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Dancing With Death

© 2019 Jean-Philippe Soulé

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A tale of adventure, sacrifice & physical endurance.

 

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The CASKE 2000 Expedition

Central American
Sea Kayak Expedition 2000

Paddle into the Past with an Eye to the Future!

Feeding time…

Dusk is coming quickly, fish are jumping all around us and we still have nothing more than plain rice to put on our plates.  I throw down the fishing pole and grab my diving equipment.  By the time I am all set in my wetsuit with weight belt around my waist, fins in one hand and spear gun in the other, the sun has already disappeared behind the mountain ridge behind us.  The water temperature is chilly and the air temperature is plunging: I need to work quickly.  Upon submerging, all I can see are rays; there is little time remaining before total darkness and I decide that they would make a fine dinner.  I shoot at a small one and hit it but it twists around and unscrews the tip of my spear from the shaft, then swims away with it still embedded in its back.  I can’t let an injured fish go and I can’t lose a precious spear tip, so I dive after it and try to subdue it.  Its tail snaps around back and forth so violently that I can’t hold it.  I have to return to the surface to take another deep breath.  I pull out my knife and dive again.  It takes me nearly a minute to get into a position to cut its tail.  I swim to shore with the body, give it to Luke and return for more food.


The second time I spear a larger ray.  To prevent it from spinning away with my spear tip, I quickly drag it onto the beach.  As I remove the spear, it snaps its tail with incredible speed and the five-inch dart barely misses my wrist.  I am horrified.  I had no idea that I had been spearing stingrays.  Suddenly, I remember stories I had read about the terrible pain, infections and occasional death inflicted by stingrays.  I look more closely at my glove and notice that the first small ray has cut halfway through the neoprene.  I am lucky; my ignorance could have cost me much pain and serious injury.  I sever the wildly flapping tail and take it to Luke, too.


It is already dark and I am getting cold, but we don’t have quite enough meat to feed two hungry paddlers.  I return to the water for one last try.  In the increasing darkness, I can no longer see anything, but on my second dive, I am suddenly surrounded by hundreds of large fish that swim around me with incredible speed.  I don’t recognize them immediately.  Then, as their curiosity brings them closer, I realize that I am in the middle of a large school of yellowtail.  I have only a few seconds of air left and can’t waste any time so I spin myself around, focus on one, aim and pull the trigger.  Without waiting to see if I have speared the fish, I dash for the surface to breathe.  As soon as I am up, I feel a strong pull and look down to see it fighting at the end of my spear.  I swim immediately to shore and march triumphantly up to Luke with my first real catch, a twenty-inch, eight-pound tuna.  


As we gorge ourselves on the decadently rich fish, we can’t help but think of days in Japan when we paid a premium price for yellowtail sashimi.  It is one of the biggest prizes in the ocean for the Japanese and the flesh from that fish alone would have cost two hundred dollars.  So, to honor that great tradition, we slice a portion of it into strips and eat it raw with some wasabi and soya sauce that Luke has stashed in the food bag.  We cook the rest of the fish over a driftwood fire on its spear shaft spit and when we finish eating it, we’re so full and so sleepy that we collapse into bed, faces and hands still covered in juices from the feast.

Continue the journey with our adventurers in Dancing With Death, out now!

 

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