Lakshadweep : 50 Shades of Blue. Part V – Tips

#1 Aug 23rd, 2016, 01:17
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  • Rolling-Stone is offline
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1. Things to carry :
a. Medicines
b. Snacks to sustain till dinner.
c. Air tight zipped plastic bags to keep the camera bag.
d. Plastic bag to put the day bag into it.
e. Buckled rubber sandals. The reef is rough. This will help during snorkelling and scuba diving.
f. Light clothes which are quick to dry. You have to pack up after tea.
g. Lot of clips for the clothes.
h. Sunglass
i. Broad brimmed hat
j. Good quality sun screen as regular ones won’t work.
k. De-tanner.
2. Activate a BSNL sim before boarding the ship. Nothing else will work. In the sea nothing at all works. While passing by an island the BSNL SIM might show some signs of life. MV Kavaratti does not have a Sat phone.

3. Remain alert. Always ask.

4. On return, while disembarking its preferable to carry your baggage if you can manage. Otherwise you may have to wait indefinitely.

5. If you are not staying at Willingdon, take a ferry to move out.

6. In case your destination is Kolkata, doing a break journey at Chennai is better than taking the direct Trivandrum-Guwahati Exp.


Never pick up anything from the beach/sea. It’s a punishable offence and entails a fine of Rs.20,000/-
#2 Aug 23rd, 2016, 01:22
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Smile Lakshadweep : 50 Shades of Blue. Part IV – Minicoy

Nov 2015.

The heavily overcast sky in the morning made the threat of the retreating monsoon seem real. Minicoy engulfed by Lakshadweep’s largest lagoon hid behind a veil of haze. I hesitated to disembark in a weather like that. Not that I wanted to give Minicoy a miss but wanted to wait for the weather to improve.

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However, we had to disembark as the ship would not wait. Putting on our lfe jackets with care, we boarded the open boats, worried and prayed that we reach land before it pours. Compared to Kavaratti & Kalpeni in case of Minicoy the ship is anchored farthest from the island.

At a juncture where neither the ship nor land was visible, it began to pour. Heavy torrential shower! Open wooden boat, full, deep in the Arabian Sea far from land caught in torrential shower. A few among us pulled out umbrellas which were of no help. Trying to protect our bags we pushed them under the seats. Most vulnerable were our expensive cameras. As the rain lashed the boat it deviated from its regular course in search of better route to land.

Sitting there soaked to my skin and telling myself “Que Sera Sera, Whatever will be will be......”, I felt angry.

How irresponsible of SPORTS! It scheduled a trip during retreating monsoon. Its portal does not warn about the hazard. It takes full payment in advance and its cancellation policy can put one in a spot. Chennai was already flooded. For two days clouds loomed large. Weather information is crucial to any ship. So, forecast of heavy rain was known. We were not informed. We could have at least packed our belongings accordingly. From its end no rescheduling was done. Appropriately covered boats to shelter us were not provided. We were just taken for granted. We are not the children of the sea like the islanders. Many of us could not even swim. Those who did, I wonder whether they could battle a threatening sea. SPORTS had no business to put us through his hazard.

Strangely between anger and anxiety I felt something more. Thrill ! The sharp drops of rain piercing the waves filled me with thrill. What an adventure! I felt like being a part of “Survivor” or “Man vs. Wild”. This trip was enriching me with unique experiences and cherishable memories.

Once at the jetty, I hopped into a Maruti Omni. Shelter at last! Looking around I realised how lucky I was. Apart from a couple of Omnis all other vehicles were open! People would either stand in the open jetty and sing in the rain or board the open vehicles. The latter was the obvious pick.

The green island turned greener. Everything, bright and fresh.

At the resort we were shown the thatched shades on the wet beach. While I pulled out the towels from the bag my husband came with two coconuts and straws. A hot cup of tea was what we needed. SPORTS had coconut planned so it could not arrange for tea. Adjusting to situation doesn’t seem to be its cup of tea.

God decided not to leave us at the mercy of SPORTS any more. Taking pity on us He cleared the sky.

As the sun showed up Minicoy began to reveal itself. Wet Blue was the artists pick. It’s between the shades of blue that the sky and the sea merged into one body, one soul.

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I walked towards the blue canvass. Ouch! What is it? A conch! I bent to pick up the shell it hurried forward. It was running away as fast as its legs could carry it. Amused, I went after it. It led me to an interesting place. The narrow beach thick with vegetation, stretched into the sea where it seemed to end. The trees were what we call ‘Keya’ in Bengal and ‘fake pineapple’ is what our boatman at the Kerela backwaters said covered the shore. Thick and dark their peculiar stem formations create an eeri atmosphere on this deserted streatch. These dark shades are the playground of the shells. They clustered to discuss,ran about, relaxed, climbed the leaves and steams while some seriously examined the orangish keya floweres that fell on the wet sand from the cluster above. It was business as usual. Just two pairs of prying eyes and a camera lens was sneaking into their privacy.

