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Himalaya

Day 125: Mongla to the Bay of Bengal

Mongla, Bangladesh 
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Bangladesh has 5000 miles (8000 km) of navigable waterways. Paddle Steamer Ostrich, pride of the Rocket Service.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThere is one task we have to complete today and that is to cover the remaining 90 miles (144 km) between here and the Bay of Bengal, and rendezvous with a forestry department launch, which will take me out onto the ocean and off into the sunset for the final shot of the series.

I'm up before five. Shower, pack my things together, grab a basic breakfast at the Hotel Pashur, then walk out past the bus station and down to the jetty, where two of the three boats on which our day depends are bobbing up and down on the water. They don't inspire confidence. Named Feni 1 and Feni 3, after a frontier town north of Chittagong, they're ex-lifeboats with a Do-It-Yourself viewing platform built on top and furnished with plastic chairs. The boat is steered from the top deck by a Heath Robinson rudder extension made from various pieces of scrap metal, into which is fitted a handle made from a tree branch. Well, not made from it exactly. It is a tree branch.

This whole unsteady collation is topped with a few lengths of domestic, wrought-iron railing and a sun canopy suspended from four sticks. The crew is lively and enthusiastic. Unlike the engine.

We cast off at dawn and, as the light slowly improves, we can see our surroundings are as magical as yesterday. We chug through a clinging mist, past the temporarily exposed mudflats they call chars, islands that appear briefly after the flood waters recede and are instantly planted so that at least one crop can be harvested before the next monsoon washes the island away.
Mongla, Bangladesh 
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Delta boatmen paddle from extreme edge of the stern.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 125: Mongla to the Bay of Bengal
  • Country/sea: Bangladesh
  • Place: Mongla
  • Book page no: 282

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