Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the Road

We kicked off the assessment project at the Red Cross compound with some orientation meetings and then it was time to hit the road. We had planned to be on our way by 1:00pm but finally headed out of Dhaka at 3:00 – Sajit had warned me earlier that things don't always happen as planned so I was well prepared for some delays - this forced a change in plans for our overnight stop which will now be the town of Faridpur instead of Barisal.

As we left Dhaka we saw a lot of brick works – it's hard to imagine where they can use so many bricks but they sure have a pile. I had seen the chimneys as I approached Dhaka on Sunday morning, though they looked like brick works, but dismissed the idea because there were so many.

The roads were completely jammed. The most common vehicles were buses of all descriptions followed by an assortment of trucks. Motorized rickshaws were next with motorcycles and cars bringing up the rear. The roads are narrow and everyone fights to make two or three lanes on each side of a two lane road. Horn honking is constant. Almost every bus and truck I saw had scrapes down the side. The drivers are amazing as they fit 6 foot wide vehicles through 6.1 foot gaps and never miss a beat. This is a small country about the size of Iowa or England+Scotland but with 165,000,000 people so you can picture how crowded it is in places. Given the busy nature of the roads and the constant struggle to get past slower vehicles you might expect carnage but I didn't see one accident.

We made fairly good time and arrived at our first major ferry ride of the trip across the Pradma River (aka the Ganges) just below where the Pradma and Brahmaputra Rivers meet. Our timing was good as we only had a short wait before boarding. We were on a small ferry with just a few cars and some buses but there were also a large number of bigger ferries and a myriad of small passenger boats carrying vehicles and peoples – boats were everywhere. I always enjoy being around water and boats so this was a treat. Unfortunately it was too dark to get any photos that would do the experience justice. The backlog of traffic on the south side of the river went on for miles, again mostly buses, as people were returning home after the Eid religious holiday.

We travelled on to Faridpur where we spent the night at Raffles-Inn – definitely not to be confused with it's namesake in Singapore but clean and friendly and a bed! Apparently Jaridpur is famous for jute so maybe I'll see some as we head on to Barisal.

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