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The water ebbs from the sand leaving behind strange and beautiful rock formations stumped in the sand. The waves leave behind bleached corals and unique shells. This treasure trove lured us farther and further from the resort. Almost at the edge stood a lonely shrub, isolated, bent over the light sky blue water, its only companion and whispered.

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Dipping three fingers in three colours, God, has drawn three stripes – rich green, white and light sky blue on a rich blue canvas.

Back in the resort, the water was dotted with brightly coloured kayaks. Kayaking was complementary for the day. A patch of beach volley ball court stood deserted as people were busy kayaking. Kayaks tossed, turned and overturned. People were in the kayaks or were hinging on the edge struggling to redeem themselves. All were enjoying in their own way. As soon as our kayak overturned we took to the lagoon. The exotic lagoon, my five star swimming pool in the lap of nature flowing into the sea. Its waters a crystal clear palate of colours with the sun playing on its white bed and groups of small jet black fish swimming across in a hurry.

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In the afternoon, we were looking forward to get a bird’s eye view of the emerald embossed in the sapphire. There is one thing that SPORTS did in the honour of the rainy morning – it cancelled the scheduled visit to the light house on a sunny afternoon.

There is something unique about Minicoy. Its treasure laden shores, small patches of farms, overpowering flavours of its cousin, people seemingly more receptive, their clothes, language etc sets them apart. For the first time we were invited to a local community hall, the Falebbery Village Community Hall. I was pleasantly surprised to see a saree. A lady paired her fashionable lacy saree with a lacy head scarf lightly flowing behind her. Both seemed to be of the same set. Neither in any island nor in the ship do I remember seeing a veiled face.

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The community hall opens into the Kendi Party beach.This part of the island is thriving. It wears a festive look with colourful decorations and newly built freshly painted boats ornating the beach. The boat building workshops are lined up along the road. We walked down the shady road by the beach to the jetty.

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We sailed leaving behind the coconut groves, white sand and the pristine blue lagoon. Lakhadweep was bidding goodbye.

It was also time to bid each other farewell. Next morning it will be Willingdon again from where we will disperse never to meet again. We were mini India – Kashmir,Punjab,Delhi,Gujrat Maharashtra,Kerela,Karnataka,O disha and Bengal coming together. People hailed from all walks of life. There were retired couples to honeymooners. We enjoyed so much!

That evening, after the tour of the engine room(on request) we had special dinner and made our way to the party on the 6th deck. We made our last night on the ship count as we partied hard past mid-night on the sea under the gaze of millions of stars.

Lakhshadweep is all about love and romance.To enjoy Lakshadweep one has to be in love with the sea and romance the reef. One needs to overcome fear. Fear of water and fear of getting tanned. Unveil the secrets of the sea and enjoy the magic!

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#3 Aug 23rd, 2016, 01:25
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Lakshadweep : 50 Shades of Blue. Part III – Kalpeni

Nov 2015.

A chunks of cloud loomed large over the light house that spearheaded through the coconut thicket. Kalpeni contoured by pristine sea green lagoon was in view.

Our boat sailed through the amazingly beautiful light sea green quartz taking us to the southern shores of Kalpeni. At the SPORTS resort the deck chairs were lined up under the coconut trees along a ribbon of sand that boarded the crystal. Before us stood two turfs of coconut trees delicately balanced on this splendid bluish green molten crystal. They were the twin islands of Putty and her sister.

On arrival we were invited to visit 2 factories – hosiery &coconut. A small bus meandering the coconut groves took us to the hosiery factory that manufactured and sold T-Shirts with the picture of Lakshadweep printed on them. Finding the perfect souvenir we just pounced on them. The hitherto sleepy factory woke up with a bang! The women behind the counters left behind their male colleagues in emptying the tables. We bagged a sizable part of their merchandise that day. Seeing so many people and measuring a good business prospect , a man started to sell his coconuts under his coconut tree on the sea shore facing the factory. Next we went to the coconut factory that made & sold items like coconut oil (cooking),coconut powder, coconut balls etc. The friendly staff gave us a demo of the manufacturing process. They enthusiastically marketed their products. Here to the women took the centre stage.

