Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Passing the Kut Lock

Passing the Kut Lock - 3 October

We finally were underway (later than we wanted) by 7:30 AM ... we needed to book it to get to the Kut Barrage and into the lock in time.  As we drew close, many people along the river kept yelling to us that we couldn't get through the barrage (apparently the lock doesn't open very much), but we had met with the manager the night before and I had just talked to him on my mobile phone to tell him we'd miss our 8 AM arrival time (by this time we'd turned the engine on as we were facing a stiff headwind).  Finally we arrived and entered the lock with the raft, the Tarada and the Quffa.

Upstream door of the lock being closed

Downstream lock door opening

Unfortunately, its kind of a free-for-all inside the lock during this process and the boats are not tied off as I'm used to in the States but were simply floating free in the lock or rafted together and as the downstream lock doors opened it got a little chaotic in there as we tried to exit.  We ended up busting the stern of the Tarada on the lock wall (this is probably the 5th time we've damaged either the bow or the stern of the Tarada).

Abu H (who joined us in Baghdad to make repairs to the traditional boats) just laughed and said he'd fix it.  It seems our job is to break the boats and his is to fix them.

V & R in the Quffa

Finally paddling free and downstream of the barrage, we saw a blue boat in the reeds.  A moment later it popped out with a man on board and turned out to be a metal Quffa painted bright blue.  The man was using it for fishing and told us that he’d previously had a traditional version back in the 1980s.

Modern vs Traditional Quffa

It gets blazingly hot between 11 AM and 2 PM, so we took an extended lunch break in the shade of an old abandoned, adobe farm house and took advantage of V’s Kelly Kettle to make ourselves several cups of tea and instant coffee.

Interior room of the abandoned farmhouse with the typical decorations of a Shia household (Hussain in the foreground)

Khomeini above the door

R through the window

The river was moving well and our speed (according to the GPS) was about 2 km/hour and even higher when the wind was at our backs.  The morning headwind had died down and we occasionally just rafted together to drift down the river.

J and Abu H

Our logistics staff had found a stopping point to camp near a Diwan (a guest house) in a village called Suada.  I say camp, but in fact we stayed with the family who maintains the Diwan.  The men in the actual Diwan and myself and the two other women (L and V) on the flotilla with the women in the house behind.  

My Arabic is still pretty crappy and its always a struggle to communicate when you are with the ladies (all the translators with us are typically men) but they had two daughters that had studied English and we muddled through some semblance of a conversation.   And atleast you can take your hijab (head scarf) off when you are hanging with the ladies.

Unloading the boats

The Tigris at days end

Our host and some of his kids. 

Our host spoke to use about his concerns for the river and mentioned the general decline that they have seen in birds and fish.  Although we saw mostly net fisherman all day, he told us that electro-fishing is common as is fishing with poison.

We stayed up fairly late talking to the ladies of the house (and a few female neighbors stopped by as well), it felt also like 50 children ran in and out of the room (including one young child with an obvious mental and/or physical disability ... the family either didn't know what was wrong with him or could not explain it to us).

Food was eventually brought (salty pasta and cucumbers with sugary sweet juice) and then very strong sweet tea.  I calibrated the water quality instruments and took a quick shower (it was just a pipe coming out from the wall) ... then we were given a room with mats on the floor that featured a swamp cooler and a fan (one of the best room that the ladies appeared to have ... we had learned earlier that they only get 1 hour of power every two hours from the government, but a neighborhood generator fills most of the gap).  Finally lights out and the end of the 2nd day since we left Kut.


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