We have been travelling on the Pearl River for three days. This boat, this historical artefact, although small in size, is so battered and the wood soaked with water that it weighs a ton.
When the water exceeds the ankles, that is, every fifteen minutes, we must stop and empty it with a container.
Yesterday I did a little maintenance work filling the gaps between one plank of the hull and the other with a piece of fabric, and at the moment it seems that this helps to prevent water from passing through. In all this, however, I cannot ignore the fact that the boat allows us to disguise ourselves among the local fishermen, which we consider a great advantage. I’m not sure why, but I prefer to blend in.
The weight of the boat makes our paddling slow, very slow, painfully slow. Slowness sometimes also represents a danger because, with all the traffic of ships that we encounter, we must be rather quick to change course and avoid collisions. Up until a few days ago, if the idea of sailing between these large boats made us very anxious and want to stay as close as possible to the shore, we now move more frequently to the middle of the river to intercept the strong current.
After arriving last night, Folco began to complain of back pain and before arriving at the hotel, he was completely blocked and forced to keep his torso bent forward at a 90-degree angle. This is not a good view, and I can only remotely imagine the pain he is feeling. Later, he put himself in the hands of a chiropractor and an hour later I saw him coming back with a relaxed smile, he seemed reborn. Despite this, he decided to take a few days off, and I hope he gets back on board soon because the time with him is fun. So, in the next few days, I will be alone.
The area through which the river flows is mainly flat, with the large countryside on which a little bit of everything grows and, occasionally, some inhabited centres. Some are small villages, others are cities of millions of inhabitants whose skyscrapers can be seen from far, far away.
There are two things I still have to get used to. The first is the milky sky, which in the morning can be mistaken for mist, but which at midday still has the whitish colour similar to that of watered milk. The second is that, unlike in India, where many daily activities were carried out along the river, the Pearl River is deserted – except for fishermen and large ships carrying cement and sand. The river provides a trade linkage or products. The river does not belong to human anymore, now it serves the economy. Both things, the whitish sky and the desert river, are the damaging side effects of the rapid urbanization and industrial growth that fills the skies and empties the rivers.
Concerning plastic, we have encountered less than we expected. This cannot be an accident. There must be a reason for it. Where does all the waste that China is notoriously full of go?