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Published: October 12th 2007
Clear blue waters
Looks pretty clean, doesn't it? Well it's not.
After a wonderfully pleasant stop-over in sunny Hawaii, I arrived in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in the capital of Majuro to be precise, to be greeted by torrential rain. Hang-on a minute, I thought, aren't I still pretty close to the Equator? Where's the sun? Nevermind, I knew my visit was going to be short and mainly work related, so I didn't have high hopes of seeing the sights this time round. And I was right. Apart from being put off by frequent and substantial bouts of tropical rain, I was in and out of offices for most of the first four days, with hardly a chance to poke my nose outdoors in between.
At least I had been recommended a very good hotel to stay in, Robert Reimers, which was excellent. The best part was the lovely little restaurant next to the reception, which also had a bar that stayed open quite late. The food in the restaurant was pretty good, but the highlight for me was definitely the tuna sashimi, of which there was plenty and fresh every single day. In fact, I think I had sashimi for 4 out of my 5 dinners and I
Can you tell whether they are open or not? I couldn't.
loved it! My discovery of sashimi in the Pacific has really been a revelation. It has easily gone into my top five favourite foods and may even by vying with my grandmother's home made mousaka for the number one spot. Sacrilege! Anyway, apart from the food, the service at the hotel was great, everyone was really friendly and helpful and the rooms were not too expensive and nice and clean. I would say that the only slight problem is that it takes a little bit too long to get your order at the restaurant, especially during busy times, but it's usually worth the wait. Did I mention they also do a delicious banana cream pie? For desert of course, although I was tempted to have it for the main course...
So, as I was saying, the first four days were nose to the grind stone. Fortuitously (and not foreplanned) my fifth day in the Marshalls was a national holiday, so I couldn't get any work done (even if I had wanted to). And it was not just any holiday, but the Fisherman's Day holiday, which meant, of course, that there was a great big fishing competition. So after admitedly
Bikini atoll Town Hall
All the atolls have their town hall in Majuro - it's a little strange...
squandering my free morning with a well-deserved lie-in followed by a swim in the very dubious waters of the lagoon (they look lovely and clean...but I've been told they're not) and a yummy lunch, I headed down to the harbour to see what all the fuss was about. Apparently the fishing boats went out at 6am and the rules stated they had till five am to fish and get back to the harbour by 6. It was still early days then and there wasn't much going on. I decided to go for a walk around "town" such as it is.
There is only one road in the Majuro, so it's kinda hard to get lost. The atoll is one of the smaller ones so the islands are reasonably well connected by bridges...well, at least along one side, but the actual strip of land is unbelievably narrow, not to mention low. I think the highest point is 3 metres above sea level, so you can imagine what global warming and rising sea levels are going to do to a place like this. So, walking along the solitary road, through the "city centre", you can often glimpse water on both sides.
Big blue colourful fish
The picture doesn't really do it justice.
In fact, as I've heard many a time, in a slightly sarcastic tone, in Majuro you can have a view of the sea both at the front and the back of your house! I think the sarcasm is related to the fact that that might be well and good but soon your house will be underwater...
I eventually ended up back at the harbour around 5, just in time to watch the fishing boats come in one at a time. Now, I had never been at a fishing competition weigh-in before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew there would be fish, but what kind? No idea. I was not disappointed. The first few out of the first boat were small fry but then came a wopper and it was bright blue as well, with various other colours also. I imagine, a rare catch but who am I to say. The others at the dock seemed impressed to so maybe it was unusual. After the first few boats, which had apparently entered the "reef fish" part of the competition, came the more "serious" fishermen, who were going for size over colourfullness! First there were some pretty
damn big yellow fin tuna and then of course the Marlins.
To be honest I felt more than a little bit sorry for these beautiful big fish. They had been quietly swimming the ocean, minding their own business and then because of a fishing competition to see who could catch the biggest one, they had been plucked out of the water and killed. Although I was assured that all the fish that were caught would be eaten and none of the food wasted, it still seemed a shame for these beautiful big fish to die. But then again, I am no vegetarian, so I probably can't complain too much and they are not an endangered species as far as I know, so in theory no harm done in the grand scheme of things. As far as the competition was concerned, it was quite a close call with the winner being decided by just a few pounds difference. I think the winning Marlin wieghed in the region of 195 pounds! I was impressed, but apparently that is pretty small for the Marshall Islands where the record is something like 400 pounds!
I feel obliged to mention that the Fisherman's
Yellow fin tuna
Great for making sashimi!
Day holiday and the competition are so important that the President of the Marshall Islands made an appearance. No bodyguards, no entourage, just the President and a few mates on a fishing boat. I thought that was pretty cool and tried to imagine the same scene in the UK, with for example Tony Blair. Somehow I don't think the atmosphere would have been quite so relaxed! So, that was about as exciting as it got. I hope I will get to go fishing myself on one of these trips or at least next time I am in the Marshalls I need to arrange to get out of Majuro and go to some of the smaller little islands on the opposite side of the atoll where I am told there is really good snorkelling and pristine white sandy beaches. That will definitely be my aim for my next trip out here.
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