Memories of Dragon Boat Racing

Yesterday I was in Manly (Qld) as there was an Expo on outdoor activities, and I thought it would be interesting to see what was on offer.  Most of them were not for me - though some had appeal.  I remember kayaking on the Bisbane River, and falling out of the two man kayak midst some Navy ships and finding it very difficult to get back in the kayak again.  Perhaps I will do that again, but in Tingalpa Creek or similar.  The big wide river is not for me.

However, I may contemplate Dragon Boat Racing.  When in China, I had an opportunity twice to participate in racing in Dragon Boats, though they were certainly not as sophisticated as the ones at Manly. 

On the first occasion I went with two bus loads of students from a private college at which I taught - to a place called Tonglu.  We climbed up the inside of a mountain - which was quite extra ordinary to say the least, and with a waterfall inside the mountain. My Aussie companion and I, somewhat more senior to the students baulked when up towards the peak of the mountain were vertical stairs, and we went down another route to the 'safety' of the park outside.

After a rather challenging lunch in a small room near the base of the mountain, we boarded the buses and went to a river, which I think is the Fuchun River, and there was a park there.  We wandered around almost aimlessly for some time (we 'foreigners' were often given none or scant information about the activities) and soon we were ushered to the river and onto rather dilapidated Dragon Boats, given and oar and again scant information, as we became one of the crew racing along the river.

At the front of the boat someone beat the drum, and at the rear of the boat was the guy with the long oar, supposedly to guide us in the right direction.   The river was wide, but shallow, and the current was strong, but we travelled in the direction of the current, which made it easier for us.

At one stage the boat ran aground, and the other boats passed us.  Paddling in the opposite direction were large bamboo boats being returned to the park from which we had started.  I'd love to have had more time to take a leisurely look at the interesting scenery, which included concrete gun battlements facing the river and regular intervals.  Long since deserted I'd say, but somewhat discomforting.

The drums beat faster and we paddled faster, and despite our delay during the grounding, we managed to be first in the 'race' and arrived safely at the spot where the buses were then waiting for us.

On another occasion, which was in act Dragon Boat Festival in 2010, I was with a group of fellow teachers on a trip to Ningbo, and we were taken to a lake where they really were celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival - and again I became one of the crew for a short but interesting trip around the lake - again to the beating of the drum.

Now, maybe, just maybe, I will take myself down to Manly to try some Dragon Boat Racing - the boats at Manly certainly look more seaworthy than any I saw in China!


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