The Lake Captain

There was only one way that I was able to cross this massive expanse of water, that was to hire a local skipper with a boat to ferry me across. After a bit of searching Nick and I came across a guy who had an old ocean going life boat that was being used as a water taxi, powered by an old Lister diesel engine. After a bit of the normal haggling we set a time and price for the next morning. An early start just as the sun came up was essential as I had a lot of really rugged terrain to cover on the other side of the lake.

The sun was just throwing a metallic strip of light over the water as we arrived at the meeting point. Massive fruit bats were returning to perch in the trees along the waters edge from their night of foraging. The life boat, a big number 26 painted on it, sat dead still on the water’s edge, not a breath of wind and no movement on the mercury mirror of water and no captain.

Then we heard a garbled greeting followed by a shout that resonated out of the dawn light a distance away. Along the road running parallel to the lake, here came our captain trotting with his can of diesel joyously waving to us. The bright scarf bandana now perched on his head was just catching the morning light. It was in a few minutes he had us loaded and ready to go. After a good few cranks, the engine sprung into life, plumes of diesel smoke drifted over the water. The engine revs picked up as we slowly ground out at the mud bank, the prop chewing its way out of the mud in reverse, the bow slowly began swinging out. There was a crunch in the drive train as the Captain swung the lever to forward and we lurched out into the lake, the revs slowly dropped off to a quiet put-put as we glided off into the sunrise. Standing in the bow of the boat just staring at nothing I was taken into another world. The engine was quietly spluttering away as we headed out into the godforsaken landscape and the rising sun, I felt as if I was an adventurer out of a voyage of discovery in some far away land. The captain was now sitting back, his stress was over, we were now sailing away.

The captain was now standing in the stern; he had locked the tiller in position and was making a blessing and prayer to Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, that his boat will have an obstacle free and safe passage ahead. This is quite common as all the folk seem to do this no matter where and in what they travel. He then sat back, cross legged and took out his ground beetle nut potion. He slowly rubbed it fine in the palm of his hand, added some lime zest to it and rolled it into a ball , placing it into his mouth. A minute later he seemed to zone out and that was captain gone for the next 10 minutes as we slowly cut our way across the lake.

We were passing a vegetated little island, long narrow waterways into the jungle and a semi-submerged temple as we glided across the water. Deeper and deeper into the hills we went. Eventually the there was a mountain infront of us that split the lake. This seemed to awaken the captain out of his trance as we lowed and took a gradual turn to the left, the boat slowly decelerating as the dam suddenly turned into a channel. As abruptly as we entered it, so did it dry up as we quietly coasted in, engine cut we hit the bank. That was it, ahead lay wild dense jungle and 2 days of travel.

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