Who doesn’t like to travel around and find new sights, sounds and things of interest. I left on the directo bus from Cancun to Merida and headed toward the unknown. After changing buses in Merida I traveled several hours to the quaint fisherman town of Celestun located directly on the Gulf of Mexico.
Upon arriving I took a room facing the sea, got my self settled and headed up the beach. A few friendly Mexicans waived me in and asked If I wanted some camerones.(shrimp) I bought three cervezas before the stories started flying about the mighty octopus. Displaying a dragon looking tattoo with the fisherman’s cross, Pedro announced his family came from a long line of Octopus fishermans. By the time the second round of cervezas hit the table they began to show their scars from the fights down under. One rather tall and skinny native lifted up his shirt to show me his battle marks and did a slow spin demonstrating how he escaped from a giant octopus just last week.
As we headed back to town Pedro asked me if I would like to go along and watch them catch octopus. What time do we leave I asked. ” Five in the morning. Meet us right here on the beach and we will walk over to the fishing wharf just minutes away.”
After a good nights sleep with the ocean breezes and lapping waves I was excited— like you get anytime you go on a new adventure. The sun came up fast and was already a hot bright red. The sky was a twinge of purple and red glancing off the aqua green water. The octopus boats have long bamboo poles similar to outriggers extending out some thirty feet. They look like ancient Phoenician boats from a bygone area— painted bright reds and greens to ward off the evil spirits.
Red in the morning sailors take warning. Oh well it’s so calm this morning maybe this doesn’t apply in this part of the World. The lady octopus boat named “La Pescada”seemed to sneak out of the harbor as we could hear the grown of the engine and watched the crew getting ready for the day’s event. Pedro looked a little hung over. El Captain said: “Pedro will be your instructor for today’s extravaganza. Buena Surete Senor!” (Good luck)
Explaining some of their fishing techniques Pedro pointed out today they were using a vertical mainline with single/multiple lures on some and baited hooks and weight on others. Lowered at various depths near the bottom to include drifting for octopus. They also were using traditional handlines tied off the stern and placed at various increments along the boats rail. Armed to the teeth I almost pittied the wary octopus.
A fisherman held the cord of the lure in one hand or used the bamboo poles and made it dance in the water, until the octopus took hold of the artificial or live bait, then the fisherman pulled the cord up swiftly, grabbed the octopus and pulled it against the side of the boat, imbedding the lure’s hook securely, so the octopus could be hauled aboard.
Lines down they boated several small octopus. For some reason the fishing just stopped and we were dead in the water. The captain yelled: “Full steam ahead were going toward the outer bank— maybe we can run into Los Gigantes today.” Immediately after dropping anchor one of the fisherman brought up a large octopus which was putting up quite a struggle. It appeared this was one octopus that didn’t want any part of coming aboard. With three fisherman hand lining him onto the boat, two of them threw their bodies on top when he flopped aboard just to contain him. He had the look in his eyes as if– you guys aren’t serious. I think I’ll send an ink message down-under. Just wait until my family finds out. In the forward hold he went— tentacles and all.
A brisk wind came up with the sky turning jet black. It began to drizzle with sheets of rain blowing everywhere. Minutes later the bamboo pole jerked and the captain yelled Grande octopus it’s ole Purple-haze Diablo himself– I’m sure of it! Pancho took my arm and said: “Jump overboard he’s not getting away this time.” Swimming in a cross current of whirling shrimp and bait fish I could see why Diablo was hanging out here. I struggled to bring him toward the boat in fact I don’t think I even moved him. He was huge and was definitely in control. He wrapped just one tentacle around my waist and started maneuvering downward. I immediately gave the underwater cut sign to my Mexican fishing mate. The octopus made an agressive turn toward me and began to squeeze me to death. I thought this only happened with giant snakes. Looking through the murky waters I could see a bigger octopus heading in our direction. He could have turned over the boat if he choose too. Ay Caramba!
Just at that point the third fisherman-diver emerged with a giant pole and wrangled him loose. I shot up to the boat like a jep propelled astronaut and thanked the gods that I was saved one more time. It’s all about the funeral write-up. “Tourista caught by giant octopus never to be seen again.” You might expect something like this from Steve Irwin “The Croc Man” from Australia but not from a tourist dude who didn’t have a clue. Later over a few more cervezas the brave mexican octopus fisherman volunteered that octopus fishing was muy peligroso (very dangerous) and that every one of their families had tales to back it up– not to mention a few well marked white crosses just over the hill. Dios Mio!
Th town of Celestun is situated right on the beach and is home to over 20,000 pink flamingoes. Aside from the weekend travels from Merida, the bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge provide most of the tourist trade. This is a wading bird’s paraiso! There are three or four small hotels with a price range of about $20.00. to $30.00. You could also make special arrangements and rent a room from a native. They have several excellent guided nature sight seeing tours where you can see flocks of wading birds and a smorgasbord of plant and sea-life. The restaurants are small and quaint and all serve excellent seafood. You can have your choice of shrimp, fresh catch of the day, octopus, squid and lobster.
So there you have it! If you want a good seafood dinner, want to trust your luck with a giangic octopus or just want to hangout and dance with a flock of pink flamingoes then hop on the bus Gus— you’ll be glad you did. Adios Amigos I’m out of here. Don’t you just hate it when you are at a really good sushi bar and you are served fresh octopus with those large suction cups looking at you. Down the hatch matey! Must be good for you— The Japanese, Greeks and Italians can’t get enough octopus. Save the Chilean Sea Bass–EAT MORE OCTOPUS.
“To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also.”
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: The phrase ‘going bananas’ was first recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary, and is linked to the fruit’s ‘comic’ connections with monkeys.
Quote from Corsinet.com
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: The American Eagle! If George Bush and his cronies have it their way it’s bulldozer time in the nesting fields. Bye Bye American Eagle.
Zentraveler says fly like an Eagle so you have a clearer view and try to stay above the frey!