Friday, 24 June 2011

Busan-Hanjin Yantian in Busan (29th September)

The Elsukdo nature reserve had been one of my pre-trip discoveries and we thought we at least had to visit it while we were in Busan. It’s allegedly one of the best and most famous natural wetlands in the world (well that’s what they write in their brochure). Located on an island in the estuary of the Nakdong River it is an important site for migrating birds and winter visitors. We got the subway to Hadang and then the (1500W) bus 58-1 one stop across the river. It was hard to tell where we were allowed to walk, which we thought was because we didn’t know where the path was, but actually was because there aren’t any paths. This is the kind of conservation where you have a reserve, but you don’t really allow they people in to see it. Obviously it’s good for the birds, but it might keep people interested if they could actually see something!

We walked along the tarmac road to the end of the island seeing a lot of Great Egrets, Great Herons and Little Egrets. There were also some magpies, birds of prey and the most interesting were the suicidal fish that kept leaping out the water and walloping back into it. At the end of the road was a hide, so far from the water that you’d need a super-duper telescope to see anything. There was no other path so we just had to return back the way we came. We did get greeted enthusiastically by the people fixing the lawn mowers though and were given yet more Korean offerings (chestnuts and sweets this time) from passing cyclists. Seeing as we were there we went and had a look around the visitor centre, which was gratis and quite nice. The building wouldn’t look out of place at the Expo and at the back it was even possible to see some birds out on the water.

We then went and did some shopping for tofu, fruit, vegetables and snacks in case there’s no decent food on the freighter and all we’re offered for 11 days are potatoes (apparently they don't cater for vegetarians).

Upon returning to the hostel we were told that our man from Busan (port) had phoned twice and that is was urgent that we phoned him. Apparently the Hanjin Yantian was going to arrive earlier than expected and leave at about 10a.m. on the 30th, so we could either get up early or board today. I said we’d be willing to get on today. So we had all of one hour to pack our bags, not post our postcards, book hostels and train tickets for America, phone the parents, write some emails and do or not do anything else we had time for. At 4.30 p.m. he came and picked us up just down the road from the hostel and drove for about 40 minutes to the Busan new port. He was not a man of many words (to us) or much information. His manoeuvring skills through the freight lorries whilst laughing heartily down his mobile phone where pretty impressive though. Somewhere he stopped, took our passports with him and locked us in the van. This we were later told was to get our immigration stamp. Looked like we didn’t actually have to be present for our passports to be looked at. He then proceeded to the departure area, driving at breakneck speed and then walking almost as fast through the corridors, with us running along behind him. Here he left us in the ‘Waiting Room for Sailor’s Families’ where there was internet access and noodle making facilities (warm water).

At about 6.30p.m., with the boat due in a 7.00 p.m., another smartly attired man came to pick us up in his car. Our possessions were scattered everywhere and we hastily packed them and proceeded to chase him through the corridors to his car. With all this haste we expected to find the Hanjin Yantian docked and ready for us to board. The dock was empty but for a few men standing around and the freighter was turning around in the port. As it came closer, the dockside became a hive of activity with trucks driving everywhere and the workers getting ready to spring into further action. As the A of Hanjin pulled up next to us we realised just how huge the ship was. It took some time before the walkway was pulled to the ground through a combination of human and minivan powered effort. A man came down and the two smartly dressed men waiting bowed to him. We later came to realise that he must have been the pilot who had guided the ship in. It was then our turn to get on and we were rushed up the steep steps by rushing Korean man number two. The rail was covered in black grime and I made the bad move of looking down while going up the rickety steps. Up some more steps we came to the command room from where we were then taken with the lift to our room on deck F. The rushing Korean man with Jenny’s rucksack in tow disappeared, but Stewie the steward found it and the two were reunited.

Our accommodation in the purser cabin, the cheapest passenger cabin aboard the Hanjin Yantian, is rather salubrious by our standards. There is a living room area with television and DVD player, small fridge, telephone, radio/CD player, three lamps (that

are firmly fixed to the furniture and not going anywhere), a splendid bouquet of plastic flowers, two paintings, a sofa, a table, four chairs, a dresser and a lot more cupboards with storage space. In a drawer is an elastic cord that we can tie round all the chairs and the table when the sea gets choppy. Round the corner is our bed and next to it the bathroom with four toilet rolls, two bars of soap and a box of washing powder. There is even a nifty little pull-out washing line.

Looking out our window onto all the cargo being loaded and unloaded while in Busan was rather interesting. There were big red constructions on the dockside with arms that came to rest over the ship. A yellow thing, similar to those grabbers you find at amusement arcades, would zip along the arm and move the containers one by one onto the waiting lorries. If the amusement arcade models were as good precision tools as this grabber there would be a lot of pink panthers and fluffy piggies in the world. Right in front of us the containers were being taken off and there were a lot of them. When they’d emptied up to the level of the floor we’d entered on we thought they were finished, but then they just lifted the floor off, stored it on the dockside and continued to pull out even more containers below. They had been stacked 8 deep below the floor and 7 above. And that’s just one column of a row of 16 and there are about 48 of these rows.

Sometime in the evening Martin, who was given the task of looking after our safety and getting us to fill in paperwork, came to our room to talk to us about safety procedures. We were each given a lifejacket and a red teletubbie-like suit, which keeps you warm in an emergency. At some point we’ll have to try these on and take a few amusing pictures. The lifejackets are equipped with small flashing lights and whistles, which we have been informed are of little use when you’re a small floating object in the middle of the vast Pacific.

No comments:

Post a Comment