Socotra: Part I

Discussion in 'International reports' started by Pope, Jan 2, 2014.

  1. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior member

    149
    53
    I'm glad you made it back, Pope. Your story is already amazing.
     
  2. semipro

    semipro Senior Member

    656
    174
    Did you get a knife like your driver got ? Is it flet knife...) oh how about leaves,suppose everybody chews
     
    oilpatch likes this.

  3. Whalebreath

    Whalebreath Senior Member

    195
    28
    Coolest post on this forum ever and it's only Part 1!
     
  4. mtamim

    mtamim Senior Member

    1,420
    127
    PART 2 PLEEEEEEAAAAAAASSSSSEEEE!!!!
     
  5. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    [SIZE=medium]On Friday, I woke at 4:30am ready to do battle. I had rigged and re-rigged the previous night so I would not have to deal with it on the boat the next few days. I figured I had lost enough time as it was and I couldn’t afford to lose any more. Everything was packed and downstairs at 4:50 to meet Jameel for the ride to the airport. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Since it was Friday (the equivalent to Sunday in the States), the roads were clear, which was a first for me. A brick manufacturing plant was taking full advantage of the early morning and thinned crowds to ramp up production. It looked like fog had descended upon Sana’a with the manufacturer’s smoke and I nearly choked to death before we got to the airport. Nevertheless, we made it. It was time to see whether the paper with the scribbled message allowing me passage on the plane was worth what it was written on. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]I presented the message after fighting the security protocol I’ve come to describe as the ‘Sana’a X-ray Shuffle.” The attendant barely gave the message a look before handing me a boarding pass and I was starting to believe I would actually make the trip to Socotra. Sure enough, I was in the air within an hour. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]We made the flight across the country to Mukalla and I stared out of the window hoping to catch a glimpse of the remainder of the countryside or possibly a drone. No drones, but I did get to see kilometer upon kilometer of desert, which was a glaring contrast to the mountains I had been in the past 4 days. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]A shot of the mountainous areas from a drive I took outside of Sana’a[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]A shot of an oasis among the ripples of drifting sand[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Once we left Mukalla, I was finally over the Indian Ocean. I noticed two things. First, the ocean was not in a good mood. It was extremely windy and waves were crashing over the jetties leading to the port in Mukalla. I was hoping this wouldn’t be the case in Socotra, but I had my doubts. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Second, the shipping lanes were packed and all of the ships were in straight lined convoys. Pirates inhabited these waters and it was evident as cargo ships were traveling in packs. It is hard to see in the photo below, but there were 5 ships in a row.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
     
