Monkey Boating

Monkey Boating

Karachi is a port city, and due to its proximity to the ocean, there is a traditional maritime leisure activity that occasionally folk will partake in. It’s called Bandar Boating, which though literally translated means Monkey Boating involves no monkeys so I have no idea how the name came about. The beginning of the excursion requires actually making your way to the port. From my house, you drive for about an hour through the industrialized and developed main road called Shara-e-Faisal that runs almost the length of the city, into the smoggy and impoverished sections that smell of animal waste and rotten fruit, down through the truckyards (which are a sight to see) till you finally get to the port. You find a place to park among the horse carts, the rickshaws, and the poor smelly men who are each trying to get you to rent their boat, trying to entice you with luxuries like fluorescent plastic seat covers, and shiny silver ornaments. Rarely does it actually matter which boat you pick since they are essentially all the same. Not in a prejudiced, “all boats look the same” kind of way but in the realistic “all of these boats really do look the same” way. Once you have parked your car and picked your boat you have to cross an ocean of boats.

This is no small feat. First one walks down a set of wooden stairs that are usually completely submerged during high tide that were ancient and decrepit when I was five, and have been falling apart since way before that. Then you walk across each boat, looking down foolishly as you do so to make sure you don’t actually fall in to the water. In the areas near the rickety stairwell you can see the floating remains of dead rats, plastic bags, and you can see glass bottles somewhere below the surface. You can also smell the stink from the rotting corpses of fish and other assorted sea creatures.

So now you have traversed the ocean (no pun intended) of boats and reached the one that will carry you out in to the Arabian Sea to begin your crabbing excursion. The smelly men get on the boats with you and bring an assortment of masala’s (spices), soda, and food with them (it’s always best to bring your own food along on these trips) and then at along last you shove off. You have a leisurely time on the ocean till you get past the oily surface of the harbour, the nuclear warships on your left belong to the US by the way, and the big lobster boat at the edge of the port is actually customs, where they drag in any unidentified boat and search it.

Once you leave the warships and the like behind, its time to crab. The bait is hooked on to a nylon string and then you toss the line in to the water. Same way as fishing (at least that’s how I imagine fishing is done). You sit and wait till you feel a tug, you pull it up, and lo! You have a crab. There is nothing quite like seeing this bug wriggling while you try and bring it up. It’s not like a fish, because it has 6 legs. Here is where it gets interesting. You give the line and the crab to your boat owner, who promptly throws it back in the water.

You might wonder why he does this. Well if you look out in to the water and you will see. The water is green and brown for about an inch below the surface. After that inch it doesn’t matter what colour the water is because it’s so black and filthy you couldn’t see anything anyway. You don’t want to be eating those crabs. Once the visitors have had their fill of catching crabs they can’t eat, the fishermen pull out a cooler of crabs that you can eat, and cook those instead. All in all, crabbing is a pointless exercise, but it’s kind of like fox hunting I guess.

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