Travel & Places Other - Destinations

Places to Visit in South Island NZ

One year I visited a fishing village off the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Virtually unknown to tourists, few neighbors and a small local population.
It has a small natural harbor where the daily rendezvous with the sea takes place amongst the fishermen.
Small boats carry nets, gallons of water and gas for the outboard motor.
A crew of two, sometimes three.
I watch them leave in silence before dawn and again at sunset.
At night a series of dots light the sea, a curious reflection of the sky above.
Sun burnt bodies with strong muscle bound arms and legs pull the boats on and off the beach, sliding over weather beaten logs.
Sea birds receive the boats on their daily trip once they clear the harbor.
I wonder about their conversation in between long spells of silence.
A quiet life, a hard life; lived in an ordinary way.
The crews are between fourteen and sixty - maybe more, maybe less; either way.
Wrinkled eyes hold a steady look.
As I leave the harbor walking to the empty and seemingly eternal beach, I ask myself about their apparently subdued life, and admire their discipline and dedication.
Day in day out.
But there is another side to this life, a side that strangers rarely see.
A passionate side that flares up in a moment and then again apparently disappears.
I have the impression it never really disappears, it just lies smoldering beneath their outward veneer.
I occasionally hear whispered rumors of tragedy and violence.
Never more than a whisper.
Life is lived and played under the shadow of a closed community.
The outer world lives in ignorance of the village.
Perhaps rightly so.
It seems to me the highlights of their lives are reduced to the religious ceremonies surrounding family and village celebrations.
Each boat, each house, each store has a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, lit candles at her feet and flowers decorating primitive altars.
At night the few lights of the village are turned on and groups of men slowly begin to gather and casually stroll beyond the main street - a street I naively think is the only one around.
The bars are opening.
The largest, with the flashy lights and blaring music, attracts its first customers.
It is run by an older fisherman, with the helping had of young apprentice fishermen and imported girls in scanty clothes.
The owner a mystical being, never seen and far away.
The news is that the crew from a visiting shrimp trawler has arrived.
Men prepare for a rowdy night.
The upstairs rooms will click away all night.
Dark skins, colorful lights, loud music lamenting love's betrayals, much beer and occasional rum.
A fist or two and a knife is recklessly flashed in macho bravado.
Then the steady hum of loud conversation that is briefly interrupted by laughter, by cursing and a new fight.
The mood settles down; orders for more beer which are delivered and drunk.
I stand by the bar, a teenager trying to look older and manly, as the captain of the shrimper engages me in conversation.
A good trip, a good catch and time to unwind and celebrate with his worthless crew - a phrase belied by the parental looks he gives them.
We exchange toast to our health, to love, to life and the sea - she is a vain creature.
Another crew appears.
Their's has not been a good trip and tempers are on a short leash.
Rivalry exists, built over many voyages.
My friends' pockets full of cash are a provocation.
The new captain comes up with eyes red from staring at the sea, seasoned with rum and smoke.
He pushes through and stands next to me.
I vainly try to ignore him but he places a strong hand on my shoulder and swings me round to face him.
An even stronger hand moves me aside.
I always wondered what a real barroom brawl is like.
Vague memories remain - a brief moment of fear, a surge of adrenalin and I am ready to take on the world.
Fists start flying; mine quite useless as it glances of a chin.
A couple of arms pick me up from behind and as I struggle the gentle voice of my friend, the second mate, tells me to relax.
He carries me behind the bar and vaults over laughing as his feet crash into a face.
It last for a few more seconds; it lasts hours.
Everyone is victorious and is willing to fight to prove it.
The rivalry is buried under more beer.
The new captain proclaims me a friend, pulls out a knife and slashes the palm of our hands which we clasp together.
We are blood brothers.
A small fishing village, off the Pacific coast of Mexico.
A quiet village.
A place to remember with brothers and friends never to be seen again.

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