Life in the first world, lets be honest, is exceptionally easy for most of us, and if you haven't seen Catherine Tate in her skit about Posh parents trying to survive without "essentials" here is the link :
You might wonder why I am telling you this but recently we had an experience that proved to be not only fun but instructive and a wee bit scary.
We met with our guide Linc on a beach and he presented us with three spears. The spears were long, thin bamboos and they had barbed tips at the end of them. Linc handed us one each and made us practice throwing them on the beach - our aim was to hit a coconut shell. Well the results were variable and hilarious but that is only half the tale.
We rolled up our shorts and headed down the beach- the tide was receding so we could comfortably walk along while listening to Linc. He showed us Hibiscus flowers growing in a big bush and told us how the leaves soothed inflammations and the sap had a slightly antiseptic effect. We saw and tasted beach lettuce and listened to tales of his aboriginal roots and his ancestry. We learnt about spearing and fishing and what to look for to find our catch. Once we had rounded the first bit of beach land we headed straight into the mangroves. I never thought you could walk in mangroves, they always have this look of being a little dark and full of sprouting bits which pop up in the sand and which look uncomfortable to walk on. In addition they are quite dense and it is actually a bit of an exercise in overcoming obstacles trying to get through them but Linc powered ahead and we followed with our bucket and our spears.We heard about the red and black mangroves their aerial roots able to withstand the high concentrations of salt and how successful they are in attracting the creatures of the sea.
These pictures give a good indication of how dense the undergrowth was. Our mission for the day - to catch our lunch - no supermarkets, no corner shops, just the big wide ocean and the mangroves. We must have walked for miles and I enjoyed every minute of it as I stopped to photograph the roots, that give up their oxygen, the barnacles that grew on them, the oysters, welts, winkles and the crabs.
Photographing however does not yield any food - and I am sorry to tell you that I would have soon become an evolutionary dead end. The men were slightly more successful and here are some of the photographs to prove it.
We looked for crabs and fish and we caught both. One poisonous fish and four small crabs and what a sense of achievement that was. The mangroves are not the easiest terrain and we were bitten silly by the mosquitos but they are a rich and fertile area for shell fish and for fish. Many insects, reptiles and mammals use mangroves for food, shelter and breeding. They also provide habitats for many small insectivorous plants.So protecting them and ensuring they are not destroyed is hugely important to the coast line.
The biggest joy however was returning along the beach and consuming the crabs for lunch. No brie, no wine, nothing but our bare hands and some water and what a meal it was.