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We were at Club Nautique again last Saturday for their Muleta Regatta, but it turned out to be much more than that, it was a celebration of tradition.  This was a day of races in boats that worked this river for centuries, bringing goods from the sea up into the heart of Northern Spain. These are the traditional working costumes of the Sirgadoors, the men who pulled the Muletas up river.

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The Muletas are the original boats that worked the river.  They were moved along with oars made from  timber which have handles carved into one end and flats carved on the other.  If you look closely at the boats you will see there are posts on the gunwales these are what the oars are tied to so they can be rowed.

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We were treated to a demonstration of Muleta towing. As you can see this was hard work even with the Muleta being rowed, but men had to do it as in some places along the river the path was so narrow only men could walk. Their ancestors used Concha horns to let other river users know they were either towing up river or rowing down, there are places along the Ebre between the mountains where these horns must have echoed loud and clear for several kilometers.

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People often forget that for many many years the Rio Ebre was a major trading artery. If you take a look on every high point along it’s route you can find the ruins of Templer castles like the one at Miravet. Eventually the Templars became rich enough to tempt Popes and Kings to take it from them.  However, the people who actually generated this wealth were the Sirgadoors, who as they dragged the cargo boats up the Ebre against the fierce flow, paid taxes to these Knights for safe passage.

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It also used to flood quite regularly, but today the river has been tamed. Dams and weirs have been built with hydro and nuclear power stations along its banks.  Where it flows past Club Nautique there are quiet back eddies where the fishermen sit watching their lines waiting for the catfish or carp dreaming of the big one. On the bank Club Nautique sets out its tables and chairs so we can enjoy the summer and watch the young people training and making preparations for their regattas.

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We arrived to find the club a hive of activity, boats being made ready, people picking their tables whilst others were chatting to friends. looking up the road we could see people sitting on the river wall watching the events unfold. I managed to find a table at the top of the slope leading down to the hard, from here we could see everything which was perfect. As we looked around we could see there were chairs set out on the hard over looking the pontoon. These were ready for the arrival of the Carnival Prince and Princess, and the band which accompanied them. This band is made up of young people and they really can play.

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They arrived walking down the street wearing their traditional dress and followed by the band playing and took their places on the hard with the young band seated behind them. This was a relaxed event and everyone settled down to enjoy themselves.  The band played at the beginning of each race to send the boats on their way down river to the bridge where they turned then raced back again.

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Then we settled down to watch the races.  The boats set off from the club and had to row down to the bridge turn and row back against the flow.  They had a really hard job of it but everyone  enjoyed themselves.  Here are the start of the races and some of the boats.

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They ended the regatta with watermelons  being thrown into the river and the youngsters swimming for them.

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The ambulance actually had a customer he had hurt his wrist and all the police had to do was watch and enjoy, such a nice day.

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As always at this club people enjoy themselves. It is a club that is family orientated with activities for all ages.  There is a football area, a small swimming pool besides the sailing.  Looking after us all this weekend were these tired but happy people.

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Oh and this young man was still working after the event and yes that is a happy smile on his face, wonderful.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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Horns In Paradise

Horns in Paradise

I was sitting on a beach in North Goa, pure white sand, glorious sunshine the Arabian Sea spread out before me. Walking towards me were some women selling fruit, baskets on their heads. I ended up buying a whole water melon, not that I wanted it all but that’s the way it goes in some places. As I hacked at it digging out chunks, a delight in the sunshine juice running down my face and through my fingers, I was suddenly aware of movement close by.

Looking up I was face to face with a herd of cows. Large eyes staring with even larger horns making an intimidating sight. Not exactly small creatures, something I had not considered when buying the water melon. Eyes were staring at me from all sides as I continued eating, who would blink first?

Surely I am more intelligent than a cow? but those horns were big. By now I had eaten several pieces and a plan formed. I threw a piece of rind and some of the cows chased after it, success! So the remaining pieces were thrown along the beach cows scattering in all directions.

A quick movement of the towel covered the remnants of the water melon. Now it was hidden the cows wandered aimlessly looking for food. Which goes to show that even in paradise there are things with horns.

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