    elsyd and Anuvat like this.
  6. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    [SIZE=medium]Soon I felt the plane make its descent as we approached Socotra. The water was just as rough as it was in Mukalla, but I was in the highest spirits I had been in since I departed the States. Transfers were quick and efficient as this airport was much smaller and the staff as friendly as I had ever seen. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Approach to Socotra[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Radwan from Socotra-Eco-Tours met me inside the baggage claim area. The driver and island guide helped me with my gear and we were off to grab a bite in Hadiboh before driving across the island to boats on the far eastern side. After a short bite we were headed east and the entire drive I stared at the ocean to my left. It churned and churned. I knew this wasn’t going to bode well. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]“Galus,” meaning “many rocks” in Arabic, is the area I wanted to target. It is a series of rocks and serves as an extension of the island under the water occasionally becoming exposed between waves. Really, it is the last of the continental plate protruding from the Horn of Africa. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Upon reaching the village overlooking Galus I was instructed we needed to consult the sheikh before taking a boat. He is an older handsome man with many children. His kids and half the men in the village followed us into his house to discuss the next 3 days. Through the guide and over tea, he described the sea as “very sad.” “Hoawa, hoawa,” he explained. Hoawa means “wind” and I agreed with him. We could all hear the waves falling on the rocks in the distances, but he also affirmed the distance I had traveled and insisted that we try to reach Galus. This thrilled me, but these thrills would be about more than fish soon. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]When we reached the beach then entire community was there to help us push the boat down the beach and into the water. This should have served as a warning in itself since every photo I had seen of the boats on the beach was with them anchored, not ashore safe from waves. They were ashore because no other fishermen were out. Nevertheless, “ep, ep, ep” (the word for push), we all shoved the boat for the beach. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]With gear stowed away, the captain cranked the outboard and we were off. I was extremely excited with the sun already low in the sky. I had waited a long time for this. We rounded the point towards Galus, but couldn’t run directly to it despite it being less than 250m away. We tacked our way, but the captain stopped short and began to describe his fear of going further. I was inclined to agree with him. I had found my daughter’s hair bands in my pocket and thought if I died on the sea I wanted to hold something of hers. I could hear a gurgling sucking sound as the trough passed between waves and explosions with each wave’s weight hitting the rocks. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium][​IMG] [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]The captain motioned for me to fish here. I mustered a stance with rod in hand and began to cast against the wind at rocks still 100m away. Obviously, I couldn’t make the distance casting into the wind, but I gave it every attempt. Suddenly a wave came over the side of the boat and it rolled nearly throwing me and all aboard overboard. I sat down and did my best from this position. 5 minutes later, I signaled we should head to shore. I could see relief on their faces. I was not going to risk their lives, mine and the security of our children so this foreigner could get his thrill. I couldn’t even make a 1/3 of the distance needed to secure a shot at a fish and what would I have done if I had hooked one? We pointed the boat back to the shore and surfed swells back to a protected pocket of water to beach the boat. Once ashore we broke camp a few meters from the boat and I prepared for the next morning with hopes of better seas.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Dinner was magnificent with fish, rice, bread and tea. Tea is the universal drink which is served in shot sized glasses with as much sugar as water. We unfurled a rug, spread our dinner into a single dish and used hands to eat the most pleasant meal I had shared since leaving. With Galus roaring in the distance, we finished our food, rolled out sleeping bags and stared at the most incredibly clear star filled skies imaginable to sleep beneath. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]The next morning I awoke to realize the seas were just as angry as the day before. We crushed onions and garlic listening to the sounds of the ocean and mixed it with beans in a pot sprinkled with various spices. We applied honey to bread, spread beans across the center of it and sipped tea as we discussed the plan of attack. We did this as Egyptian vultures encircled the camp waiting for their allotment of the meal.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]“Down, no Galus,” explained the guide. “Galus is very sad.” I just wanted on the water and after a few minutes we were away once more. We pushed west hugging the shoreline looking for protected waters and found a few pockets. I stood at the first pocket and made my initial casts of the day. I watched little trevally and various other species follow and occasionally hit the lure. We were fishing over scattered coral and sand in less than 3m of water. I had little faith I would hook a big GT here. I gave the signal to push further. We did and soon I saw an outcropping of rocks protecting another cove. I pointed to these rocks and the captain slowed the boat within casting distance. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] [​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Shallow cove[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] [​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Nearing rocks[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]My first cast was greeted by an explosion. I hadn’t even popped the lure and this caught me off guard. I had newly found faith coursing my body and adrenalin secreting from my glands. I popped the lure again and after a few sweeps of the rod another explosion took the lure in a flurry of white water. I set the hook and to my amazement the fish ran to deeper water away from the rocks. The drag was locked down and I was nearly pulled off balance. I braced against the gunnel with my left hand and held onto the rod with my right. 5 minutes later and the quarry had been defeated, a smallish 25kg GT was hoisted on board. I handed the camera to the guide and he took a few photos, at least I thought he did. He wasn’t accustomed to the use of cameras and hadn’t turned on the camera before clicking away. No worries. I was ready for more. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]We motored back only to draw a blank, so we moved down the beach and made our way to another cove with little structure. We settled in and I began to cast. Almost immediately, a 5kg GT hit the popper and I somehow hooked it. Even a tiny fish like this fought well and when it neared the boat another GT hit him! “Shit!” I cranked hard and pulled the mauled baby into the boat to be removed from the hooks. I casted back across the cove and popped for 5 minutes only to draw a joker from the deck. Finally, after a few more casts we moved.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]The next cove had some additional rocks at each end. I cast to the first set and was greeted with a crash. This was a barracuda and I made short work of it. They just don’t have the steam an Atlantic version has. I made another cast and was greeted by another hit. This time a bluefin trevally illuminated the water. Its electric colors shined as it fought its way to the boat. I was pleased to be met with some action, but the action soon waned after its release. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] [​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Onward to the next rocks on the adjacent side of the cove… I made a few casts before the boat came to a rest which were met with no response. I was feeling disappointed as this place looked as good of a spot as I had seen. It was an estimated 10m deep with some current. I didn’t give up and persisted. I made a long cast to the edge of the last rock just inside an eddy. I had also switched to a stickbait as popping was wearing me down a bit. As soon as I pulled the lure into the eddy it got blown out of the water only to be engulfed once it landed again. I struck the fish twice and was on to a better fish which dove towards the rocks. The captain started the engine and we dragged the fish, which then went under the boat. The captain swung us around and I was tight. This fish dug in and I felt a rock pass across the line. “Damn,” this can’t be the end and luckily it wasn’t. A few minutes later and the fish came to the gunnel almost upside down. It was slightly smaller than the previous GT, but was a GT nonetheless. I hoisted it aboard and handed a camera, this time already turned on, to the guide who snapped a shot. I listened for a confirmation of a shot taken and released the grunting fish. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] [​IMG] [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]The captain explained to the guide we needed to try to head back and described how long it would take once we cleared the cove into the frothy sea. I knew he was right. The wind was picking up, so we beat our way back. 2 hours later, spines jarred to the core and we surfed ashore to the camp. Galus was to be attempted again in the morning. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]The remainder of the day we cooked, I fed vultures and tied knots with the local fishermen. While I couldn’t speak Arabic, I could speak “fisherman.” I shared braided line with them and showed them how to splice using wire. They showed me how to fish with hand lines from rocks using the thinnest of mono and wire. We caught various 2-3kg fish and cooked them that evening. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]I want to end by extolling a few things about these men. I’ve never seen love and reliance for and with one another as demonstrated by these people. Nephews ran to uncles, brothers embraced brothers, men held hands as they walked and everyone assisted the other. When tea was served, everyone sat together. As food was placed on a mat, everyone shared the meal. Kindness and empathy was offered at every opportunity. Boys from 3 years of age rode the coat tails of men 50 years their senior. You could travel the world over and never find a better people with a stronger sense of community. I did fish the next day with mediocre results under similar conditions, but found myself wanting to be with the village tying knots and laughing at voices not understood. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]When I packed that night to leave, the village elder brought tea to drink with me. His blind brother was led by hand and voice to sit with us. We sat and had tea, smoked strong cigarettes and fed upon the most delicious dates I had ever had the pleasure of eating. Upon departing, each man hugged or kissed me (nose to nose greeting with kisses are the norm) and I felt like I was a part of a community I had only wished to visit. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Since my trip was cut from 8 to 3 days, I will have to return with hopes of better weather, but I could not hope for a better experience. [/SIZE]
     
