We pulled into Cancun under cover of darkness. Just that morning we had left our mountain paradise with skeptical minds that we could survive a week at the beach. I’d sat transfixed at the airplane window watching my rivers interconnect into a network I really didn’t want to leave. I made mental to do list of places I wanted to fish when I returned home. Then the mountains disappeared from view, the earth flattened and browned, and we were grateful that at least our destination wasn’t Texas.
Flying into Cancun in the dark left many surprises for the following morning, not the least of which was my immediate awe of that clear water passing through all shades of blue to the horizon. But in the dark it was all inky black. We passed over the bridge to the Zona Hotelera and were intrigued by the row of individuals lining the roadside, facing the lagoon with long poles dangling into the abyss. They sat on white five gallon buckets, if their luck hadn’t been great, or stood next to the buckets loaded with the catch. It struck us that these were people fishing for sustenance not sport, and in that sensory shallow perspective of Cancun we thought of the roots of Tenkara. Streamlined fishing to maximize the catch. I wonder if those Japanese fishermen ever faced the perils the lagoon fishing crowd does—alligators and crocodiles. We were forbidden from going near the lagoon in early morning hours when the nesting creatures rule. I cannot quite imagine fishing next to them. Our cab driver gave us our most memorable advice of the trip – if approached by a gator, run in increasingly larger concentric circles to escape. I don’t think that works for mountain lions.
Even in the dark we were drawn immediately to the shore and by daylight we were smitten with this new environment for us. That week we spent a lot of hours next to, and in the ocean. It took me awhile to adjust to seeing a horizon line, having lived in mountains just long enough to forget about wide open space. I couldn’t help myself, drawing comparisons of waves breaking in the distance with rapids crashing in front of my kayak. I studied the movement of water. I found the sounds soothing versus a river that always leaves me a tad on edge. I bobbed along, caressed in warm waves and started to find water less scary, even when the current pulled me farther away from shore ever so slightly. And when I returned to Colorado and stood beside one of my rivers I was pleased to discover that the lessons of the ocean, the comfort I’d gleaned from those beach days, was directly transferable. I hesitated less to stand deeper in the cold water and walked with more confidence on the slick river rocks.
We will never be beach people, but we are water people and fishing people. The lagoon with its predators and the ocean with its embracing and intoxicating waves both taught us things about our sports and I am grateful for that. We will go back to the ocean. I’m confident of that. I can do without the alligators though.