After a shopping spree we needed to relax. The Northern Tip Coffee Shop was just perfect. Literately its the tip of the island. The island narrows down and protrudes into the sea where it ends. Splendid, Exotic and Awesome ! It was like walking down an aisle into a pristine lagoon, its water clear as crystal blending in exotic colours. So primitive. So Refreshing. Being their felt like having reached the end of the planet as a sense of tranquility descends upon one’s self . In the horizon, the sun beams forcing their way through the clouds appeared like the heaven showering its blessing upon the earth.

Back to the southern end, we prepared to sail to Putty in small kayak like boats. The rays of the sun like laser beams penetrating the quartz creating a kaleidoscope of patterns on the white sea bed. I gazed at the water trying to gauze its depth while we sailed as the sea bed was visible in full clarity.

On the shores of Putty we gathered for snorkelling, our complementary activity for the day. The sea cucumbers lay strewn all over the sea floor like dumped sausages. A tall, dark, lanky boy came towards me holding a snorkelling mask. He was a snorkelling guide. Lack of swimming skills made me hesitant. I thought that it would be better to float like the previous day and since the water is clear I would spot something or the other. So, I sent him away. He however did not agree with me.
He kept coming back again and again. Finally, we struck a deal. I will go a little bit and then he will bring me back and vanish. I wore the mask. He tightened my life jacket. Took both my hands and we took the plunge. An astonishing surprise was awaiting me. Miles and miles of coral as far as my eyes could go. What should I call it – a garden / forest? As we moved farther their density increased. Slowly he let go off my left hand while holding the right and picked up corals from the sea bed and gave them to me. I touched and felt a variety of corals. Then he took them and put them back. Here, taking anything from the sea/beach is a punishable offence. As we moved forward the water level rose at regular intervals steadily widening the gap between me and the sea bed. Concerned, each time I gestured him to take me back, he nodded ‘yes’ but took me forward. Groups of brightly colour fish meandering the reef went past me. I tried to touch them but they slipped off. At one time he left me and dived to the bottom and came up holding something. An Octopus ! I was thrilled! I felt I was inside the T.V screen of the Nat Geo channel. After a spectacular stroll he brought me back. I handed him the mask. He handed me a sea cucumber. Took a brief class and then put it back into the water. I could not have thanked him enough. I felt obliged. If it would not have been for him I would have deprived myself of this rewarding experience.

Gratified and happy I took the last boat to Kalpeni. After a hearty lunch I met the Santa of Kalpeni, The manager of the resort. Not only was he cute like Santa but was generous as he allowed me to use his phone several times to get in touch with my loved ones.

At tea along with snacks we were presented with a cultural bonanza, the native dance of Kalpeni. The men who were on the run since morning looking after us, got into SPORTS T-Shirts wrapping aound a small dhoti like cloth around their waist picked up wooden plates (read shields) and wooden rules( read swords) and danced as they sang. Although their language could not be followed but I picked up one line – “Atishay Sundar Kalpeni”. So very true!

In a cloudy evening we left Kalpeni for good. As MV Kavaratti came into sight Kalpeni receded from view and finally disappeared.

Part IV – Minicoy
#4 Aug 23rd, 2016, 01:36
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Smile Lakshadweep : 50 Shades of Blue. Part II – Kavaratti

Nov 2015.

A cloudy dawn saw a pastel green patch in the middle of a pale blue dip that appeared over the grey horizon. Kavaratti engulfed by its blue lagoon was in sight. MV Kavaratti did not enter the waters of Kavaratti. Instead it anchored in the open sea. One by one wooden boats tossing in the waves came to the ship from the island. People embarked and disembarked.

After breakfast we prepared to disembark. That morning onwards the life jacket became an integral part of our body. As the boat came near the foot board, we hopped into it one by one. Several boats carrying the 80 of us in batches headed towards Kavaratti.

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Gradually, MV Kavaratti went out of sight. Tossing in open boats we sailed into unknown waters. All of a sudden the deep blue broke into turquoise. And then an explosion! Explosion of colours, a spectrum of blues. I have never seen so many shades of blue ever! Sky blue, light blue,pale blue, turquoise, firoza, powder blue, slate blue, cornflower blue and many more - enough to put the Berger Colour Bank to shame. Different strands of blue passed over my hand. I could not believe that I was seeing it, touching it and was in it. Oh my God! Was this really happening! Its paradise!

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We stepped on the soil of Lakshadweep, its head quarters, Kavaratti. The seat of its administration.
From the jetty we were transferred to the SPORTS resort. A picturesque resort by the blue lagoon. It was dotted with coconut trees , thatched shades with deck chairs lined up under the umbrellas on the soft sand. We were greeted with ‘ tender’(read seasoned) coconut.

