Wednesday, February 27, 2008

February 28, Paddling the Huangpu River

Last week I made a paddling excursion on the Huangpu river (a very small part of it) not far from Shanghai, China.

Chinese regulations can be confusing. Before heading out our Chinese lawyer had investigated the matter of paddling the Huangpu River. Her finding was that “it is not illegal”. But in the next breath she added: “but it is not legal either”. Ok. I deemed it confusing enough not to worry about it.
Joakim, Leif, me and Ulrika
Joining me on the excursion were three Swedish paddlers. Ulrika Larsson, well known Swedish paddling personality, who recently paddled the Swedish coastline “the Sea kayakers blue ribbon”. A 2500km/ 1500 mile two month undertaking with very challenging conditions at times. Ulrika is also one half of Swedish paddling outfitter and retailer Upplevelsebolaget. Her partner in life and business, Joakim Hermansson, an avid adventurer as well, also took part in the fun.
The final member of our little excursion, Leif Davidsson, a kayak instructor, professional photographer and owner of south Swedens leading paddling outlet and retailer, KajakEvent.
The Huangpu river connects Shanghai and Hangzhou, said to be the most beautiful city in China. Well, I did not paddle the 150 km to Hangzhou but instead opted for a day paddle exploring the side rivers of the mighty Huangpu.
Leif in a Point 65 X-Ray

Our kayaks and gear was loaded on a beaten up old truck and we followed in our car. Our Chinese manager had chosen the launching spot with great care so we were a bit surprised when we arrived at the spot.
Ulrika paddling the new Point 65 Whisky 16
The main Huangpu River is a super highway for huge barges carting mostly sand down the river. Were we launched is the spot were the barges anchor and reload their cargo into smaller barges that ferry the sand directly to the concrete factories just outside the booming metropolis of Shanghai.

Not exactly what we had in mind but once on the water we entered a fascinating new world. There were literally hundreds, if not over a thousand barges lined up for mile after mile in the middle of the river, creating a floating society with crews typically consisting of the captain, his wife and child and one or two crew members. Paddling along the never ending row of barges these people were stunned to see our alien crafts and hurried to the reeling to watch us go by, waving and smiling.
Leif edging the new Point 65 Whisky 16 designed by Nigel Foster

After a quick picnic on an island we decided to take a smaller side river and paddle away from this bustling water world. Ulrika, Joakim and Leif took turns paddling our latest model, the Point 65 Whisky 16 designed by Nigel Foster.

A few strokes and we suddenly found our selves in the total calmative world of rural china with fields and small villages lining the river. As the day started to come to an end on the maze of rivers we headed into a village and beached the kayaks.
Joakim under the bridge
Immediately a group of residents surrounded the small inlet, pointing and laughing. Pretty soon a young woman materialized who spoke perfect English. She helped us get hold of the truck and explain to the driver were he could find us.
Ulrika chatting with Iris, who became our newest recruit
This was not an easy task as we had managed to paddle into the neighbouring district with which the driver was not at all familiar. Iris, as her name was, impressed us by the way she solved the problem and her general attitude and helpfulness.
In the village centre having a beer while waiting for the truck
During the hour or so wait for the truck we got to know her better. As she was a bachelor degree in human resources and financials, a position we are currently trying to fill, I hired her for our Chinese subsidiary. A great ending of a great day!
Local fishmonger

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