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Travel Log: Of Slack Tides and Coconuts


Coconuts and Shade: Paradise

March 21, 2011

9 am.

High rising tide.

Wind: ENE, 20 knots and gusty.

Whitecaps foam against the ironshore as we descend into paradise. We’re as full of hope as always, our excitement belied by our brisk efficiency as we load packs, rig rods, make lunches, and slap on a few coats of SPF 50 where it counts. It is also tempered by the blustery conditions that should make a mess of the North Coast where we hope to fish today.

Today paradise looks no different; they still drive the plane—a Twin Otter that seats roughly 15 souls—across the main road to park at the little shed that serves as the concourse, gate and bag-check for this little island. The thatch hut of bygone years has been replaced by a concrete edifice only slightly larger (and only marginally cooled by the dripping window unit), but the whole affair is still refreshingly casual… more in keeping with a very clean and prompt Third World bus than an air travel.

The drive to the cottage is still over roads white with the glare of wind-blown sand, but it feels different this time. There’s a sense of futility hanging in the air and it’s more than the smell of dry-season swampland. Nevertheless, we bask in the glow of self-confident generosity as we painstakingly rig our rods for the day’s fishing, knowing we’ll be done long before we meet our companions at the same tiny air-strip and head east to flats that should be teeming with bonefish and permit, ours for the taking.

*

2:00 p.m.

Falling tide.

We convened a makeshift shore-lunch under the nearest palm. The north coast was barren except for a lone turtle—a young hawksbill, maybe—but at least it was breezy. The fishing was a bust so far: poor tides, windy flats, and no fish. It was a far cry from the endless schools of bonefish we’d found only a year before. What’s more, we’d not seen a single permit or even a jack to save the morning.

My dad and I walked the flats with a purpose, endlessly scanning for movement, any movement that wasn’t wind or waves, but aside from boxfish and the occasional ray we’d seen a grand total of two bonefish in four hours. Not an auspicious beginning. Hopefully the afternoon tide would bring some change, any change to the monotony.

Seemingly in answer to this Dad tried to entertain (himself, I think) by opening a ripe coconut with nothing more than a washed-up conch shell. He was surprisingly adept at it—then again, he’d likely been opening coconuts with less long before either of us were born. I decided I’d better add my two-cents to the coconut husking milieu, inspired largely by a couple YouTube vids I’d seen on the subject. Roughly fifteen highly amusing minutes later I gratefully sipped the surprisingly sweet and refreshing water of my very first hand-husked coconut ever.

Whether or not this will be the highlight of the day remains to be seen.

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