CHENNAI: There are road trips with friends, family, and colleagues and road trips to mountains, beaches, historical sites, or just for relaxation. But the 'Great Andaman Trunk Road Trip with Siennor' curated and organised by Bhavanandhi of Starvoirs is one of a kind stargazing and musical road trip where we travelled from Port Blair in the south of Andaman to Diglipur in the north covering nearly 300 km and had everything you name in a road.
Starvoirs is a startup by Bhavandhi, a banker by profession, who quit his job after his interest in stargazing. It all began for him 7 years ago after reading the book Cosmos written by an American astronomer and planetary scientist Carl Sagen. Initially, he juggled his bank job and organised stargazing trips with friends which became more difficult for him as his stargazing trips became more often as there were many stargazing enthusiasts in the city who started following him on social media. After years of chasing star trails and organising many stargazing trips, he started Starvoirs in 2022. His latest and most innovative curation is the musical stargazing trip across Andaman in collaboration with independent artist Siennor.
Siennor is a songwriter, composer, and performer. The trip is also called Natchathiramum Mathakarumamum, a line taken from his famous single Innum Enna, which translates to stars and other stuff. On this journey, Siennor travelled and interacted with everyone patiently answering a lot of questions about his songs, lyrics, musical experiences, and also about other things other than music.
The week-long musical stargazing road trip begins from Port Blair and the first stop is Baratang. Though beautiful and scenic where we had to cross many backwater bridges and dense forest areas also happen to go through Jarawa Forest reserve. Jarawas are indigenous people of Andaman Island and they have inhabited the islands for several thousand years. Vehicles crossing this roughly 40 km stretch will be sent in batches in a convoy led and followed by forest officials and there are strict rules not to pull down the windows, stop the vehicle, offer food or take photographs of the Jarawas. We had the opportunity to see Jarawa kids with white body paints and some adults even carried long bows and sharp arrows used for hunting. Right after this area is the jetty where the buses and other vehicles are taken on a ferry to Baratang. The dense forest area, the scenic roads adjacent to the sea, and occasionally spotting the Jarawa people made this otherwise tiring journey through terrible roads a memorable one.
To watch the sunset, we were taken to Parrot Island in a boat. This was again a scenic boat ride and finally reached the parrot island in the golden hour and thousands of parrots and other birds flew above us. Here began our actual musical stargazing trip as Siennor began his first performance with his all-time hit Ponnira Maalai under the golden sky. The mild shaking of the boat, the sound of birds chirping above, and Siennor singing with his guitar is an experience that cannot be described in words. The performance went on till the sky became dark and this was followed by everyone leaning back and looking at the sky to see the vast sky filled with stars. The already mesmerized people listening to Siennor and enjoying the stars in the sky spotted one of the brightest shooting stars. Almost everyone on the boat witnessed the spectacular event which lasted for several seconds. We saw many shooting stars the same night and in the next 7 nights but the one we saw on the first evening was the brightest, longest, and most impressive one.
The second day's journey began from Baratang to Diglipur. We went to Ross & Smith Twin Island which is separated by a natural sand bar that during high tide, the sand bar is covered leaving a small water trail. Ross & Smith island has a white sand beach with crystal clear water. This a perfect place to take a swim and for sunbathing and the best part about the island is the number of tourists there on the island. The accessibility to northern Andaman is the reason a lot of tourists don't visit Ross & Smith island.
The second-night performance of Siennor was under the stars. The mesmerizing performance of Siennor by the sea with the sound of the waves in the background was yet another unforgettable one.
The next day a group of people headed for the Saddle Peak trek which is an intermediate trek considering the weather and humidity of Andaman. The rest of us went for a hike to the saddle peak base which is through a forest area by the sea crossing a few water streams. While returning we came back by seashore walking over the pebbles and spotting beautiful corals washed ashore.
After Diglipur we drove to Webi village which means hidden village. It was founded by the Karen tribe from Myanmar. We had the opportunity to stay in a traditional Karen hut and tasted traditional Karen food such as molosaun and Karen rice noodles. Their specialities are mostly made with Karen sticky rice which is one of the six rice varieties Karen people have preserved for 90 years. After tasting the traditional food and listening to Karen people talk about their history and how they preserve their community's food, art, and culture, the day ended with Siennor performing by the side of a small water stream.
The next day we went to Rangat and from there we went to Dhani Nallah Mangrove Walk which ended on the beautiful and deserted Dhani Nallah beach. Almost all the beaches we had been to in the Middle and Northern Andaman saw very few tourists. Turtle trails were spotted, and different kinds of corals, crabs, and shells were found on the beach. On this day Siennor who was singing with a guitar so far performed with a harmonium.
The final day after Rangat we headed back to Port Blair to witness the finale of Siennor. The final performance was arranged at Whistling Woods Farm Lounge run by Udhay. The whole farm and a beautiful house built close to the sea are completely run with solar power. Here everyone had a clear view of Jupiter and also saw Saturn's rings.
In his final performance, Siennor had an interactive session where he answered a few questions and explained some interesting anecdotes, and also shared his experience about the journey and finished it by reading a couple of his favourite poems.
The week-long journey had long drives, boat rides, beaches, mountains, walks, hikes, rain forests, mangrove forests, spotting indigenous tribals, and interacting with early settlers. Every day began with a beautiful sunrise and ended with live music and stargazing. The feeling of listening to Siennor's music under the million stars every night is trying to explain what happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object. It was pure magic and absolute bliss.