First taste of India
30 January 2013 | Port Blair
Michael and Jackie
We are in Port Blair harbour for the third day, planning to leave tomorrow morning.
The checking in took almost two whole days. The first day we were boarded in succession by three groups of between 3 and 8 people, customs, immigration and harbour police. Each group and each member of each group required one or more copies of all the paperwork, and these all had to be stamped by us on the front and back (in addition to the stamp already there) and then stamped by them with several different stamps, front and back. All stamps then had to be signed. We expected to have to provide around four copies of each form, but in the end we must have provided at least 15. As you can imagine, this took some considerable time! They asked us nothing about wine, but Storyteller were given an allowance of two bottles a day and the rest was taped up and bonded!
When this first day was over we heaved a sigh of relief, expecting the visit ashore to the Harbourmaster for the cruising permit to be a bit of a doddle as previous blogs suggested - NOT the case! However, we did manage to finish before lunch and were just thinking about the taste of cold beer and a curry when immigration called our wonderful taxi driver to say we had to all visit their office. Off we went wondering what on earth they wanted now and were all seated, facing different directions in the middle of a rather shabby office. They asked Storyteller for one document which they then copied yet again and then off we went again. We had just got into the taxi when they called Lady Kay back and demanded yet another copy of our itinerary. Not sure what point they were trying to make.
AFter changing some money we finally made it to the recommended Indian restaurant, but after sitting down found they did not serve beer! We eventually did have a good meal though, but as we left we found that there was a bar downstairs that did serve beer - shame! The next port of call was to get SIM cards. This actually took over 2 hours and they have yet to be activated!
On a lighter note, Port Blair is delightful in a very Indian sort of way. We are already planning our next year's trip! Our taxi driver, Ravi, and his friend drive 1960s English cars that have been glued together and painted white. They even have flag poles on the front of the bonnet. The driving is much worse than Phuket, (can you believe it?) and the only thing that anyone slows down or gives way for is the wandering sacred cow that steps straight out right in front of you. The population is a mixture of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh and the women dress in beautifully colourful saris. All the signs are in English, and just about everyone speaks English which is good. The market is similar to the ones we are used to except that live chickens and goats are slaughtered on site as they are bought. I avoided this area!
We all plan to leave tomorrow morning, having fixed our various boat problems and are looking forward to a swim.