A celebratory swim (day 74)

If people continue to throw rubbish out the windows of the trains, the whole of China will be covered with rubbish pretty soon. Or maybe not. Because China is quite big. And the train tracks only go through small bits of it. And maybe there are people to pick it up.

Maybe it will make a train derail or something one day if it builds up high enough. And then something will be done. Because it just offends against something basic in me to throw rubbish anywhere than in a rubbish tin. I even try to pick up the scratchings from instant kiwi tickets. Not that I saw many people throwing them out the window in China, but still.

They have sinking barges on the river here, it seems. They had them in Shanghai too. No coincidence. This is the same river after all. They are so loaded with whatever they are carrying that water just flows over their decks. They tilt forward, so the bit where the guy stands and the motor is is still in the water, but it all looks a little precarious to me. I guess they fill up with water from time to time. And they probably aren’t much use for transporting perishable cargo.

The boat is scheduled to stop from time to time so we can get off and be pestered by hello merchants. Went sight-seeing this morning early (the timetable on this ship is not perfectly correlated with optimal sleeping hours, but that is okay because the bunks are damp and unhealthy anyway). Wandered around a little town in the middle of China that will probably be underwater in a few years when the Gezou dam is flooded. Saw a happy kid careering past the puddles on a bike, a few dead ducks in the carrier basket. He was laughing at the foreigners, probably thinking how stupid we were to be wandering around in this tiny town so early on the weekend.

It is incredibly hard to be consistently polite to people who speak only one word of English and won’t take ‘no thank you’ for an answer. Particularly when there are six hundred of them, and they all think that the reason you refused the first sale was because you did not like the quality of their (mostly identical) goods rather than because you just do not want to buy anything.

I give most of the waiters in China high marks for helpfulness though. They deal really well with ignorant foreigners who understand nothing on the menu. And create really meals ordered only by pointing at a word in the phrasebook (once you have got passed the ‘mei yo’ – the stuff they do not have).

So now I am cruising on the Yangtze rivier. We are scheduled to hit the three gorges tomorrow morning, and go for a cruise up the little three gorges in a smaller boat. Given the number of people on our rig, and the number of boats we see cruising the river at every stop, I suspect my dreams of an isolated river paradise peopled only by our solitary junk are destined to remain just that. Dreams.

Wuhan (a huge industrial town in the heart of China) is on the schedule for the night after. I could get off a day before in Yichang, but the transport connections are no better than for Wuhan, so I might just stay where I am.

And where am I? I am sitting on my (superbly comfortable, thank you for asking) thermarest chair just watching as the sun goes down on another day in central China. The river is dark, swift, cloudy, even red. Normally I would be thinking of a celebratory birthday skinny dip. This year I am not so sure.

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