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The day’s prime agenda was glass bottom boat tour of the coral reef. It was complementary (read prepaid). In groups of 6/7 we wobbled on the inflated jetty and hopped into the boat. As we sailed the secrets of the sea slowly unfolded. I could not believe my eyes. Corals! Lavender, orange, white and some bleached. A landscaped garden. Fish, colourful and ornamental winding through the corals. A turtle hurriedly swam away with its shell almost touching the glass. As we moved forward, colourful fish swam into deep crevasses that resembled mountain crevasses and disappeared deep down. At a point the engine stopped. The boat swayed from left to right. I was scared. To divert my attention, the boatman gave me a piece of bread and asked me to hold out. Lo! Behold! A group of bright dark blue and yellow stripped fish came to the surface and ate out of my hand. Others were egar to get a glimpse. Feeding started on the other side too. There rushed a group of ash coloured fish with bright yellow patch. What fun! Overwhelming! After sometime the boat turned to leave.

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On the beach some people went for kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving. Each was a paid service. We got rid of our life jackets and went in for a bath. As soon as we stepped into the water, a volunteer rushed to us with life jackets and did not rest until we slipped into the jackets once again. Till lunch we floated effortlessly in the lagoon. This was novel and we were loving it!

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Lunch was announced. I left for the changing room. At one end of the resort within an enclosure stood 6/7 one dimensional cubicles with a shower and a hook and no light. While grumbling little did I know that these were the best changing rooms that I will ever find.

I stepped out of the enclosure to find a more colourful beach. Clothes and towels were all over. The clothes line, chairs, umbrellas, boats everywhere. Negotiating my way I reached the dining area. Buffet was good. Malayali and local items cooked in coconut oil. I intended to give Tuna a miss but the pitiful look of the man behind the heap of Tuna silently urged me to try one. I obliged. This was the story of the Tuna counter every day.

In the afternoon we paid a visit to the aquarium. The drive was impressive as we made inroads into the island. Coconut trees sprouted like grass. Cottages grew like undergrowths. Narrow but good roads stretched along the thickets. There are schools,offices,shops, desalination plants producing drinking water, mosque and helipad. Economy revolves around coconut and fish. Government jobs and shipping are sources of employment too. During the season tourists come only once a week and this too is not regular. Lakshadweep has a 100% Muslim population with a 0% crime rate.

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Later that afternoon it began to drizzle, a very light one though but it rang an alarm of the retreating monsoon. After tea, I asked for my life jacket to return to the ship before it gets worse, keeping in mind the stretch that we have to cover by boat. The man in charge told me, “Amma,what will you do? Where will you go ? Your ship is yet to come.” What did that mean ? Is it not waiting? No, it isn’t. It’s gone to ferry passengers from one island to another. When it’s done it will come.

In the evening the sea grew a bit turbulent, waves went higher. Our ark rose and fell. As water splashed in, happy faces lost colour. Perhaps for the first time we regarded our life jackets with respect. Stepping into MV Kavaratti felt like safe home coming.

We, rushed to the 6th deck to watch the sun set over Kavaratti. The orange ball rolled to the foot of the coconut tree at the edge of the island and then dropped into the water.

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#5 Aug 23rd, 2016, 01:49
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Smile Lakshadweep : 50 Shades of Blue. Part I – Passage

Nov 2015.

Blue! Amazing hues of blue! Far across the distance, the horizon draws a line between the realms of Jupiter & Neptune. This is Lakshadweep. The emerald archipelago to the South-West, off the Indian mainland, shimmering between the folds of blue. Under this cover of blue thrives a vibrant coral reef.

Out of the lakh/laksha islands/dweeps only 36 have survived the moods of the Arabian Sea of which only 10 are inhabited. These white shores can be reached either by air/ship from Kochi with the help of SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports). It offers varieties of packages between 2 and 7 days. So take your pick.

‘Lakshadweep Samudram’ was our take – 5 days,3 islands – kavaratti,Kalpeni and Minicoy. All schedules are decided by SPORTS, a guest can only mention the preferred month of the journey in the application.

We preferred mid-Nov and accordingly made arrangements for leave and reservations for Kochi from Kolkata. The schedule was announced just a month before the departure screwing up everything as departure was delayed. We ran amock rescheduling our vacation and reservations.

After changing 2 trains and swimming through the infamous Chennai floods, we made it to Kochi. On a sunny Nov morning at the Willingdon Island harbour there stood a 6 storied ship, MV Kavaratti, ready to take us on our coral rendezvous.

