Monday, November 29, 2010

The Night Launch From Barisal

After two more days visiting shelters in the delta region we planned our return to Dhaka. Rather than a 7 hour bumpy Land Cruiser ride on over-crowded roads we opted to take a night launch. The launches are large passenger boats that offer a limited number of air-conditioned cabins. Bangladesh is riddled with large waterways so river travel is an excellent way to get around.

We were lucky to secure three A/C cabins or we would probably have opted for the Land Cruiser.The main deck of the boat and every conceivable nook and cranny on the cabin decks become full of people who need to make the journey but cannot afford, or don't want to pay, the fare for a cabin. I'm guessing 200 people in cabins and 1,000+ sleeping wherever they can. The photo was taken in the morning after half of the passengers had already arisen and left. Some people continued to sleep on board to wait for a more decent hour of the day to depart!

The boat leaves Barisal at 8:30pm and arrives at 5:30am in Dhaka so the journey is entirely at night with nothing to see on shore except the occasional light. We boarded at 7:30 and were led to our cabins which were on an narrow interior hallway half of which was occupied with people sleeping along the wall across from the doors. The cabins were literally just big enough for a single bed. Our host in Barisal, Rashid, was disappointed in the accommodation for us, especially since we had to use communal toilets and disappeared. I assured Sajit the room was fine as I planned to sleep all the way.

Rashid came back a little bit later to announce that he had managed to acquire a two bed cabin that became available when the person who had reserved it failed to show up. What a difference! We went from overcrowding in interior rooms to a suite of two rooms with a small balcony and a private toilet. All for the price of $20 per person.

I went to bed expecting a wake-up call near 5:00am when we neared Dhaka. Lo and behold a bump on the boat, a change in engine noise and lights being turned on, and I woke up at 3:15am to discover we were over two hours ahead of schedule and we'd arrived in Dhaka.

While we standing on the dock the cabin boy who had been looking after us at came running up with my Red Cross ID badge which had fallen on the floor. I was totally surprised as it would have been so easy for him to throw it away, but instead he had tracked us down on the pier so he could return it. An IFRC driver met us and dropped me off at the hotel and the journey was over.

No comments:

Post a Comment