One day Chay, Katie & Jamie on S/V ESPRIT took a tour up the river with Nazar in his little boat and invited us to join them.
This was a nice way to spend a hot sunny day. Nazar brought plastic chairs from his home and placed them in the boat so we each had a place to sit with some back support. I brought a large umbrella. I felt ever-so-British (sort of African Queen-ish) sitting in the front of that small boat in the plastic lawn chair shaded by my big umbrella.
We thought Nazar was going to take us up the river right next to the marina, but he turned south and then west beneath Bolghatty Island, past the next island (don't know the name) where the new port facilities are located, and then north alongside Vypin Island. As we approached the new port facilities Bill pointed out that this would never happen in the USA today. Security would have been all over any small boat approaching a commercial port in the USA today. I wondered if we would be stopped by security here.
But we got very close (actually beneath the loading cranes) and never heard a peep from anyone telling us to move away. Seems like they would have learned after that small boat approached and blew the hole in the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen several years ago. That was in this general part of the world. One would think they would be a bit stricter about security now. This is a brand new port facility. They need to take measures immediately to ensure it is not an easy target.
As we neared one of the bridges we noticed that several boats had decided that the bridge supporting pylons would make perfect moorings.
This is also something that would never be allowed in the USA today. It would be far too easy for one of those boats to be loaded with explosives and blow up a bridge.
As we continued up the river we saw hundreds upon hundreds of fishing boats. Some looked bright and new and others looked worn and aged. This is the type of small fishing boat that the Somali pirates have been capturing for years and used as small mother ships during their pirate attacks. Today there are more than 200 Indians being held hostage in Somalia -- all simple fishermen who have no hope of anyone paying any ransom for their release. Here is a photo of one of the older boats filling with ice.
Another half-hour and we reached a Catholic church built right on the river's edge. Nazar said this church is many hundreds of years old, built during the time that the Portuguese controlled this part of India. The architecture of this church is different from any of the other churches we have seen locally. Mass was being held as we passed this church and the singing was very unusual. Sounded very nice and reminded us of the beautiful singing in the churches in the Kingdom of Tonga.
Along this long river ride we saw all different methods of fishing -- hand lines, small hand nets or seines, fishing poles, stakes to attract fish and the ever-present Chinese fishing nets.
There were dozens and dozens of Chinese fishing nets on every tributary of the river. And this is just one of many rivers that feed into the large harbor at Cochin. I believe the same things exist on every one of these rivers. Heaven only knows how far up the rivers this fishing continues.
Eventually the river widened a lot. Nazar motored over to the opposite side and stopped where a large rectangle had been walled off. He explained that this is a fish farm. Actually, he called it a place to grow fish. We told him that in the USA we call this a fish farm. He explained that someone can lease the walled rectangle of water for a period of one year. There are small locks that are closed off to prevent any fish from escaping into the river. Several men will take turns staying at the fish farm as security guards to prevent anyone from stealing the fish. Each man stays there for a 12-hour shift up to an 18-hour shift. It is guarded 24/7. There is a small shack for them to shelter inside. In July (which I believe is the height of rainy season) they will open the locks and catch escaping fish into nets. The fish should be approximately 16-inches long at that time. That is considered a good-sized fish around here.
The lessor also can sell the coconuts and dried palm fronds from the palms that grow on the wall of the fish farm. Nazar explained that not everyone has cooking gas because it costs money. The poorer people cook by burning palm fronds and old coconut husks. He said his wife does not like cooking with palms because it is too smokey. We saw several men with narrow canoes who were collecting the fallen palm fronds and old coconuts. You can see a couple of these men in the background behind Jaime.
And onward we continued.
Nazar turned right into a branch of the river after explaining the fish farm. After awhile he stopped at a small concrete and stone building with a "Toddy" sign. He told us it was time for a toddy. I guess this word came from the years of British colonial rule. Turns out that the toddy is coconut beer. That is the only thing they sold to drink. I passed on tasting this supposed delight, but the other 3 adults sampled a couple of bottles. They said it tasted like lemonade with beer added.
The Toddy place also served a set menu of food. They had sliced homemade bread, a starch dish that we know as cassava but they call something else I can't say, and some fried tiny fish topped with sliced onions. You eat the whole little fish, head and all. I passed on tasting any of the food as well because I wasn't hungry. Bill tried a few of the fish and said they were okay; tasted a tad bit strong. But the cassava dish was apparently pretty good. A little spicy but not too much. Jaime chowed down on that. Teen-aged boys can always eat.
As we were leaving, the shear pin broke on the outboard engine. Nazar maneuvered back to the shore and replaced it. Wish we had an outboard that used a shear pin. On ours we must replace the entire propeller when the hub starts to spin. While Nazar was doing this little repair, the "beer truck" arrived with a delivery of more coconut beer. The beer delivery truck was a narrow river canoe. What else would one expect out here where there are no roads or bridges.
We continued down the tributary for a bit more, then turned right on yet another tributary. One could get lost on these waterways very easily. This particular area had new construction amidst the very old buildings. At almost every home a woman was doing laundry at the river's edge. Each home had stone steps leading down into the river. The women would stand on the steps in ankle-to-knee-deep water and pound the clothes on the stone wall. It was the same at every home we passed.
Soon we turned right again. My internal compass said we were heading back to the main river that we had originally come up. We passed another large group of Chinese fishing nets. We noted that all these had lights on them. None of the others we have seen had lights. So we assume they fish as night in this particular backwater area. Still would like to know why these are called Chinese. One net had been modernized. It had a blue metal frame used to lower and raise it rather than hanging ropes.
We entered a very wide area of the river and could see the white church in the distance on the far side. Rather than continue that far, Nazar turned left. This put us going south down the western side of Bolghatty Island. The marina is on the eastern side of Bolghatty Island.
As we turned left beneath the southern end of Bolghatty Island to return to the marina, we noted how extremely large the mimosa trees are on the tip of this island. We have lots of mimosa trees in southeast Texas, but nothing like these. At home mimosas grow about 20-25 feet tall. Here they are enormous by comparison. These trees spread wide like huge oak trees.
And that was our day on the river with American friends Chay, Katie and son Jaime on S/V ESPRIT.