• Friday, August 01, 2014

TRAVELOGUE

A beach of one's own

By Moyukh Mahtab
Photo: Moyukh Mahtab
Photo: Moyukh Mahtab

It’s an odd feeling to be lying under a clear sky full of stars. More than the beauty of millions of blinking dots on a black background, what strikes one most is all of this is lost in the city. And then someone points to a random part of the sky and identifies Hercules – the one constellation everyone seems to know. Almost forgotten is the slightly syncopated beat of the waves crashing nearby and all the pain of having sand up your pants is lost -- especially if this is your first time near a sea.
The road to St. Martin's Island is a hell of a journey. The bus ride is long and tiring and the roads are bumpy, it is impossible to sleep through the constant clatter of overexcited people and the strong bulbs on top of your seat wake you up at ungodly hours. And before you know it, there are BGB men on your bus, checking your bags for illegal products. Someone, whom everyone on the bus wants to kill at that moment, had aroused the suspicion of the guards.
After the long hours, more if there is traffic, comes the launch and the first sight of the sea. You don't realise just how immense it is until you have seen it, no amount of reading of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce can prepare you for it. On the other hand, the launch leaves much to be desired.
Crammed into a three decker launch is three times the capacity and then more. But as you drift out into saltier waters and say goodbye to the greyish waters of the now dirty Cox's Bazar, a grand surprise awaits.
But first, you must go through the worst part of the journey -- getting off from the launch. Be prepared to fight, shove, sneak, go through two more launches on planks, dodge bags being thrown around and then at last, the sandy beaches of St. Martins Island await.
A short walk from the launch takes you to the marketplace, swarming with tourists at the day time. Just beside is the sand, hundreds of ships and boats slowly bobbing up and down and the steely blue waters. Here the water is clear, unmolested by the thousands that throng to Cox's Bazaar.

Photo: Moyukh Mahtab
Photo: Moyukh Mahtab

A quick walk through the bazaar and you see just how big the tourism is to the economy here – shops sell everything from dried fish, shells, flip-flops to cheap chocolates and nuts imported from Burma. But thankfully not many tourists come to St. Martins to stay the night and the place is not too crowded to be relaxing.
But still remote is the southernmost point of the island. Wait for the tide and a short speed boat takes you there as whiplash from the sea water hits your squinting face. It's a world detached. One rest house, tents for homes, a hammock hung between two coconut trees, fresh fish for sustenance and coconut water to quench your thirst. Venture out and the sandy path leads to a beach with no tourists, no umbrellas propped into the sand, no littering and no noisy hawkers trying to sell you something or the other. It's a beach of one's own.

Photo: Moyukh Mahtab
Photo: Moyukh Mahtab

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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