Should be over in 3 days! You said that last time

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
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Saturday, April 15, 2006

The guys at the hotel recommended taking the bus instead of the train so we did just that. The LP reckons the road is crap but the locals kept saying the bus was much better. When you weigh it all up, the locals live there and the authors of the LP don't.

As Mick, Scotty, Changi Kev and Jason were staying in our hotel as well we all decided to get the bus together. Whilst they faffed around paying their bills we went to hold the bus up. Lucky we did because both David and Andrew had to stand in-front of the bus to stop it leaving before the others could get there!! Bloody men!

It was great! The drivers are complete mad-men and go hell-for-leather along well paved roads weaving in and out of all the trucks, rickshaws, cars, motorbikes, people pulling loads of hay, cows, dogs and whatever else happens to be taking up space. We made it in super-fast time so had lots of daylight hours left to have a squizz round town.

For a place that's supposed to be less populated than Dhaka, I actually thought there were just as many people, it was just as dirty and polluted and just as much traffic and cycle rickshaws. But it was more hilly and you could see much more green around.

On our walk round town a young man befriended David and wanted to show him the around, so off we went. He spoke English very well. I was lagging behind a bit and managed to pick up a bunch of small beggar boys along the way. They were all asking for baksheesh but I pretended not to understand and turned it all into a game. We had them singing 'Mongaloid, Mongaloid!' (a song from the early 1980's by Devo). They also added their own dance routine! Then I had them shouting out all sorts of vegetable names and running around, back and forth along the streets. We discovered a Bhuddist Monastery and wandered in for a look. My band of faithful followers patiently waited outside reciting vegetable names in earnest. We met a bhuddist guy who could speak really good english and told us he worked in the local Pizza Hut. He took us downstairs to meet his manager who instantly recognised me from tv!!! My god! How exciting! My fame has spread throughout the country!! I am now being recognised in the street! Soon I'll have to hire a bodyguard and travel everywhere incognito!! Is this how it happens. First you're innocently waving to your Mum on tv then you're getting noticed by local fastfood restaurant managers, who knows, tomorrow I could be offered a movie career right here in Bangers!!! It's all happening too fast! I'll have to keep a low profile for a few days.

When we emerged from the monastery, my boys rejoined us and I inspected all their bags. They each had a small collection of rotting vegies. Probably dinner for the family tonight. Poor little mites! We were all having a laugh shouting out 'Broccoli! broccoli!' when some men thought they were harrassing me and chased them all away. I didn't see them again.

After dinner we went off in search of Andrew and the boys. We found the local alcohol merchant and kino hall and eventually found the local bar. There were two army guys standing outside who stood up and proudly proclaimed, 'Alcohol.', pointing to a dark, dingy staircase. Mmmmmmmmmmm, inviting. We described our friends - there's no way you can miss Mick. Big white guy, bald, like Bhudda. They thought about it (for god's sake, how many big, fat, white bald guys are there in Chittagong?) and sent us further into the stinking darkness of the bar, then called us back and decided they'd all left.

The poverty here has affected me more than any place I've been to and I've only been in Chittagong for an afternoon. I can't say why as I did see so much of it in India and other places I've visited in my life. All along the foot paths dirty, skinny families were spreading out their ground sheets, cooking dinner and putting their children to sleep. It was horrible. Little tiny babies laying naked on the ground with huge, shiny, brown cockroaches skuttling all over the place. God knows how they survive. At one point along the way there was a large crack in the pavement, all of a sudden hundreds of those big, shiny brown bodies burst up out and started running in all directions! I let out a small yelp and started dancing around on my toes in an effort to miss treading on them. There were loads!! All heading out in search of dinner. It was disgusting. I must say, I was glad to get back to the bug free safety of the hotel.

Day 1

As in Dhaka, the ground had been changed so we got the hotel guys to write out in Bangla the name of the new ground. Fat lot of good it did us. The rickshaw driver couldn't read and took us to the wrong ground anyway!!!!! Bugger, we were going to miss the toss!!

We eventually got there and, yes, we had missed the toss, but it didn't matter. We'd lost again and were bowling first. It was past 10 o'clock and they hadn't started the day's play yet, which was strange. Then a bunch of people appeared on the gounds and sat down. Must have been about 50 or so. I thought it was a bunch of students staging a protest of some sort. There have been a few of those in various places we've been to recently. They eventually walked off and then there were a bunch of people arguing below our stand. We had no idea what it was all about though. Eventually the game got underway and we got a few early wickets. At lunch David and Andrew went out for their usual walkabout. There were a load of people over the other side of the ground running about. Then all of a sudden they were spilling out onto the grounds. It was a bit of a worry - no one is supposed to walk on the pitch. We still had no idea what was going on. More and more green-shirt policemen appeared and they all started running in from all over the ground down to the other end. Then the fighting started. There were sticks and guns flying!! They were bashing people full-on! We couldn't believe it! The police were smashing people with the butts of their guns! Then they were all over the pitch and running into the players pavillion. They disappeared for a while then came out again sticks all over the place. I watched a woman in pink try to pull one guy out of the way but she got booted by some of the police! There were people with cameras running away and tug-o-wars between police and people going on at the players pavillion. Eventually everything seemed to calm down so play was delayed again. Amazing to see. I've only ever seen stuff like that on tv! The horrible thing was that the protesters had nothing to defend themselves with! There were a few people that had to be carried off the grounds with blood pouring out of their heads. Later we found out that a well respected older photographer had been denied access to the grounds with all his equipment in a rickshaw and was told he'd have to walk. We're not sure what happened next but we were told he was hit by the police and the other photographers and journalists were protesting about that. The police were claiming they were only maintaining order! What were the photographers going to do? Photograph them? What would the journos do? Write on them? It was ridiculous. They all left the grounds (the photos and journos) vowing not to return until the offending police had been brought to justice. I managed to get a few shots. Nothing much. David and Andrew had missed the whole thing! The match restarted with the Aussie photographer sitting all alone amongst the pile of chairs and sun-brollies scattered over the grass left from the mini-riot. We were playing much better and got Bangladesh all out for 197. In we came to bat and stayed out there for the rest of the day.

Day 2

With no promise of further riot action at the ground and not much happening in the cricket, Andrew and the boys decided to hang out in town for the day and maybe join us later. Gillespie and Jaques picked up where they had left off. Apparently it was unusual for Gillespie to bat at number 3. He usually bats at number 9 or 10. He's a bowler not a batsman so we wondered how long he would last. I was hoping a while. He's a nice guy. The sky was looking nasty behind the scoreboard and we could see lightening in the distance. Rain had threatened yesterday but had held off until the night when we were all safely tucked up in bed. Not so today. The wind started picking up and lifting the flimsy bamboo and material covers up. There was a freaky, old, skinny, freedom fighter guy that was trying to keep them down but was being lifted up with them! The thunder started and we had some rain. Then it let rip with full force! The wind was howling and tearing the covers away so we all ran for cover under the cement stairwells of the stands. Lucky for us they were cement! We all kept running out to see the destruction that the storm was enflicting upon the grounds. The thunder was so loud that the ground shook. The scoreboard was virtually blown away. The VVIP section up the very top of the players pavillion disappeared completely. Must have blown away! We could hear the bamboo supports snapping. The rain was terrential! The ground would be flooded. The boys doubted very much that play would re-start. We all ran into the players pavillion for shelter and were allowed up onto the upper floors where we watched a well known Indian sports commentator, Harsha Bogle, do a live report on the latest. He was pretty sure that would be it for the day. We saw Gilchrest coming back in from inspecting the ground and he confirmed nothing more would happen today. Not much cricket but the storm was spectacular! Nothing like a good storm!

It's funny going into the local restaurants to eat. When we go in, they always try to make us go upstairs out of the way or shove us to the back. Strange. We always resist and sit with the rest of them for a laugh. Then we have about 8 or more boys 'cleaning' the table and getting us suspect glasses of cloudy water and putting things on our table like serviettes or salt and pepper. Then we try to order something (that might take a time), all the while there will be about 4 or more boys standing around just staring with mouths agape. Sometimes I'll send David into the kitchen to see what they have. While he's gone I usually have an audience. When we finally get our food they all stand around staring in wonder. Invariably a boy will continually try to bring things over like chicken, or drinks, or yoghurt, or roti or something or other. It would be very entertaining to video the whole thing.

Day 3

The weather was good as we headed for the ground hoping for an action filled day of cricket. Gillespie was doing well and continued on. It was getting exciting! His highest score for a test match is about 51 runs I think and he was heading towards his first ever test century! The sky was clouding over again behind the scoreboard and we wondered if we were in for the same as yesterday. They were nail-biting overs as he edged closer and closer! And then he did it - hit his first test 100!! We all went wild!! Must have sounded funny, a little tiny noise coming from one side of the ground whilst the thousands of Bangers supporters looked on quietly. The rain had waited for Gillespie to make history for himself but that was it. It had ended the day's play once more. The second test would also run the full 5 days, yet again shooting down in flames the guys telling me it would all be over in 3 days. Ha! So much for cricket knowledge. But I guess no one can predict the weather or mini-riots!

