22 May 2017

On the River Road

After a somewhat disappointing time in New Iberia we headed north up the Mississippi to the old river port of Natchez.
New Iberia to Natchez can be straightforward-just take the Interstates. I did not come to see Lousiana from an interstate I wanted to take the river road cross country.
It was not straightforward. Firstly I missed the exit off the interstate and then ignored the GPS's pleas "to turn around when possible". Soon I was completely lost in open country with no visiblity of buildings,people or any other traffic and a GPS which was having a silent sulk. I had to resort to Google maps on my phone and was really surprised to get a strong signal so far off a main highway.
Soon I had found my bearings and enjoyed a long run through glorious open country and beside the levees of the Mississippi. The scale of the dams, locks and sluice gates and earthworks along this lower stretch of the river is extraordinary. Most were constructed in the 1930's after the great flood of 1927. The cost must have been enormous. Not much chance of getting that sort of expenditure approved by the Senate in today's America.
The country is very flat farmland given over to growing cotton and cereals. One hundred years ago the area would have been full of people - former slaves or descendants of slaves who worked the cotton fields. Now they have all but gone. The great flood of 1927 displaced many and they went north to the booming factories for work. Then in the second world war many more moved north to work in the munitions factories and at the same time mechanisation changed the cotton industry.
Today the landscape is littered with abandoned homes and churches. The few very smart homes you can see are those of the farm managers who run the farms for the corporate owners.
There was very little traffic on the excellent roads although I did come across some seriously big farm machinery moving between paddocks.

Jesus did not save. An abandoned baptist church.

A family once lived here-cotton pickers.
Blowing in the wind-windswept road . The delta is flat and featureless.

We arrived in Natchez at around midday and soon found that despite the enthusiasm of the guidebook this is another town where its best days are way behind it. The main streets have a melancholy air and many shops are shut-for good. However we found a great cafe for lunch and I had a plate of gumbo and an excellent local pale ale.
During its halcyon days Natchez was a major river port and the commercial centre of the south where boats discharged goods bought from up north and loaded cotton for shipment back up the river. Now river cruise boats are the main source of tourists.
The faded romance and history of the old river towns cannot match the lure of cheap airfares and cruises to the Caribbean.

Even the town's plaque has seen better days
Gumbo-fine if you like okra.

No comments:

Post a Comment