I can’t remember the last time I was in a place whose sole purpose is pure relaxation. I am on the eastern tip of Timor-Leste staying at the community-run guesthouse Valu Sere. My bedroom is a thatched hut, one of several dotted on the small property. There are few other structures and from the water you can’t see anything onshore except trees. The water is the nicest blue I have ever seen. Across it lies Jaco Island, which we visited again today.

My alarm went off at 5.45am. Nick and I carried Ben’s inflatable kayak to the water in the light of dawn. In the kayak was fishing gear. We paddled out until we reached a depth in which we could trawl lures behind. With relatively little nutrition being offered in the food available where we are, we were keen to catch some fish to eat. After about five minutes of paddling my line ran. ‘That’s you. You’re on!’ Nick shouted. I dropped my paddle, grabbed the rod and started reeling. It was a few minutes before I glimpsed a silver streak zoom by. ‘Holy shit it’s a shark!’ A shark it was. On the end of my line. Feeling vulnerable in an inflatable boat, we decided to deal with the shark onshore. Nick paddled halfway to Jaco Island, then I gave him my rod and I paddled the rest of the way. On the way we spotted something strange in the water in the distance. Black things were bobbing in and out of the water’s surface. We had no idea what they were and weren’t keen on investigating while we had a shark to deal with. We later learned they were a herd of dugongs. On the beach we released the shark from the lure, got a quick photo, then watched it swim away upon its release. Prior to this moment my most memorable fishing experience was catching a few whiting on a hand lure. We headed out again. My line ran. I reeled. This time I had caught a Wahu, aka Barracuda; not great eating so off it went like the shark. By this time it was breakfast time and we were starving, so we headed back to the mainland. Breakfast was coffee and deep-fried sayo biscuits – perhaps you can see why we wanted some fish! After a quick rest, we jumped in a motor boat and (now joined by Belinda and two other guests) headed back over to Jaco for a snorkel. We had taken the kayak over with us so we went for another trawl but had no success. We all returned to the guesthouse for lunch, which was followed by a sleep-filled afternoon in the bamboo, thatched lounge. All five of us just passed out together and dozed happily through the afternoon.

I haven’t fished much before, so going fishing from a kayak like this was a bit of a thrill. However, I have mixed feelings about catching fish. I dislike the idea of sport fishing because I could never put an animal through hell when the reason is simply my own enjoyment. On the other hand, I like the idea of camping somewhere and being self-sufficient with regards to food, even if it means killing and eating fish. Here, I was pretty keen to add something nutritious to my lunch and dinner plate, as we were basically just eating rice and packet noodles. Even so, I feel uneasy about putting the shark and barracuda through such an ordeal. I also recognise the fact that there are simply too many people removing fish from our oceans and that any kind of fishing, no matter how casual, can contribute to the decline of our aquatic and marine ecosystems. How much fishing will I do in the future? I’m not really sure.

Early morning bliss

Early morning bliss

Accommodation $ Beach hut
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 8,585km