Restocking with bananas, and peanut butter bread we made our way towards Billiground for lunch. The ride from Billiground is extremely challenging. The climbs are something which will strain every muscle in the rider’s body.
Upon reaching Mayabundher, paddy cultivation can be observed at large. Karen tribals can be seen in civilian settlements. Hotel Sea and Sand gives a cheeky and punk place to rest before moving towards the final tough ride day – Diglipur.
Day 5: Mayabundher to Diglipur
The ride from Mayabundher to Diglipur is considered to be an exciting day as the riders have to complete 100 km. It is filled with rolling terrain and slush. The path is covered with forest, with hardly any villages on the way.
Near zero traffic, riders can own the road as they zoom past the evergreen forest. The hydration point was at 25 km mark and lunch at 50 km. Simple yet nutritious food helped the riders to push the next 50 km.
On this day, unlike the other days, riders had no pitstops for sightseeing. At some points, the canopy of the trees provided much needed shade to rest before hitting the saddle.
At 75 km mark, Diglipur town bustles with life. The market is where the riders get down to quench their appetites with Bengali desserts and cuisines. The next 20 km is the hotel where the ride ends – Pristine Beach Resorts. One of the best hotels to stay in North Andaman.
Just about 200 meters from the resort is Kalipur beach. This beach is where the turtles lay their eggs and return to the ocean in the months of Jan to April.
Minimal people transports the riders to another realm all together. The roads are challenging with portholes at every corner. But once the feat is achieved it is all worth it. Worth straining every muscle to reach this magical place.
Upon completing the ride, a cool-off party with music, dance, and medals awaited the riders. It is one of the best ways to conclude the ride and gear up for the next day’s visit to Ross and Smith islands.
Day 6 and 7: Rest Day at Ross and Smith
Andaman Forest department appreciates Team Parikrama’s zero waste initiatives in all the events organized by the group and offers the riders of ToA to visit another offbeat heavenly place i.e. Ross and Smith.
Riders assembled around 7.30 to head to Aerial Bay. A dungee (traditional wooden boat) of the Forest Department took the riders to the islands of Ross and Smith.
Ross and Smith are two islands that are connected by a sand bar. During high tides, the sand bar is submerged, and during low tides, one can walk over to the other island on the sand bar. The white sand beach with gentle waves and crystal clear turquoise blue waters with marine thriving coral reefs is an exotic place to visit.
The best part is that the island is deserted, and less visited by tourists. The riders played frisbee and went snorkelling. On the island, the government has made a provision for shower rooms and changing rooms.
The riders changed and hopped onto the dungee. The 45 minutes dungee ride was filled with stories, fun, laughter, and photographs. Post-lunch riders made their way to the ship which would be our ride back to Port Blair. The journey on the ship is different from any other mode of transport.
Bunker beds and cabins were booked, where riders kept their luggage and made their way towards the dining area. Drinking coffee, sharing stories, teasing each other, playing guess the truth with a lot of memories, music, and dance, the riders spent their time on the vessel. Playing Uno, rummy, dumb charades the night passed as our ship braved through the waves of the ocean sometimes gentle other times rough.
We spotted dolphins, flying fish (cod), turtles, and many other marine animals as we made our sea journey to Port Blair. The pitch-dark night offers you a chance to spot constellations as you lay on the deck. The sunrise is another memorable experience.
ToA concluded as the riders got off the vessel and bid adieu to each other…