Sunday, February 28, 2016

Life on Inle Lake. Fisherman and Floating Gardens.



Today was full of very interesting sights. It was our opportunity to see how the Intha people live and work and how Inle Lake sustains them.  We really enjoyed ourselves.

The day began chilly and cloudy and we all dressed accordingly except for Bro who decided it wasn't worth putting shoes on to traipse around the lake so he borrowed a pair of flip flops from our bathroom.

Our day began with the usual - breakfast in the hotel restaurant.

She's dressed for cold weather and he for warm.  Are we in the same place?? :-)

Even though we had a long day ahead of us, Polo didn't feel the need for an early start so we met him in the lobby at 9a.  We then took the short walk to the boat dock.  All the places we would be visiting today would be in and around the lake so getting around by boat makes the most sense.


We had the same boat captain as yesterday.  We were happy to see him and he greeted us with a big smile.  I got in the front seat without even thinking so I made a mental note to offer the seat to the other two as well.  You can't deny the front seat has a better view.

With help from a young dock hand, we pushed off!


Hello!!  Mingalbar!!  Everyone gets around by long boat here.


Nyaung Shwe is located just a few kilometers from the lake so it's not a long ride to get there.


As was the case yesterday, there a lot of activity on the water.   Our ever so considerate boat captain would slow down as we approached boats in part to allow us to take photos and in part to minimize disruption to the water.  You don't want to scare away the fish for the hardworking men on the boats.

Fishermen were everywhere.



How does he keep his balance?

We asked Polo what the round rattan cages were used to catch.  Shrimp catchers were not as common a sight as the fishermen but they were pulling in catches.





Men catching food on a lake is not an unusual sight but seeing boats filled with me pulling up lake weed was.




We had no idea what the stuff was going to be used for until later.  It's very interesting.

Some boats were so laden with the weed, you could barely make out the outline of the boat.  I can imagine this is really back breaking work as a rake full of wet plant must weigh quite a bit.





It wasn't until we passed by a boat where it was obvious that it was in the early stages of being filled with weed that we realized how much of the stuff the earlier boats, that we had passed by, were carrying.






We even passed one lone man hauling up the weed all by himself.  What a job!




I was really surprised at how much weed was being pulled up.  I guess the shallowness of the lake allows enough light to penetrate to the bottom that plenty of plant life grows.  It's another way the lake sustains human life!

From the open waters of the lake, our captain navigated the boat down a smaller channel.  It wasn't the same one as we boated along yesterday from Tone Lé but the surroundings looked very similar. 


We once again saw the tall, thin bamboo poles sticking up from what we thought was ground. 



Well, it is ground but it's not ground as you and I would automatically think of.  Looking closely, we could see vegetable plants but then we also saw people on boats next to the plants.


Polo had the captain stop the boat so he could explain to us exactly what we were looking at.  The green stuff on the surface are vegetables and flowers.  They are growing on mats of dirt that are a result of the composting of layers upon layers of lake weed.  The weed is anchored around each bamboo pole and over time, it becomes a *pad* of arable dirt. Essentially, what were seeing were floating gardens - plants being grown hydroponically.


Channels of water separate the rows of floating dirt and the farmers do their planting and weeding while on a small wooden boat.



We saw patches of flowers growing along with a variety of vegetables.


The tomatoes were easy to spot because of the trellises that had been built to support them.  



We watched one farmer adding new weed to an existing pad while another farmer was working the same pad.


What's also interesting is that the pads of dirt can be moved around simply by pulling up the bamboo pole so a farmer can reconfigure his floating garden as might be needed.



According to Polo, the pads of floating dirt can be more than a meter deep.  We were all curious if they could support the weight of a human and so our boat captain decided to give us a demonstration.



Ayşe was especially curious about what the pad of floating dirt felt like so she took off her shoes and carefully made her way around one.




All three of us love to garden so seeing the floating gardens was especially interesting to us.  We would loved to have spent more time seeing more of them but we have a full day ahead of us so on we went to our first landmark.