Not the southern ocean but I got my head underneath it.
First plan: drive to Cape Paterson or somewhere remote and beachy. Second plan: train and bus to Airey’s Inlet. Third plan: public transport to somewhere east-side of the bay. Final plan: train to Williamstown Beach, just down the road. Deep, clar blue sky, hot sun, slight breeze from the south, cool water and getting my head in it. Falling asleep on the sand. Best plan.
Friday morning, perhaps the last hot day of summer after a week of proper heat and sun, David & I plus bikes meet at Alexander Platz, half an hour S-Bahn to the Dandenong of Berlin, Spandau, and bike south.
We get out of town quick, along side streets, past some farmers, and arrive at the Havel. From the opposite site I’m used to seeing it. There’s Grunwaldturm and the low hills of the forest across a glare of water. Along the shore for half the length, then inland past well posh houses, entirely around Groß Glienicker See, then into the water, swimming off the dust and heat.
Lunch, then on further along perfect fast trails through Königswald, around most of Sacrower See, and more swimming. We have time for the ferry (about 250 metres of cross-Havel distance works out to quite a few euros per kilometre), so stop in the Romanesque Revival basilika of Heilandskirche am Port von Sacrow.
More riding through Schösser and Gärten and Jägerhöfe, Wirtshäuser, through Park Babelsberg, and suddenly at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof and home in time for dinner.
I would swim underwater until my breath was nearly exhausted and then float, a calm, prickly and weightless silence and for a moment, with frantic pull of exertion gone, I would perhaps sink a little and my flesh would relax, become limp, I could feel the pressure of blood on its way through arteries and the gentle encompassing squeeze of the water, it was a pleasure to be like this, holding as long as possible before the uprush to the surface and the world.
The last couple of weeks have been this in form, but there is no feeling and a void beneath … I thought had been sealed, or was a far distance away, or at least I wouldn’t knowingly place myself near.
Walking home on Saturday, I glimpsed this and … well of course I smiled and wished I’d seen it ablaze.
Just to say I miss you all and wish it wasn’t like this and I hope I can come back to you.
Once, hanging out down on Shamian Island, and wanting to be, I dunno, somewhere less touristy, I saw Chairman Mao swimming across the Chang Jiang, or his old, slightly chubby and balding dog-paddling brother doing laps beside the embankment in the yellow soup of the Pearl River and cargo tugs leaving slippery rainbows of oil in the main channel. Either way, it was one of those supremely weird moments that I have to steadfastly convince myself actually happened.
And last year, there was lots of 100 year old black goo being dredged by rubber-wader clad midnight shift workers along the canals around town, and cleanness and river grasses and reeds sprouting along the bends. I would think that if it was all cleaned up and the air was not a viscous miasma, Guangzhou, the Banyan trees draping over the waterways, would be one beautiful city.
In Zürich hanging out in the Limmat in the evenings was almost unavoidable, though it was only a couple of decades ago that river was a toxic sludge dump too, I’m kinda tempted to throw on my bikini and do a couple of laps, but let’s just remember we’re planning on swimming in a river downstream from Shaoguan.
“We are going to initiate about 10,000 residents to join in the activity.”
Since the number of swimmers is so large, people will swim for only 20 minutes, and the whole activity will last 2 hours, according to Chen Zhongming, the director of Guangzhou’s Water Sports Centre.
From the late 1990s, reducing and controlling the environment pollution to Pearl River has become a key task of governments of provincial and municipal levels.
Guangzhou has 231 channels connecting with Pearl River, with a total length of 913 kilometres.
Local governments spent 9.5 billion yuan (US$1.17 billion) into reducing and controlling sewage discharge into the channels last year. Another 18 billion yuan (US$2.2 billion) will be added to the cost this year.
According to environmental guidelines, more than 90 per cent of the channels should be sewage-free by 2010.
“The last time I swam in the river was three decades ago,” Huang Zhenqiu, a retired government official in Guangzhou, said.