Written on Sunday 19th of February
Paper work done for entry into China for the first time, I can sit back and relax as we speed through islands from Hong Kong to She Kou on the ferry.
The first thing I notice are the families out on the water fishing in small, open boats. Spaced about 100m apart, these small groups of men and women are managing several lines, gutting the fish they’ve caught and baiting more lines in a silent but well practiced choreography. Those fish will be supper tonight for many.
The ferry is very quiet despite its obvious power. We are making over 40 knots and the twin hulls seem to be slicing through without effort. The water is calm today but there is a little rolling from time to time. The service is spartan, with a cup of tea or cola being my choices. But the cabins are comfortable and nicely appointed. The rich red and gold fabrics of first class hint at luck, and opulence. This ferry also serves the casinos of Macao. In economy the blue and white tells of cleanliness.
Seeing the container ports that monopolize the coastline makes me think of all the laden vessels I watch enter San Francisco harbor that originated here. The familiar and ubiquitous COSCO is not so prevalent here but OCL is. But what is a real surprise is the astonishing variety and antiquity of the ships. Most are working vessels loaded with dry cargo, some have containers stacked on their decks taking them to or from the mother ship. Several ferries pass and ours bobs once, the twice as it skips over the wake.
There are some much loved and prized rust buckets in these waters. Some have the recognizable shape of the Chinese junk with its flat stern and scooped up bow. Some are so low in the water you’d think they’d be swamped by our wake but they trundle along and never give our sleek modern craft a second look.
As we get closer to the mainland the industry and the maritime thins out and I can see rocky and barren hills. But every now and then some fisherman in his favorite spot, a telecommunications tower on a hill or a maritime marker reminds me that we are not too far from civilization.
Fresh hot water for my tea is delivered. The tea has harsh tannins and is made of whole, fresh leaves. Despite the curious numbing effect it has on my tongue, it is pleasant.
A flock of seagulls struggles to keep up with us and quickly gives up the chase. I look back and they are inspecting our wake in case we brought up something interesting for their lunch.
I see the first marker buoy indicating our path to the dock. It is green and on the right. At home I am used to red-right-returning but in the rest of the world it is green-right-returning. We slow and silently approach our berth. In the near distance the mainland and the sprawling new city of She Kou.
Our journey’s end.