Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hitching a Ride

I love watching the barges on the canal.

Its partly about the sounds. After the apparent mayhem of the streets with constant horns honking and pedestrians and cyclists weaving their way among buses, taxis and private cars, there just seems to be so much more order on the river. So I turn my back on the busy road and the traffic sounds are swallowed up in the deep throb of the boat engines - pitched so low that it is more of a feeling than a sound -and the gentle swishing of the water around the hulls.

At first it is not obvious that the tall majestic barges are one and the same as the water-level boats with water sloshing over their bows. They go down to Shanghai loaded to the max, and return sitting proud and high in the water.

So this boat - above - is empty, and this boat - below - is just as big but its full.

And then there are the barge trains - sometimes we see up to about twenty barges all joined together.

We were amused to see this at the tail end of a long barge train. There was a little runabout tied to the last barge, and then this fisherman has hooked himself on and is tagging along.

As each barge goes past we catch a glimpse of their lives. Sometimes we see lady sitting on the deck holding onto a small child. Often there are steaming cooking pots behind the wheelhouse. There are usually pots with plants sitting around, and someone hosing down or cleaning the deck. I saw a lady washing her hair, squatting on the deck pouring water over her soapy locks. And there is the ubiquitous washing hanging on the deck.

No comments: