but we couldn't miss the rusty old orange paddle boat amongst the other ferries. We made it through the hustle and bustle to board the boat and are directed to the top front of the boat, as naturally we are traveling first class. But luxury it ain't, though it does look like heaven compared to deck class. Our section of the boat consists our a long wide hall with a table running along it, topped with a filthy cloth (this is the dining room).
The cabins run off this so-called dining room, ours being at the front of the boat.
Inside it has two narrow beds, two small windows, two small fans and a sink. Later we discover the cracks in the floor boards will admit our nighttime guests - a colony of positively man-sized cockroaches!
The front of the boat has chairs set out for river watching. A placard above proudly states that the boat was built in 1925, not overly reassuring!
Before the boat leaves the dock we're just about hypnotised by the coming and going of various sized vessels You can hardly see the river for the boats on its surface, the smaller ones dangerously dashing amongst the bigger.
We're soon introduced to the loudest and most grating sound in the universe, the Rocket's blasting horn, a sound that we will hear a lot of over the next day and a bit. As the boat reverses, by way of the paddle, we churn up the putrid waters of the Buriganga River and an indescribable smell rises around us. I feel like I'm trapped inside a giant rotting egg. Even the Bangladeshis look horrified and cover their noses.
We have brought our own supply of food, much to the chagrin of our weasel-faced steward (another mouth ruined by betel nut). He spends the rest of the trip concerned that I'm starving to death because I refuse to partake of any of the delightful cuisine on offer. Tim bravely embarks on a breakfast and a dinner - he was able to identify chicken fat, carp fish and something that resembled crow meat. Mmmmmmmm. Meanwhile, I stick to handfuls of muesli and biscuits thank-you-very-much! We even have a little element for boiling water and making tea in our cabin with bottled water - just as well judging by the oily brown water that is coming out of the taps.
I spend a good part of the night annihilating as many roaches as possible with my flip flop. Eventually I go to sleep completely encased in my trusty silk sleep bag, with the top twisted around my head. Roaches are always more active once the lights go out and I can't banish the image of a roach scuttling across my face and drinking from the corner of my mouth!
We wake to the crashing, banging and that damn blasting horn in the morning. The boat docks quite regularly during the day and each time there is a mass exodus from the boat. We notice quite a lot of sick people being helped off, as well as a dead body (covered thankfully) on a stretcher. We pass through pretty rural areas, the bank crammed with tropical foliage. We're also lucky enough to spot quite a few river dolphins, slowly surfacing near the banks as we pass.
Our cabin, being at the top of boat heats up like an oven, and by the afternoon we're just about expiring with the heat. It's all we can do to turn the pages of our books! We see an amazing hot pink sunset and soon after the enormous moon rises in polluted haze of orange. We finally arrive at our destination at midnight, making it a 30 hour trip in all. We walk the planks, dodging an eager child who spends a good ten minutes bouncing around us shouting 'Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello....'. Not what you need when you arrive at midnight at a dark Bangladeshi dock (the power, as usual, is out). I was tempted to throttle the child, but discreetly hissed at him instead. The comedy of errors continues when the rickshaw takes us to the wrong hotel and then when we make it to the right hotel the lift is broken so we have to lug our packs up to the 6th floor. We opt for the 'deluxe' hotel room for the next two nights and sleep like babies!
Our sole sight seeing experience in Khulna Division was a visit to a small area in the countryside that is World Heritage listed (called Bagerhat). Getting there involves a cycle rickshaw ride, a boat, a local bus and another cycle rickshaw - but that's how sightseeing is in Bangladesh. The bus ride was along what can hardly be described as a road - the bus wallah had to use a bamboo pole to life overhead wires as we passed through villages. What was supposed to be a 25km journey turned into something more epic and soon, as torrential rain comes down, the bus is also spring leaks. We make a new friend (an 18 year old student) on the bus who, of course, asks all the usual probing questions and points out to us in all innocence (like so many other people we have met here) that Bangladesh is a poor and over-populated country. Having found out through his careful interrogation that I'm a teacher, he shows me his English textbook from college. The English in the book is like something from imperialist days full of stilted, over-formal language and antiquated words. Unfortunately, it is also riddled with errors which make it sound like mumbo jumbo. It's no wonder that English-speaking Bangladeshis have such an odd turn of phrase.
We eventually arrive at our destination and are greeted with the sight of the ancient 60 domed mosque. We took a cycle rickshaw through some lovely villages in the surrounding countryside to visit some of the other mosques in the area,
as well as a tomb of a heroic sufi mystique (Khan Jahan) who lived in the area (despite being appropriately dressed I am refused entry and Tim had to pay 'boksheesh' to 3 different guys for the privilege of entry!). Getting home entailed waiting on the highway for a bus, with the usual horde of starers encamped around us. Another helper came to our rescue in the shape of a rather eccentric looking man with a henna-red beard who spoke to us in bursting shouts. He entreated us to 'Please trust me. I will direct you to Khulna' and bustled us onto a bus, then onto another one (this one is easily the most wrecked vehicle I have ever seen, the interior made up of pieces of jagged metal and the seats completely caved in). He spent the journey asking us questions and interpreting our answers into Bangla for the other passengers.
We set off for Saderghat, the port where the Rocket Steamer (a paddle boat) departs from, wondering what the 30 hour journey ahead would have in store for us. The port absolute teems with people,