    semipro, Osage, elsyd and 3 others like this.
  7. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Camp
    [​IMG]
    Classroom Tracking Chart
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Classroom posters explaining resource conservation (overfishing) and the importance of female education.
     
    elsyd and Anuvat like this.
  8. Reelhappy1

    Reelhappy1 Member

    75
    8
    Your students will be thrilled because I am what an amazing adventure! Oh by the way good catch
     
  9. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    [​IMG]
    Mesalina balfouri

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Hadiboh Fish Market

    [​IMG]
    Sunrise

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]53F1B678E5-424-000000BC4137A910_zps7ef62608.jpg[/IMG][/URL]
    Bottletrees
     
    Osage and Anuvat like this.
  11. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    [​IMG]
    Frankincense

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Dinner

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    My Egyptian girlfriend
     
    elsyd likes this.
  12. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    I did chew qat one day in Sana'a. You can see the leaves on the table in this video. Just click the image.
    [​IMG]
     
    semipro likes this.
  13. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    I had some of the same thoughts. I wondered who had walked the streets before me.
     
  14. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    Thanks for the kudos. When I first wrote the report I was in a daze. I didn't even realize what day it was. Jetlag whipped my tail.
     
  15. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    Thanks. I didn't realize the beard would have come in so handy. I would definitely check out Sana'a next time. You may have a little more trouble blending, but it shouldn't be a too much of a problem. I really paid attention to my surroundings and it took me 24 hours to settle down. Had I known I would be in the city I could have mentally prepared for it. It was quite a shock.
    The Syrian refugees are what took my by surprise. I would start to cry as the women would beg and sort of blow my cover. Their eyes were all I could see, but they were telling. Full of desperation and anguish. It was heart breaking and I avoided taking any photos of them and kept my phone in my pocket. I would slip it out to take photos while pretending to make a call. I wish I could have freely taken photos.
     
  16. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    My own mother didn't recognize me. I guess that was the point.
    I am glad he got his YFT. It seems that last cast is "the one!"
     
  17. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    Actually, I did. The reason I was decking on crew boats was to get access to the tuna and I had a pin on a map indicating Socotra as a destination at age 12. This was 27 years in the making.
     
  18. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

    1,717
    277
    I would also like to thank Mark (TS18997) for loaning me his MC Works Belt, Kevin (txseadog) for the extra back up spool and Basil for spooling my Stellas.
    I almost didn't get my spools back in time for the trip due to the immense back up with UPS due to ice storm as well as Christmas Eve rush. Basil had them pull the package from ground shipping and overnight them to avoid the confusion of the bottleneck. Basil, thanks again. That was a great help.
     
  19. Anuvat

    Anuvat Senior Member

    1,330
    191
    Amazing report with some of the best pictures . Funny, I have similar pictures that I took to show my kids how fortunate they are. Thanks again for posting.
     
  20. jordanis3r

    jordanis3r Senior Member

    352
    5
    Awesome read - looks like you enjoyed the city and the culture :D

    Shame about the weather - but it keeps us going back for more!