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Following clearance and loading of the baggage we boarded the centrally air conditioned ship with the packet of goodies given by SPORTS. Our 5th flr Fist Class cabin was cosy and complete with a good washroom. The cabin had all the necessary furniture essentially hydraulic, the linen crisp & clean and the number of our life boat pasted right beside the bed. The Emergency nos-the Station No.,Mast No., Life Boat No. gave me a sinking feeling. Oh! Did i see the Titanic pass by? As soon as I opened the wardrobe, 2 life jackets ‘made in New Zealand’ popped up and toppled upon me. This was too much! I left the cabin for some fresh air. On the deck it was a carnival. Our 5th deck had a swimming pool . But what was that on the 6th deck? A Helipad?

After settling down all of us were expecting some welcome drink/ tea with snacks which never came. This was no cruise. MV Kavaratti was a regular passenger ship ferrying the islanders between the islands and the mainland. SPORTS reserves 150 1st Cls seats for its guests on the 4th & 5th flrs. In this trip we were just 80!

Slowly MV Kavaratti was guided by the pilot vessel out into the open sea, leaving behind the beautiful coastline of Kochi dotted with Chinese fishing nets shinning in the sun. As we sailed, flocks of seagulls spread their sun washed wings to welcome us. Then surfaced the king of entertainers, the dolphins – one,two,five, seven....WOW! We rushed to lean over the deck contending for a better view. Their summersaults, twists and twirls made our day. The flying fish seemed to be on a flying spree on a shiny day like this.

Land vanished. Mobile signal vanished, humbled by the infinite sky and water we were at the C/O Arabian Sea.

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As the sun climbed above us we left the deck and explored the ship. The emergency stations,lifeboats, the other decks, the local passengers and the crew who are all islanders. Our walkthrough came to a halt at the call for lunch at the 1st cls cafeteria. At lunch, we were received by Hanif, a native of Kalpeni and the co-ordinator of ‘Lakshadweep Samudram’.

Food,Food and Food. What shall I take – rice, sambhar, dry sprouts, brinjal curry ,fried Tuna or Luchi ( Bengali improvisation of puri) ? Wait! did I see Luchi? my eyes said ‘Yes’ and my mind said ‘No’. I helped myself with some rice and picked up the first Tuna of my life apprehensively. Excited, my husband loaded his plate with Luchi and brinjal. As he devoured his luchis crumbled into Kerela papads. He was certainly not the only one having an ‘April Fool’s Day’.

That evening we witnessed a glorious sunset. The waves playfully toyed with the orange ball before it dipped into the sea.

After Tea, Hanif briefed us about the programme in the recreation room. We however gave him a tough time. Cruise/ No cruise , dissent over the standard of lunch was strong. At dinner we saw a significant improvement in the spread. This was maintained throughout. In the evenings however it was our tuk bag that sustained us. Never compromise on your tuk bag in this trip.

Following dinner I made it to the 6th deck. The amazing star lit sky was mesmerizing. I sat for hours captivated , under a cloche of stars. Late that night, back on the bed the soft murmur of the waves and a pleasant cradle like effect put me to sleep.

Part II – Kavaratti

Part III – Kalpeni

Part IV – Minicoy

Part V – Tips
#6 Aug 23rd, 2016, 03:57
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Oct 2004
Chennai, India
  • Nick-H is online now
Thank you for your enjoyable travelogue. Did you spend every night on the ship?
Life gets aadhar every day.
#7 Aug 23rd, 2016, 05:21
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  • DaisyL is offline
I enjoyed your write up and photos of your trip, Rolling-Stone!

Thanks for the tips - I wouldn't have guessed that you could be fined for taking things from the beach.
#8 Aug 23rd, 2016, 09:58
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  • iamsomnath is offline
That's an excellent read. The images of the "Kalpeni" part are not showing , at least on my screen. Perhaps needs a tweak ?
#9 Aug 24th, 2016, 10:45
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  • Rolling-Stone is offline
Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post Thank you for your enjoyable travelogue. Did you spend every night on the ship?

Yes. Whole day on land and nights on the sea.
#10 Aug 24th, 2016, 10:47
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  • Rolling-Stone is offline
Originally Posted by iamsomnath View Post That's an excellent read. The images of the "Kalpeni" part are not showing , at least on my screen. Perhaps needs a tweak ?
Thanks. While I am signed in I can see the Kalpeni pics. I ll look in to.
#11 Aug 24th, 2016, 10:48
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  • Rolling-Stone is offline
Originally Posted by DaisyL View Post I enjoyed your write up and photos of your trip, Rolling-Stone!

Thanks for the tips - I wouldn't have guessed that you could be fined for taking things from the beach.

Actually, thats what we were categorically told.

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