It was Mel's birthday (one of the people on tour) so we were all invited to go to the poshest hotel in town for dinner. This is, coincidentally, where both cricket teams were staying. It was quite a nice dinner but the drinks were expensive. If you wanted a gin and tonic you had to buy the entire bottle of gin!!! I decided against it. We saw Gilchrest and a couple of others who stopped over to wish Mel a happy birthday and told us it was Gillespie's birthday the next day.

Day 4

As Gillespie walked out on to the pitch was all sang him 'Happy Birthday' which he acknowledged with a wave of the bat. I wondered what his tactics would now be, just swing at anything or be strategic. The guys said that anything now would be a bonus for him. They had all been yelling, 'Double it!' the day before and I wondered if he would. We needed a few more runs to make a more secure lead over Bangers. When they broke for lunch Gillespie was on 182 and we all thought Ponting would declare and send Bangers in to bat. But he didn't. Gillespie walked back onto the pitch and we all knew. He was going to let Gillespie try for his double century!!!! We were all there when he hit the final ball. 201!! We went crazy! And so did he!! What a fantastic birthday present! I can't do the match description justice, but it was a very exciting moment to witness. Not only did he get his first century, but he doubled it! An amazing achievement for a number 9 batsman batting at number 3 AND on his birthday!

Bangers now had to come in and bat again. They lost a few wickets and by the end of the day they were 195 runs behind. One more day. If they finished quickly we could go to the ship breaking yards! Lets hope!

We also farewelled Mick, Scotty, Changi Kev and Jason. They had decided to change their flights and leave tomorrow knowing that Australia would come good.

Day 5

Bangers were quite far behind and were putting in a good fight, but it wasn't good enough and we finished them off quite quickly. Jason Gillespie picked up Man of the Match and Man of the Series, and rightfully so. He was brilliant.

With all that over we had the afternoon to get out to the controversial ship breaking yards with some of the others.

There was a city-wide hartal (strike) though and there weren't that many rickshaws around. The hotel guys helped us find some, negotiate a price and off we went. Took a little while to find but we eventually got there. It looked like we weren't going to be allowed to look round but some swift talking by Pete the salesman got us in. They are quite difficult to get into and they're a bit funny about you taking photos too as it's not exactly an environmentally friendly business and also not very health and safety concious. It was amazing. The tide was out and there were a couple of half ships sitting in the mud. They were huge! It looked as if it had been cut clean in half! There were men working on it that looked like little ants. We were dwarfed by the massive hulks. The Regina looked whole and we could see little lights midway down the sides. That would be men using blow-torches to slowly slice though the metal. Everything was being dismantled by hand. There were massive propellers, chains and anchors all over the place. The guts of the ships were spread out everywhere. We walked into the next yard who weren't breaking them up but building new ones out of old bits and pieces! They weren't happy with us and told us not to take photos and to go away. So of course we took photos and walked up to inspect them. On to the next yard. We had just started walking along the rubbish strewn, oil covered shoreline when we were stopped by a couple of guys who said we couldn't go any further. We tried to talk to them but they were insistent so we followed them back to the office where Pete tried in vain to get inside. But to no avail. We went back to the one we had started in to see another whole one coming in. It would be a good few hours yet before it got there too (which we confirmed with the manager) and we couldn't wait around. Would have been great to see. They put flags up to guide the big mothers in then during high tide they drive them right up into the mud as far as possible and start work slicing them up and breaking them into little re-usable pieces. All along the road going back are shops selling all manner of things off the ships like, life jackets, clocks, ropes and loads of other ship stuff. I would have loved to stop and look around.

We had a day spare and decided to head down to Cox's Bazaar with some of the others to see what the number one seaside resort of Bangers was like. Supposedly it's low season so there won't be too many people there and I don't expect to see any tourists! I doubt very much that I'll be using my bathers down there though. They might be a little more liberal and relaxed with their musliminity here but I think a bikini is pushing it a bit!

If you would like a more detailed description of the actual days play and the build up to Dizzy's historical 201 N.O., click here for David's blow by blow account.
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