Thursday, October 16, 2014

October 16, 2014 - So, what really is a canoe?

(Frank Gresh) You have probably read in several of our posts we talk about canoes. We throw the term around a lot, but as you read this in the US, you probably have no context for what it is we’re talking about.

So, canoe can mean many things here in the Congo. I have seen canoes as short as five or six feet, and some as long 40 or 50 feet. Some are sleek and ride close to the water line and move along close to the shore pretty quickly. The larger ones are probably big enough for an Atlantic crossing, well not really, but the can carry lots of people and stuff wherever it needs to go along the river.

Now, the really neat thing we have seen is when one canoe is good, more is better. As we mentioned elsewhere we took a trip on the hospital boat; which is a thing of beauty! They took three long canoes (40 footers), bound them together, and built a small two room building on top of that platform.

The canoe supermarkets are pretty cool too. We noticed our first one a week ago. These are floating barges built from canoes of all sizes. The canoes are strapped together and thatched tent-like structures built on top of a platform. They sail these down the river to a canoe marketplace.

It can take up to six months for the largest canoes to be built; smaller ones take less time. They are all built way up river, where the forest is lush with trees that are best suited for canoe construction. How do they build them you ask? They are each built from one log of a tree, dug out to meet the needs. As you look at our pictures, pay special attention to the canoes in the picture, they really are a very essential element to the life of the Congolese along the river.

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