Being self-sufficient is not as easy as it seems
To many people, fishing seems incredibly boring. The thought alone of sitting for hours on a riverbank with your rod dangling in the water, not only invokes sexual innuendo but also the thought that itís a waste of time. I did a spot of fishing when I was a child, but never caught anything. Maybe itís because I didnít have the patience. But more than likely itís because I was no good at it. I remember the day I gave it up. I was about ten years old and was sitting on the riverbank gazing incredulously through the clear water as every single fish swam past my bait, without even so much as a nibble. So I stomped off home vowing never to fish again.
Many years later I found myself wandering along a beach in southern Mexico, when the thought of fishing came back to me. I was in Mazunte, a remote stretch of coastline with just a small scattering of wooden restaurants along a sandy beach backing on to a tiny village. It was a tourist attraction with a difference, namely that the average tourist wouldnít go there. There were no hotels, no amusement parks or bars. In fact there was nothing touristy about it, which was great. It almost felt like being trapped on a desert island; if, like me, youíre prone to bouts of romantic delusions brought about by several months of malnutrition that comes with budget travelling. Mexican children played in the sand with whatever crude instruments they could fashion out of wood from the surrounding palm trees. I was staying at one of the beachfront restaurants, sleeping in a hammock strung up under a crudely fashioned shelter, made also from palm trees. With these crude items I could almost imagine I was a modern day Robinson Crusoe.
With that thought in mind I decided to become self-sufficient, and catch my own food. Efrain, one of my travelling companions, conveniently had a couple of fishing rods in his van. We got them out and set about catching dinner for that evening. Obviously Efrain was an experienced fisherman, so off he went casting far beyond the giant waves rolling in from the Pacific Ocean with apparent ease. I attached the bait to the hook and then prepared to cast out myself.
I delved deep into the archive of my brain and searched the limited memories I had on fishing techniques. Then I held the line, drew back the rod and swung it forward with all my strength. The weight hit the sand in front of my feet with a thud and buried itself deep. I had forgotten to let go of the line. So I dug out the weight, replaced the lost bait and repeated the process, letting go this time. The line was sent flying to my right, across a surprised and wide-eyed Efrain, and ended up buried in the sand further down the beach. After many more attempts, each one sending the line progressively further out past the waves, I suddenly became ten years old again, got fed up with trying and stomped off home (well, to my hammock) vowing never to fish again.. There are some things in life that you are just not cut out for, and for me fishing seems to be one of them.
After that experience I realised that if I was ever stuck on a desert island then I would probably die of starvation. Thankfully, Efrain had managed to catch one fish, so we wouldnít all go hungry that night. The restaurant owner offered to look after the fish for us until we were ready to cook it. Later that afternoon a fellow traveller informed us that our fish was on a plate in the back of the restaurant, being slowly devoured by a hoard of flies. Instead, we opened a tin of sardines.
In the cold light of reality, my romantic notion of survival on a desert island had just been delivered a crushing blow. †