At the beginning of the week, a friend took Neu’s fishing boat out on a trip, coming back at the end of the day with a good catch. Being the owner of the boat, Neu gets a share of the catch.
The following day the boat was going out again and Neu asked me to accompany him to the beach to see them off. Neu, who is finally getting the right medicines, is beginning to feel stronger and more positive. Getting to the beach is still an effort for him but, as with all your wonderful messages of support for which I sincerely thank you, being down by the sea is a tonic for him. A bittersweet tonic maybe, as he would much rather be on the sea, than on the beach but it’s still far better than being stuck in the house.
The beach is about 400 meters away and there are several routes we can take to get there. The road is the easiest in terms of effort but the longest in terms of distance. The shortest route means going over the soft sand, which is certainly not the easiest way, especially when the sand heats up (it gets too hot to walk on barefoot by 10am and doesn’t cool down again until after 3pm). Neu chose to go over the sand and had to sit down for a rest about halfway there but we made it.
The sky was full of dramatic cloudscapes, a good excuse for some black and white photographic drama.
After a little while of being out in the sun, Neu begins to suffer pin pricks all over his torso, we are told it is a symptom of his anaemia. It is unpleasant for him and even though we’d found some shade, after having watched a couple of boats go out, we decided to head for home. At that moment a vulture chose to land on the top of Neu’s boat mast. It’s not common to see them do this and I was frantic to get my camera out before it flew away. I was pleased to get the following shots.
That night we went back down to the beach via the road, in the cool of the night, it was far easier. The sun was long set and only the smallest sliver of moonlight broke the dark. We joined other people also heading for the beach and arrived just before the first boat landed with a reasonable catch.
Far out at sea, the tiny pinpricks of light which marked the boats positions, blinked then went out, meaning they’d hauled in their nets, stowed the catch and were heading for home. There was lots of animated banter between the men gathered to watch and help the boats back in. I was more concerned by the huge, dense black cloud being illuminated by lightning, both of which were drawing ever closer and with alarming speed.
I watched as the ominous cloud ate the lights of the towns along the coast and bore down on us. We were going to get very wet! Shortly after the first boat had landed, we felt spots of rain. Neu and I headed for the boat shelters, they only have palm frond roofs but would offer some protection. Within minutes everyone was running for cover as the cloud swallowed us and the rain came down in sheets.
Through the rain and darkness, we could just make out Neu’s brother Jola bringing his boat to the beach. The point of leaving and arriving on the beach is always the most dangerous and some of the men expressed concern he might capsize but Jola is a very experienced sailor and if anyone could land in those conditions, he could.
Everyone breathed with relief as Jola’s boat struck the beach safely, though all were reluctant to brave the rain and aid him move it higher up the sand. Jola is known as a good fisherman and was likely to have a good catch, anyone helping him up the beach would be rewarded with a free fish. Eventually a few went to help and we all laughed as they ran out shrieking, hopelessly trying to dodge the pelting rain.
The wind and rain showed no sign of letting up. We were all completely soaked and couldn’t see any of the other boats still out at sea, maybe by staying offshore they would avoid the worst of the storm. Neu’s friend told us he would wait to meet the boat and that we should head home.
With a few fish in hand from Jola, we set off. The rain was still pelting down and we paddled through flooded areas, impossible to avoid. As we crossed the football pitch I lost a flip-flop in the sodden sand more times than seemed fair, having to feel about in the water and gloop to find it as I couldn’t see a blessed thing. There was a loud inharmonious frog chorus and I had to laugh when, as I lost my flip-flop once more, one sang out sounding remarkably like a squeaky shoe on a polished floor.
We heard the next day that the poor guys who were out at sea had not managed to avoid the storm after all. The wind became so fierce that they feared for the security of the sail and closed it down to ride the storm out. Wet through, freezing cold with no shelter, a raging sea and driving wind and rain, I don’t envy them, it would have been absolutely miserable. They were blown badly off course, landing in the early hours of the morning far from the village but at least they were safe.