Sunday, August 19, 2007

Penrhyn - Spearfishing

No pictures, but I did go fishing with the locals, Bana, Mike and two young guys. We took their 13 foot aluminum skiff to the southern end of the atoll, through a sort-a-pass to the outside reef. We stopped and caught about a dozen crabs, the ones we caught before thinking they were coconut crabs, but weren't. They put them in a rice bag and tied the top with the strings cut from the top edge of a coconut frond. Then we went to just the inside of the outer reef. The younger boys took their 10 foot
long hand spears and started walking the reef. They carried a few of the coconut frond strings as well.

Then Bana took the bag of crabs that i thought we were going to eat, and put them on the reef and started jumping on them. Then I realized he did say he was going to chum the fish. Pronunciation is everything! They have a strong New Zealand accent along with the Polynesian lack of pronunciation. The water clouded with the crab parts and the parrot fish started coming around. Two of them stood on the reef and speared fish as they got close.

Jeff from Bold Spirit came too. He and I snorkeled with our spear guns around the area after we saw which kinds of fish to try for. There were several sharks smelling the crab chum too. Maybe a dozen 3 to 5 foot black-tip sharks! They didn't come closer than about 6 feet of me that I noticed. I did keep a close eye on them. They keep telling us it is OK to swim with the sharks, but we don't see any of them swimming!

The water over the parts of the reef that didn't stickup out of the water was 2 to 6 feet deep. There was from 1 to 4 knots of current depending on how much reef was blocking the waves. So here we are swimming around over coral with only inches of room between the belly and the sharp coral, with bloody fish and crab parts, and the bloody sharks every where.... Well, all was well. No bites! I did manage to spear 3 fish, if size doesn't count. One was big enough for two, but the others were small.

After the boys got back with their catch, we took the skiff back toward the village a ways, through the ever present rain. It has been raining 2 or 3 times every day. We let the boys out again at the end of a large motu (island on the edge of an atoll) and we went on to the other end. We went ashore on the picturesque beach, under the coconut trees and cleaned the fish. Maybe 30 mostly smallish parrot fish and a few others that I really don't have names for. When we finished, the boy were not back
yet and we were thirsty, so we shook a few green coconuts from a tree(with one of those 10 foot spears) and drank the water from a couple apiece. Then Bana ask if we were a little hungry. He found a few dry coconuts that were just beginning to sprout then cut them open. The water was all gone, and the inside was filled with a pithy, white part that is to be the new tree.We ate it like that. There was a little of what we call a normal coconut meat around the edge and it still tasted like usual. He
said that they also fry the inside in oil sometimes. It had a very different texture and flavor, but good. Jeff said that the coconuts for sale in the states are the very worst tasting stage that a coconut goes through. I sorta agree, but I like the dry hard ones too. Here they shuck the green coconuts and put them in the fridge to chill them and that is the normal drink offered instead of water or coke!

Then he picked up one of the parrot fish we had just cleaned and cleaned it a little more, then sliced down to the bone every 1/2 inch or so, then proceeded to eat it with a little more green coconut juice and bites of the pithy inside. After tasting it , I decided that it was just fine that way too. There is obviously no excuse for going hungry here!

When we got back to the boat, I fixed one of my parrot fish the same way we had in Raraka, as Poisson Cru de Coco. It was the first time I had actually used my rapper for shredding the inside of a regular coconut that I bought in Tahiti. I shredded it then put it in a cloth and squeezed the milk out. It is almost as thick ass cream and very sweet. With some cucumbers, onion, salt and a little lime it was great. Trinda refused to try it, cause she likes her "raw fish" soaked in lots of lime juice
for at least 20 minutes, not just a little for flavor.

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