In the past I have had numerous encounters with swamps, I usually come off second best, somehow they manage to always get the upper hand. In Madagascar it was fine because I knew that the creatures that lived in the swamps were not life-threatening. In India it’s a whole other story. The creatures are as abundant and they are all poisonous. The further South I have travelled, the more I have encountered the swamps, but these are massive and deep due to the size of the rivers. The worst is that there are often really strong flowing currents in them, especially when trying to cross on the turn of the tide, if it’s coming in or going out, the currents are dangerous, you can see the rate at which they are flowing by watching the floating debris swirling past.
Due to the size of the crossings, I usually try to find a bridge, or if it’s too far away I will have to look for a local to ferry me across or alternatively borrow an unattended dugout. Unfortunately I can’t always return it to its original mooring. Normally I find a new berth for it on the opposite bank (to the villagers, my apologies).
For the past week I have been trying to get off the road, the running is getting to me, I need to change the scenery and escape the traffic, but I am learning the hard way very quickly, in this area it’s stupid, best you stick to the roads as the estuaries and swamps are massive tidal rivers, some a kilometre across. I had reached the edge of the river, there was a swampy island in the middle and a large mud flat on either side as the tide was going out. It was still too deep to wade; I would need some sort of craft. I walked around for a while looking into the little side streams if there were any fishermen, but the area was deserted. I did see a few dugouts, most had nets in them, but there was one empty one and with quite a bit of water in it. I felt that was going to be the least missed craft.
I bailed out the water, found a long pushing pole and off I went, standing up in the dugout, I slowly pushed myself over the mud flat and into the river heading to the mangrove, my next target. I had just cleared the mud and into a bit of open water and suddenly the nose of the boat twisted around and that was it, the current of the outgoing tide had sucked me in and I was heading out to sea at a big rate, the little feeling of panic started a crunch in my stomach. I jammed the pole into the mud trying to turn the boat, but nearly broke the pole; I had to work out something. The only option was that I had to use the current instead of fight it, but things were happening quickly. I tried different manoeuvres with the pole to see the reaction of the craft; twice I nearly flipped myself by placing the pole too far forward and hooking it under the nose. Finally I got the correct response and could turn the nose across the current; at least I was not heading out of control out to sea now, but going across the channel and down. Finally I broke free of the rip and glided into some still water. I was exhausted. I dropped the pole into the boat and just sat there, staring at the water racing past me and out to sea as I slowly glided into the safety of the Mangrove trees.