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Mongla

sunny

SUNDERBANS MUSEUM

This was a small private colection which a local dude had accumulated. We had gone there with the primary motive of seeking advice on boat hire but found it merited a bit of our time. It was a generalised collection of everything that could be found within the outlying region, from moths and butterflies the size of my hand to a sealife display including a Giant Tiger Shrimp the size of a lobster. Other animal interests were a small Spadenose Shark and exotic fish such as a Paradise Threadfin, Spotted Snakehead and a metre long Flying Fish with 4 inch long "wings". Interestingly, my first sight of Bombay Duck revealed it to be a grotesque large jawed beastie like a small Moray Eel. The Devil Fish turned out to be an octopus, and the Grunting Toadfish looks just like it sounds. The Gangetic Puffer Fish was revealed to be a very large spiky ball, perhaps the largest of the family. There was a mock up of some kind of porpoise, snub nosed and black with a very small mouth, and preserved Hammerhead Shark and Longtooth Sawfish. Amongst the reptiles identifiable in jars were the Banded Krait, a highly venomous water snake, the Monocoliate Cobra and a massive Monitor Lizard longer than me. An offensive looking frog was bigger than my fist. The elusive and highly endangered Royal Bengal Tiger was represented with casts of its pawprints, again hand sized.

Local artifacts included a bow and arrow and a quiver, the quiver being just a length of bamboo, and catapults used for killing birds. I had a stab at guessing that the adjacent reed-made bolass type objects were exactly that but no, they were hanging pot holders! Local bamboo guns were like hand operated blowpipes. Upturned turtle shells were used as handbags. Finally, local football was played with a reed woven cube resembling one of Mr. Rubik! Yes, a square football, wouldnt fancy heading it!

Casual enquiries quickly led us to securing a boat for a short trip out into the Sunderbans, the 300 Taka asked by young Naseer was much less than we had reckoned on so we just grabbed it. That was only after I thankfully managed to Burn CDs and thus free up some camera memory against all expectation in rustic little Mongla despite the habitual power cut. Quite possibly we had tracked down the only PC in town. Out onto the river then, just me, Kenji, Naseer and another young boy steering. It was about a 30 minute putter out across a much larger waterway past a sizeable freighter. The trip was quickly stalled however when we learned too late that you had to report to the doubtless corrupt Forestry Office and pay 200 Taka just to see a handful of captive deer and monkeys, then a whopping 700 to actually pass into the mangrove system. Ken's budget was tighter than a crocodiles arse and he didnt appreciate the eternal apartheid pricing system any more than I did, so we denied ourselves on point of principle as much as the expense. As it turned out, Naseer's impromptu Plan B transpired to be a perhaps even more entertaining foray. We simply chugged up-river a bit past semi-mangrove forest and then jumped out onto the muddy littoral and into a village. Weaving in between rustic shacks cobbled together out of woven palm fonds, we were soon grabbed by the attention of excited locals. A woman and 2 small kids sat patiently separating miniscule fish larvae from a basin of river water, they would be released into a pond and reared until a decent size. It had been heading up the coast that we had passed many women trawling nets behind them, mouths supported open upon rectangular frames. It was a sin to see such beautiful women clawing through the mud waste deep in water in order to eke out a living.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Bangladesh

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