10th January 2015 – Maafushi, Maldives
From islands real and artificial, through the searing noon heat. To the powdery sands and shallow seas of an atoll paradise. Maafushi has many wonders to share, and colours to show. But the evening light showered only a golden shade on my eyes.
Last night, I had thought I was in Male. I was actually wrong.
The Ibrahim Nasr international Airport in Male, is actually NOT in Male. It is in a small island called Hulhule, which is roughly 2 km away from Male. And if you arrive at the late hour of 10 PM, like I did yesterday, you can forget about getting a ferry to Male from the airport. And unless you are Jesus Christ, you have very few options to cross the water at that time.
Which brings me to the point of where I stayed last night. Near Hulhule, there is another small island called Hulhumale, which is Maldives’ only island that is completely artificial and built on reclaimed land. Luckily, the islands of Hulhule and Hulhumale are connected by a narrow and long bridge, and there were some cheap hotels in Hulhumale to spend a night there.
Well, depends on how you define cheap. I found a cheap room for 35 USD in a neat little place in Hulhumale. But I wasn’t prepared for the overheads. They sent me a pickup, and charged me 10 USD for it. There was a city tax of 8 USD. And a GST of 12% over everything. And by the end of it all, I had paid 65 USD for a one-night stay here. Not cheap in my definition, but definitely cheap when you compare with other accommodation options in the Maldives.
And today, I was to catch a ferry to Maafushi, which is a public island. The public ferry system is pretty complicated. First, I have to catch a ferry from Hulhumale to Male, which is just about 15 minutes and costs only 2 dollars. This ferry is available throughout the day so no specific time to catch. But the onward ferry from Male to Maafushi is only at 3 PM. Or at least, the public ferry is only at 3 PM. There are speedboats, but more about that later.
I reached the Male ferry terminal with Victoria, who wasn’t satisfied enough with the streets of Kolkata, and wanted some paradise beaches. At Male, turns out there are different ferry terminals. I had reached the airport ferry terminal, and I had to get to the other side of the island for the Vilingili ferry terminal to catch my ferry to Maafushi.
I reached around 1 PM to buy the tickets, and turns out that the ferry was completely sold out. And there was only one public ferry for the whole day! No other option remained, but to take a speedboat to Maafushi. The difference was instrumental in terms of both price and time. The public ferry was only 3 USD and took 1.5 hours. The speedboat cost 20 USD per person, but reached in just 30 minutes. Talk about biting the bullet. Literally.
The speedboat riders in Maldives are crazy. They kept thrashing the boat on the choppy waves, riding at breakneck speeds. Very similar to the kampong Ayer speedboats of Brunei. And true to the drivers words, me and my dishevelled hair were in Maafushi in just around 25 minutes.
Will write more about Maafushi tomorrow. For today, I just saw the glorious sunset of Maafushi, and then crashed like a flotsam.