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Letter from Rarotonga

By Jonathan Harwood, sunburnt the South Seas.

5 December 2003

I am writing this with a face the colour of beetroot after accidentally going big game fishing without any sunblock. It's one of things you forget when you have to get up at 5.30 a.m. when it's still dark and you didn't get much sleep because of the party that turned into a mass brawl in the flat upstairs at 4 a.m. Especially if you are hungover as well - which, make no mistake, I was.

Still, I have popped my ocean-going-canoe-based-fish-killing cherry at the second time of asking by "catching" an 18kg wahoo, or (for all you non-Rarotongans) Spanish Mackerel. Apparently wahoos don't fight as much as other fish, but I had to hand the rod to the skipper with about 30 foot left to pull in because I had a dead arm after fighting the mighty beast for all of seven minutes about half a mile off Tikioki.

Rather frustratingly, I did not get to carve lush sushi strips out of the still quivering flesh of my quarry as it is destined for the Moko Cafe's curry night on Tuesday - but I shall be there and proudly order a plate of wahoo rogan josh, or whatever it is, and I shall raise a glass of 'Export Strength' Cooks Lager to the memory of a fine fish, and a worthy adversary.

After the mighty wahoo had succumbed to the air and my arm had returned to life we caught a mahi mahi - or (for all you non-Rarotongans) Dolphin Fish. That one jumped and all sorts, until we hit it on the head with a club. All very exciting, and because the bloke who owns the boat is a mate, all FREE!

It was hot work, all this catching and killing, and I was still more than moderately hungover, so I asked the skipper if I could pop overboard for a refreshing swim. He smiled and pointed out that a bloody great mako shark had attacked a fishing boat rather like ours just the other day, so it might not be such a good idea. Apparently the shark dragged down the fishing gear which got stuck round the propeller - HE'S GOING UNDER THE BLOODY BOAT - THE HELL HE CAN, NOT WITH THREE BARRELS ON HIM - NOT WITH THREE BARRELS HE CAN'T - and so the boat had to drift, while the shark circled, until they could get someone to tow them the 20 miles back to port.

I took a rain check on my dip.

Needless to say, the press has now declared a bounty on the shark's head; and yes, newly blooded, I rather fancy my chances. On Saturday, at dawn, we sail. Until then - farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies, farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain...

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