Excitement keeps us on high alert as we leave the hotel at 5.30 am to take a ferry across the bay to visit Mount Harriet National Park. Our car snakes its way toward the seemingly lush hill that beckons with promise; I warn myself against another spasm of disappointment. In low gear, we drive uphill and the world falls away. Rainforest resilience presses on both sides of the road compelling us to get out and walk. This is what I’ve been waiting for — a rainforest of my dreams where the vegetation vibrates for attention; where butterflies are the different colours of sunlight; where one must search for birds amidst an anarchy of rampant growth. Unlike in the Himalaya where ferns and woody shrubs are invitingly recumbent, here the erect vegetation bars your every step.
|The Andaman Tree Nymph (Idea agamarschana cadelli), one of the many butterflies at the Mount Harriet National Park|
Walking towards the peak of Mount Harriet is truly pleasurable. We don’t encounter anyone else so we seem to have the park to ourselves! But the exertions of the previous days catch up with me so I sit in the middle of the road to recoup. Ken and the guide forge ahead. They get to see the Bar-tailed Cuckoo-Shrike, an endemic which I miss. But I’m weakened by the antibiotics I’ve been taken over the past 10 days. I’m only 12 days into the trip and am already complaining of tiredness. I can’t afford to have the feeling of being drained. I push away any debilitating thoughts and scrape myself off the road to look at the Andaman Cuckoo-Dove. When we reach the summit, a beautiful sight awaits us. The verdant green falls away into the sea. We sit in silence and watch, as is our habit. But a green bomb with red on its tail whizzes past us tracking the same trail over and over again. More watching, and we identify the Lorikeet (now called the Vernal Hanging Parrot). Above, flying close by and low are swifts – Brown-backed Needletails. We sit under a fruit-laden Ficus tree for an uninspiring packed lunch. But it’ll do. We’ve had an enjoyable day.
Previously in Jennifer Nandi’s Andamans Diary:
Leaving for Chiriya Tapu (Birds Island)
Text and photos by Jennifer Nandi