Friday 13 January. Indian officials announce the start of the world’s longest river cruise, from Varanasi to Assam via Kolkata. Environmentalists have condemned the move, arguing that increased river traffic threatens the rare Gangetic dolphin. The first time I saw one was when crossing the Ganges at Varanasi. Looking back I am not too sure why I ever started that swim. It was almost twenty-five years ago and even then the river was utterly filthy. Dead animals and humans floated downstream alongside rafts of vegetation that were tangled with rubbish. I had arranged for a boatman to row alongside in case I lost my nerve, but he was drunk by the time we left and our paths soon diverged. I began at Assi Ghat, upriver from the burning ghats, and did a rather upright breaststroke, my mouth and nose well clear of the water. It happened when I was about halfway across: a sudden disturbance of the surface dead ahead, then a pinkish grey dome appeared, a long toothy snout. The vision lasted less than a second and it did not reappear.
I actually appreciate being urged to look at a map.
I ways imagined you swimming front crawl for some reason! I'm relieved to read that you did your best to keep your head up :-)
I've never met a Ganges dolphin, but I've met a few cousins of theirs on the Indus back in the day. Likewise blind, they frolicked around our rowing boat like newborn lambs. Sweet and sociable and in danger of extinction, sadly. The Pakistanis don't use the Indus as a crematorium, but it a favoured storm drain for the country, awash with plastic detritus - and has the dubious distinction of being the second greatest source of riverine pollution in Asia, I read somewhere... Tony Wild
Blimey Kevin. Swimming across the Ganges was a brave venture. I always connect it to death for obvious reasons, though also because I once ended up there when my plane did an emergency landing because some ducks had flown into the engine and caught fire!
Glad you are recovered. Greetings from Suffolk, where I’ve just read the piece in the Guardian about the River Dolphins.