Maybe We Need a Traffic Cop
After our night stay at the tiny island, we started towards Barisal on Jamuna. The river was fairly wide with lots of big boat traffic. Some of these cargo vessels are as big as regular ocean going ships. The fishing activity on the river was hectic and as yesterday. Almost the entire water surface was coverd with nets and fishermen from their tiny boats were frantically waving red clothes, asking us to steer clear of their nets. One interesting aspect was the colourful sails that some of the small fishing boats hoist. We were wondering if it was on account of the recently celebrated Id festival, that all of them had gone for bright new colours.
Surprisingly, in spite of all the nets and hectic activity on the river, occasionally a dolphin could still be seen jumping in the waters. One wonders how many of them must be landing in the fishermen’s nets. Although it is not legal to catch and sell them but every one knows that once caught, a fisherman never throws the catch back in the water.
A little before we reached Barisal, we moved into a river called Vish Khali. It was a beautiful channel with thick green vegetation on both sides and clear marks of high and low tides as we are now moving towards the sea. Barisal turned out to be a big and busy city with hundreds of boats, big and small, carrying passengers and cargo in and out. After scouting around the town for gasoline, vegetables, firewood etc. we left Barisal and moved into another river called Sugandha. Here we met a beautiful tourist ferry anchored in the mid-river and discovered that our guide Babloo had made arrangements for us to have lunch on this lovely boat. So for a short time we were ushered into a world of luxury with buffet spread, hot coffee, deck chairs and flush toilets. We had our meal and pleasant conversations with largely European tourists who were fascinated by the story of our long journey in three tiny boats.
After the brief stay on the boat, we moved into Gab Khan channel, a very charming, man made deep water way where large boats ply. Here we also came across a vintage large ferry with side turbines. Later we stopped to camp on a small cause way that lead from the river to a village called
Ashoa Amra Juri. The narrow strip of land was barely wide enough to pitch our tents but it all worked out well. We cooked a simple meal and secured our boats to withstand the tidal levels at night. Ashoa Amra Juri, the little village ahead of our camp had a population of about 2000 who were largely engaged in fishing and agriculture. The gradually trickled down from their houses to look at the curious lot that had landed close to them and were understandably fascinated by our boats, tents and other equipment. All of them were very decent and soon left us in peace as darkness descended. It was warm when we reached but after a mild shower the weather became very agreeable with a fine cool breeze. We have camped in the past on large and small islands and sand banks barely above the water level, but it was the first time we were occupying a causeway between the river and a village.
Fortunately, village folk had no reason to come to the river at night and we did not disturb anybody.
From here onwards as we move close to the Sunderbans, land will become more and more scrace. Gone are the days when every day we had clean sandy beaches and whole islands to ourselves. Now the sand has been replaces by silt and because of the cycle of tides there will always be slush on the shores. Night halts from now on are likely be exciting and we are prepared to find out.