The noise, the movement and then the sight of fish in boxes drew me in like a magnet. Those who know me, know that I fish whenever I can and that I’m obsessed with everything fish-related. The discovery that my hotel was right next to a fishing settlement got me pretty excited.
I came up to the scene of action and saw that fish was being loaded into boxes and then into a small truck. It was being taken away and there were some impressive fish there. “How much?” I asked. “5,000 Pesos per fish.” Said the man in charge. That’s less than $2 USD! I have no idea where I’m gonna cook this fish, but, I’m taking two, before it’s all gone. “Two, please!"
The hotel owner came over to see what I was doing in the fishing settlement. Excitedly I said “Look, I got two fish! Can I use your kitchen to cook it?” His response wasn’t very enthusiastic, so I asked the man who sold it to me if it would be possible to cook it anywhere. He pointed to his wife, an indigenous Wayuu woman, who came out of a small shack. "For 7,000 pesos she'll cook it for you” said the man. “Deal!”
I spotted Rafael untangling his fishing net while still inside the house of the woman who cooked me fish. How wonderful it is to be able to communicate with people! My 3 years of University Spanish and recent trips to Spain have equipped me with a proficient enough level to converse pretty comfortably.
I asked Rafael how the fishing was. It was good, because all the large ships were forbidden to come within kilometres of the coastline. They had everything here (in terms of fish) and it seemed that putting food on the table was no issue. I told Rafael about my own fishing experiences and moved on to explore more.
I’m fast forwarding almost a month from my last blog post here. I bought a car, a '97 Toyota Landcruiser. Any second-hand car is a risk. Issues come up, money is spent, time is wasted. This is precisely what I was doing - spending money and wasting time in Rioacha – the capital of La Guajira region. I asked the hotel owner to hook me up with a decent mechanic. He did, the mechanic came over to the hotel and now I was waiting for something to be changed to stop a mild oil leak and... waiting for my fish.
“Leave your backpack in the car” the mechanic paused work to warn me before I headed back to the fishing settlement to collect my cooked fish. “You never know what kinds of people might be there. Don’t take your valuables.” A recurring theme – people constantly talking of the potential danger of being robbed. I obliged and went back with nothing, though I had my small backpack with everything important in it, when buying the fish.
I was quickly disappointed about not taking my camera. The scene of the woman cooking was very photogenic. I picked up the fish and when I came back to return the plate. I brought my Lumix GX80 with a 15mm lens on it. Super small, discrete, easy to hide. Turned out I didn't need to hide it. I was welcomed. No one tried to rob me. I took photos of the woman while she worked on a traditional handbag and then I asked if I could explore the village.
Everybody in the settlement which was labelled potentially dangerous by the mechanic seemed nothing less than welcoming. People were a little curious too. I was told that no tourists from the hotel ever wondered into the settlement, not even the local ones, and it was literally 50 meters away.
As I was about to head down to the beach, towards that boat in the distance with the people near it, I heard a whistle and a "Hey! Hey!" Soon a man and boys who were playing dominoes nearby were standing next to me. "We here are good people and this part of the settlement is trouble free, you can do whatever you like. Those people on that side of the village, they take drugs, don't go to that side. We'll accompany you on our side."
Ok, drug addicts, maybe desperate for cash, maybe violent – makes sense. And so I was now joined by a small group of men and boys from the fishing settlement.
Above is one of the kids from the group of my protectors. I asked some more stuff about the fishing, if there were lobster, if there was snorkelling. Yes and yes, but now the current was not favourable, I'd have to come back another time.
I asked why there were so many tires. Turns out they make great artificial reefs. The fish love to build homes in them, so, the fishermen equip themselves with quite a few tires, and take them out into the sea.
I left the settlement and came back in the afternoon, when more fishermen came back with the catch. Pretty typical scenes – village kids having fun, helping adults.
I haven't spoken for a while about how much I love the Lumix GX80, because I kinda made myself sick speaking about how much I love Lumix cameras at Photokina and the Panasonic Eastern Europe tour. However... DAMN I love this little camera! Flip the screen, touch, focus, click! No sound, no reaction, almost always in focus, people just go on about their lives.
My next journey is a bit of an adventure. There's a desert in La Guajira and... there's a sea in the same area. My two favourite things - sea and desert and... fish. I'm going there!