Fishing, Swimming, Rivers, Beaches, Sea: Adventures of a water baby

If you’re a water baby like me you’ll appreciate how fabulous the past week and a bit has been.

A late night picnic which not only included good food and company, but the challenge of singing songs across musical genres by your favourite artists with dreadlocks, excluding Bob Marley. A lot of laughter, and a huge back catalogue to play with; we left ‘cos it was a weeknight and we had work in the morning, not ‘cos we couldn’t keep going. Water link? Though we were on the other side of the park, we had to drive past the water as the park ends about 10m from the edge of the pier.

Two days later I skipped across town and headed down to the rainforest after work (as you do), or more precisely, to one of the many rivers run through parts of it.

As I sat on a stone, listening to the water stream past me, watching the birds dancing on the tree branches, and later when I wandered through some of the greenery, I embraced the peace of it. Not to go all Bruce Lee on you, but I love water. I don’t know why, but it always relaxes me. I don’t know if it reminds me of God; big, eternal, everywhere, unchanging and yet personal. With the sky, it’s big, and no matter where you go in the world, it’s there if you look up. I love lying on my back and watching the clouds roll by. Sometimes I wonder who, somewhere else in the world I’ve never been to, might be doing exactly the same thing and seeing an identical patch of sky. But you can never touch the sky. And it changes at night. With water, when you swim in the sea, and it’s calm, it’s like being caressed by the biggest thing there is. Water is so mysterious, and so dangerous, but so so relaxing. For me there is no feeling like taking my shoes off, walking across the sand, and into the sea. Even if I’m wearing trousers I have to pull up, there is no lovelier feeling than having waves roll over my ankles. And every time it happens, I smile inwardly or outwardly. Sometimes both.

But as I was saying. I was down by the river. Naturally I couldn’t help but hum Morgan Heritage’s tune, and not because they have dreads. It was a really peaceful afternoon.

The following evening, a random conversation at a rum shop I was delighted to have located ended with me off fishing.  I was with friends, one of whom had previously asked me if I’d like to go ‘rod’ fishing as he knew I’d thoroughly enjoyed my spear-fishing experiences with my cousins. As he was heading out that evening, I ventured that tonight was as good as any for me to take him up on his offer. As the wheels screeched round the winding curves that make this place so beautiful, and the overproof rum I’d consumed leapt around my stomach (but never back up my throat thankfully) only for a moment did I regret being so fast.

My first ‘rod’ fishing experience was hilarious. Slightly different from what I expected. Rather than catch fish and take them home to eat, we fed our sea brethren. Each time we carefully placed the bait on the hook, planted the rod in the sand, then launched the fishing hook and line into the sea with a whip to the air. We’d then head back to our patch of sand in front of the car, play tunes, catch jokes, converse, and watch the rod ebb a little. From time to time my exoerienced fisher friend would go over to the rod, rearrange something or tug on the rod, while we watched with slightly bated breath (no pun intended) and there’d be nothing there. A while later he’d pull on the rod, reel in the line, and the bait would be gone, and so would the fish we’d tried to lure with it. Luckily we’d already eaten.

This pattern was repeated a few times, but one of them bears explaining in more detail. We’d painstakingly wrapped the bait around the hook, did the planting in the sand bit, the fishing wire whipped into the sea, and then about 2 seconds later we heard a distinctly wooden ‘ker-plunk’ sound. Like someone rapping loudly on a wooden door twice in quick succession. Having kept a distance in order not to be hit by the launching bait, my fellow non-fisher and I looked at each other for a moment quizzically, wondered where the sound had come from, and then continued our conversation. I was particularly hesitant to try and locate the sound; I’d raised a false alarm earlier when I mistook the high pitched utterances of a frog for the biting fish alarm on the rod. For those not in the know (unlike me as of last week innit), rather than sit with the rod in hand and wait ’til it feels like there’s a fish eating the bait, today’s fishing folk can hang with friends on the beach, or even sit in their cars while the line is in the sea. When enough pressure is applied at the fish end, a high pitch alarm goes off (assumedly at a pitch not quite high enough to scare off the fish) and the revelry can pause while the fish is reeled in. Accustomed to falling asleep to the song of crickets and birds, the frog noise was simultaneously both unfamiliar, and yet similar to the alarm sound to my untrained ears. Cool as they both were about it, I wasn’t trying to look like the novice in the wilderness again. But there was no need to worry; the next bout of embarrassment was not to be mine.

Our chief fisher loped towards us awkwardly. It was dark so we couldn’t see him until he was about a metre a way. He looked panicked. Then he stammered ‘I think the bait went into the boat.’ Huh?? was my first thought. There were no boats around. It was night-time. At about the same time, both I and the other dude realised the ‘ker-plunk’ we’d heard, was the sound of the hook landing clean inside a boat 50m out to sea. I fell about laughing. I’m still laughing as I type this. The lasso technique had finally caught something; not a fish – a whole boat! The other dude was more tactful, he coughed a couple of times. Accordingly, my laughter turned into snorts, then giggles, then laughter again. Chief fishing dude was not amused. I couldn’t help myself.

Determined to be more helpful than hysterical, I pointed out that it wasn’t really a problem; the boat was probs only 50m away and the water was really calm. We could swim to the boat, get the hook out, and swim back easily. Once we’d sufficiently debated the likely distance I offered to go, sincerely hoping to make up for my earlier insensitivity. And prove that I was right of course – 50m and perfectly swimmable in these conditions. And so as is the lot of woman, the opportunity to be seen in under-garments meant all offence was instantly forgotten. It was thus that I went for another unplanned bain à minuit. I sank into the water, loving its surprising warmth given the darkness. When chief fisher dude had given full instruction to the other dude, we raced-swam under the stars to the boat where we quickly unhooked the fishing line. As we returned to shore, he pointed out that he’d told me he had 300m of fishing wire – I was wrong to have doubted him. I conceded that he must have loads for it to have gotten so far out, so we’re friends again now and I know he’s cool with me sharing the story. Besides, considering we didn’t catch a single edible thing all night, it was a great evening.

The final water adventure this week was a mammoth day spent lounging at the beach. I was literally there from 9-4 something. I do have a job – it was a Saturday. I read (Father Fiction by Donald Miller – didn’t change my life like his Blue Like Jazz but that’s kind of a lot to expect from a book from page one.  Particularly as I’m not a boy/man with daddy issues – if you are, you should check it out), swam, slept, read, swam, napped, napped some more, swam and read some more, before I decided that my skin was feeling ‘funny’ and I should go home and put on some after sun. Which once home I realised I didn’t have. Oh well. It was a fantastic day: a gorgeous gorgeous white sand beach a whole 20 minute walk from my house, beautifully sunny weather and sea so clear I stood watched fishes swim around my feet for a while. I was amazed they weren’t afraid of my giant feet and legs. At one point it looked like I was gonna get one of those fish pedicures as one of them seemed to be nibbling at my big toe…but it was not to be. It was wonderful feeling a part of the land, even if it was technically the sea. The water was perfect too. Calm and even warm at some parts of the day. Swimming was so effortless that I probably made it 100m from shore before I realised I’d actually covered quite a long distance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the Usain Bolt of swimming. On the contrary I’d normally get 20m and feel like I was ‘far enough’ away but I could see the bottom so far out and the water was just gliding over me. It really was a heavenly day.

Whether or not the coming week will involve so much water time remains to be seen, but dwelling on the past week’s adventures should keep me entertained if not.

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