Durban SA: As a 1950s Banana Boykie, in mangrove mud up to my knees, catching mudskippers, while sepia Umgeni waters oozed past Blue Lagoon groyne, I watched European and Indian seine-netters cast in shallows. And I helped them untangle their fish.
Bamboo rodded Indian fishermen cast from Blue Lagoon groyne into Indian Ocean surf an' all. An' I watched 'em catch sharks, an' shad, an' mullet, an' sardines an' all. While bro Fraser had speedboat rides and "Swan" rides below Ellis Brown Viaduct and up Umgeni River with "Captain Silver." On the Durban North side of Blue Lagoon was SADF rifle range, where later as a conscript troopie I would fire bren guns, sten guns, R1s and .303s. As a biology teacher, I would take groups of standard 9 (Y11) pupils on ecology excursions through the mangrove swamp.
Groot Baase ordered, "Voertsek Boykies! Blue Lagoon's an 'Indians Only' beach - up to Sunkist Beach screw pines! 'Natives Only' and 'Coloureds Only' beaches are from Sunkist to Blue Waters Hotel by Natal Command! 'Europeans Only' beaches are closest to town! It's the law!"
"We're force-moving thousands of Durban North Indians from their shanties to Chatsworth on the south side of Durban! To split the Englsh vote, we're building a Durban North Hoer Skool, and a Living Waters happy-clappy church, and a Pick 'n Pay hypermarket, and upmarket white houses, where greedy Durban North whiteys can mix. We're leaving the mosque. Muslims can come and worship from Chatsworth if they wish."
I didn't fish Blue Lagoon anymore. Bro Fraser didn't ride the "Swan" with "Captain Silver" anymore. Today in 2008, Umgeni River has become an open sewer sludging from KZN Midlands to Blue Lagoon.
Nor did we swim at Sunkist Beach anymore. For years I body-surfed at 'Europeans Only' North Beach.
2003. Esslemonts on the Canterbury Cat near Wainui & Akaora
Wainui NZ: When son Luke began fishing we discovered Wainui Pier on solid wooden piles in green Pacific waters near Akaroa Heads. We cast spinners like we were catching salmon in Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers, when a big fat Maori fella plonks his rod on the pier saying, "Nah! You're fishin' wrong mate. Forget spinners! Scrape limpets from rocks over there! Bait 'em on two or three hooks, an' drop your lines over the pier!"
Luke caught spotties, parrot fish, red cod, elephant fish, dog fish - lots. I mostly baited, scaled and gutted.
On rainy and sunny days, when fishing from Wainui Pier, we met salmon farmers, mussel farmers, paua (abalone) divers, fishermen, fisher-women, fisher-kids, lovers, campers, excited kids, Japanese tourists, Taiwanese immigrants, swimmer-Kiwis, half naked guys and girls.
When wife Leah taught English to Korean kids during Christmas holidays, we skimmed on the Canterbury Cat from "French" Akaroa to Akaroa Heads. On the way we saw taonga (treasures): Sewage fouled Flea Bay, Wainui Pier from the sea, Wainui green hills, Cathedral Cave, boatmen angling deep pools, hectors dolphins somersaulting, black- backed gulls guarding rock nests, waterfall below southernmost Nikau palms, grey gulls shrieking, shags slivering, penguins floating, rock dozing seals, yachts tacking round Akaroa Heads...
And salmon and paua farms...
Ja. Lekker by the sea. (Published with variations: SINZASA's Indaba Issue 1 - 2003).
Once teenager Luke and I screw-drived limpets off rocks, then fished off Wainui Pier: Few bites. Action was slithery limpets in our plastic bottle. And me losing tackle to kelp in cold water. So I drove back to Barrys Bay past an unpainted wood-and-iron farm house, with a Sky TV disc on the roof overlooking Akaroa Harbour.
On the Road, a farmer's wife twitched a stick at us, slowing down my grey Honda Civic, so we didn't harm her sheep flock. We stopped, while the flock flowed past us, with four sheepdogs clustering round their shepherd at the back.
We trekked up Summit Road, viewing snow-dusted Banks Peninsular. At a turnoff, we decided not to drive down to Le Bons Bay as fish might not be biting there too. Near Duvauchelle picnic site Luke ran along a wooden pier, chasing shags off the end. He nearly slipped in the Pacific, as the pier was guano slimy.
2003. Luke Esslemont & Bronze Portrait Artist, with Akaroa War Memorial background
In Akaroa, we strolled along Beach Road, gawping at tourist shops. Near the War Memorial, I photographed Luke's portrait through the bronze picture frame of the bronze statue of an artist. We took our rods and tackle along Akaroa Wharf, past a lady selling fish off the back of a truck, near a skin-diver's shop and a paua pearl shop. And we fished with Asian men at the end of the wharf. A Maori boy proudly showed us a bucket full of squirming dogfish he'd caught.
While the sun set over the Alps, casting shadows over Canterbury Plain, I drove back home to Burnside, Christchurch. Leah was thrilled with Luke's brill fish - grey-brown-mottled skin on one side and white skin on the other. I scaled the brill, while it's two brown eyes stared at me. I cut its head off.
Leah fried the brill, which we ate. "Best tasting fish you've ever caught," said Leah.
"Good value for two dollars seventy five cents," said Luke.
2003. Esslemonts & Al Mackintosh Fishing on Akaroa Pier
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.
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