Life Life

07/03/2019 - 07:34

The conqueror of rock rapids on the Huong River

Several decades in the waterway profession, from a fisherman to a crew member of a tourist boat, have helped Mr. Nguyen Van Phu (66 years old, Phu Hau ward, Hue City) conquer and transform rock rapids, creating a clear waterway on the Huong River.

"Conquering" rock rapids

From drops of water sourced from the Truong Son range, the Huong River flows through rapids from the upstream to become the smooth flowing water when crossing the city. In contrast with the gentle moving downstream flow, in the mountainous areas of Ta Trach and Huu Trach, the river becomes fierce every big water season.

Mr. Nguyen Van Phu with several decades in the profession of sailing on the Huong River

As a son in a fishermen household, when he was just ten years old and no taller than the boat side, Mr. Nguyen Van Phu had followed his parents to the Huong River to make a living, fishing by the Sinh junction. In 1991, he "escaped" the river and followed a mechanical apprenticeship in Quang Tri.

Returning to his hometown, he imagined a job as a boat mechanic, living onshore. However, fate brought him back to the river when dozens of fishermen asked him to repair their boats. 

In 1995, he and 17 crew members - who were boat dwellers, established an initial tourist boat group on the Huong River in which he was the leader. Seventeen fishing boats were converted into tourist boats, meeting all waterway safety criteria required at the time. Crew members were also trained in waterway certification. From here, the fate on the river once again "tangled" him in.

Sitting on Toa Kham tourist boat dock (Hue City) waiting for visitors, Mr. Phu took us down memory lane where he and his boatmen conquered rocky rapids on the upper part of the Huong River, creating smooth waterways for later tourist boats. He said: "At that time, my livelihood was difficult. I joined the first tourist boat team, but we would often sail to the upper reaches of Huu Trach and Ta Trach to buy thanh tra pomelos to trade.” Sometimes his fleet was also hired to transport agricultural products to merchants in the lowlands of Phu Thuong and Phu Duong from the "upper region".

After many years of sailing, the Huong River has become his second "home". Each time he passes through a river section, he remembers the water, rapids and waterfalls like taking things from the family cabinet! Mr. Phu shared: “If you are sailing on the river, if the wind blows to the north, you must take the boat to the north of the river and vice versa. Following the wind, it will be difficult for the boat to capsize in the water. When going upstream, the boatmen are most afraid of the boats capsizing and broken propellers. Therefore, if we take the boat along the mountain, we must follow the mountain bank, not to run into the other side of the river where trees touch the water. These areas are full of rocks and boats can be capsized and get stranded. "

Sailing on the Huong River, the scariest section is the section passing Thac Ong, Ong Chin Thuong Ngan temple. This was the "black spot" of waterway accidents in the 90s of the last century. Mr. Phu recalled, once his boat carried 10 people to the temple on the upstream area and was stranded. The boat nearly capsized in this area. In this same place, his boat’s propeller broke many times due to hitting rock rapids.

Being good at diving, he and some of the crew in the boat dived into the river bottom, surveyed rock rapids, and "mapped" the waterways diagrams of these areas. He passed the maps to other boatmen and merchants who often traded on the river to avoid the rocks. In unavoidable areas, they chiseled the rocks away, extending the waterways for the boats to pass.

"Eyes and ears" of the waterway

Though almost 70, Mr. Phu is still very sharp-eyed!  He still knows the Huong River like the palm of his hands. Currently, his family owns 3 single dragon boats belonging to Hue River Transport Cooperative.

Mr. Phu's wife is also a "tour guide" on the waterway

"Ghost diving" talent

In addition to the "eyes and ears" of the waterway, Mr. Nguyen Van Phu also has a special talent called "ghost diving " (diving to find the body of the dead in the river). Sometimes he did this work completely voluntarily, bringing dead bodies to their family. Mr. Phu has saved dozens of people who unfortunately slipped into the river, taking back the lives for victims from the “water god’s” hands!

The fate on the river continued to turn him into the "eyes and ears" of the river when he continuously helped the Provincial Inland Waterway Management Section (now the Provincial Inland Waterway Joint Stock Company) to detect and handle obstacles on the river road. Those are the "miracles" that are also beautiful memories in him.

In early 2018, during a boat trip carrying tourists on the Huong River, he discovered a system of metal oil pipes "rising" up on top of the water after the flood in the area near Tuan Bridge (Huong Tho commune, Huong Tra Town).

It was determined that this was an oil pipe from the war against the US. Since its appearance, it had caused danger to ships and boats in this area when they hit this pipe. Not afraid of the danger, Mr. Phu sailed to the area and dived to survey. Shortly thereafter, he reported to the authorities to work out a treatment plan, ensuring safety for boats and ships passing through this area.

Recently, from his discovery, the Provincial Inland Waterway Management Section hired him and other boatmen to dive and survey to remove rocks submerged under the river section through Huong Ho and Huong Tho communes (Huong Tra Town). Mr. Phu recalled: “At that time, there were many boats coming from other places to operate on the river but not being familiar with the waters, many boat owners suffered damage when going through Huong Ho and Huong Tho areas due to the propellers hitting the rocky obstacles in the river. These rocks are sometimes located in shallow water areas but sometimes lie underneath in the area of dark green water "fooling" boat owners. After chiseling away these rocks, boats can cross safer.

In the years 1989 - 1995, Mr. Phu continued to help authorities to deal with and dismantle many cement poles, old bridge foundations on the upstream Huong river area. Also from his discovery and "advice", the authorities have put up many signs and floating buoys in the waterway sections to help keep the boatmen alert and operate more safely on the waterway of the Huong River.

Now, Mr. Phu and his wife Le Thi Xuan become "guides" on the waterway of the most beautiful river in the country. Tourists are often surprised when they see two old people speaking English "like the wind" in the process of transporting tourists from the Toa Kham boat dock to the tomb area in the upstream area.

Due to the particularity of the tourist boat occupation, he no longer transports passengers to the area with many rocky rapids. However, the inhabitants of the Huong River always remember what he contributed to the waterway on the river! Operating tourist boats for tourists helps his family earn about 300-400 thousand VND/day. More importantly, he is allowed to continue his career on the water, satisfying the passion for conquering the waterway.

"Recently, the unit has been collaborating with boat owners, captains, leaders of the Waterway Transport Cooperative to get information in order to have a timely solution for arising problems on the safety of the inland waterways managed by the unit. The entire waterway of the Huong River is 34km long through the area which has been fully posted with warning signs, prohibition of parking signs, prohibition of sand exploitation signs, and signs showing shallow channels ... These signs were approved by the Vietnam Inland Waterway Department (Ministry of Transport). This was done with the important contribution of “information collaborators” such as Mr. Nguyen Van Phu,” said Mr. Le Viet Tra, Head of Technical Department - Inland Waterway Joint Stock Company.

Story and photos: Ha Nguyen

 

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