For many Canadians, traveling south in the winter is a regular occurance. Many people that I know have been going somewhere warm each and every winter for many years. That’s not me. Not my style. You see, I’m an oddball who happens to like winter. Not driving through dicey roads, but to enjoy the four seasons that we have. I don’t mind shovelling. I prefer hunting when there’s snow on the ground. Fall is my very favourite season and basking in the sun is not my forte, my chosen activity. I’d rather do something than laying on a beach or by a pool.
In order to appreciate why it’s a big deal, you need to know me. Many of you know that I’m a hunter, a fisherman, someone who has worked in public his whole life, and dealt with negativity at work for the last 15 years or so. I recently opened up about mental health issues which were caused by that work, but now extend further than work itself. My therapy has always been the peace and quiet of the woods, whether it’d be on a lake, river or by a creek, in a tree stand or walking in nature, away from electronics, internet, crowds and… negativity. And that’s why you see me often snap at the negative Nancy’s in our Habs’ fan base.
When my girlfriend approached me with the idea of taking a week to go to Mexico, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I know that she loves the sun, and that she needed a getaway somewhere warm. But when you love someone, you do things for one another and it was my turn to do something for her. Knowing how I am, she lured me into a promise to go ocean fishing (no pun intended). And I took the bait (pun intended).
Driving to Kelowna to take a 7:00 am international flight, we had to leave Penticton at 4:00 am. So far, so good as I’m a morning person and I do wake up early in normal time… particularly during hunting season! It’s the first time I’ve used my passport in years and I’ve never, ever flown across the borders, not even to the States. I’ve driven to the states, but never flown anywhere but in Canada. Oh I’m not afraid of flying. I’m just not the type who likes being crammed into an airplane for hours on end, with people pushing on the back of my seat, kids crying and dumb people taking their sweet time to board and take their seat.
But then, it was a clear day and we flew over the Grand Canyon. I had seen it in person, walked along the edge once during a trip to Las Vegas and it was my favourite part of the trip back then. Truth being told, I didn’t like Vegas because… it was way too crowded. Odd bird I am, I know. But what a sight to see it from up above, giving me a new perspective of how huge and majestic it is.
CABO SAN LUCAS
Oh my God the nightmare upon arrival… 10 airplanes arrived at the same time and there was a HUGE lineup to get through the Mexican Customs. You know how they decide who to search? You press a button and if the light is red, you get searched. If it’s green, you get to go through without a search. I’m not making this up! Then, up to the bus to drive us to our hotel. We arrived on time for the dinner buffet, walked around a bit and, exhausted by the travel, it was an early bedtime.
The next day we spent at the pool and walked the beach, but not before we booked a couple of excursions: Ocean fishing as promised by my girlfriend, and swimming with dolphins. The temperatures were between 25-28 degrees, sunny all week so we knew that we would have a good week, whether it was on our excursions or spending time at the beach or poolside. The sights were amazing, and so were the sunrises and sunsets. Loads of sunscreen, I had to spend time in our hotel room in the afternoon to escape the hot sun… and people.
I had no idea what to expect. After all, the biggest fish I caught was a Spring salmon in the Hazelton, BC region. But this was the ocean, and the assortment of fish was unlimited, with most species unknown to me. My girlfriend and I met with our captain and co-captain at the marina at 7:00 am. We had rented the boat for ourselves. After getting our fishing licences and purchasing live baits, we were off. Our captain set-up the lines and we were coasting, enjoying the ride, when a line got a bite. The captain rushed to hook the fish and handed me the rod. Sitting on a chair with a rod holder, I immediately felt the power and weight of whatever was at the other end. And it’s not until I saw it jump out of the water at a distance that I realised what I was trying to reel in: a Marlin!
I can’t describe the feeling as excitement isn’t quite enough. A freakin’ Marlin! What a fight he was putting. A spectacular fight, jumping in and out of water, diving deep and further away, I brought it to the boat three times and after a 45 minutes fight, our captain managed to finally gaff it and bring it into the boat. We had made up our mind, this one was coming home with us to be set on the wall. Beautiful blue, grey and purple colours with stripes, it was enough to make me forget how sore my arms were for a few minutes.
Several minutes later, we got not one, but two other bites simultaneously and we saw not one, but TWO Marlins jumping out of the ocean! Our captain hooked one on and started reeling it in as I was bringing in the other lines. By the time I got to the other line with the other Marlin, he spit out the bait and swam away. So my girlfriend was battling the one remaining. It was fun to see her battle that jumping fish and like me, she had a smile on her face. However, she had been going to physiotherapy for a sore shoulder so after several minutes of fight, she handed me the rod to bring this baby in for her. We had made the decision to release this one so after bringing it into the boat and taken a couple of pictures, he got a second life by being thrown back in. What a thrill though!
Back at the marina, the captain put up a “Trophy” flag on the boat and people gathered around to congratulate us and admire our prized catch. We donated the meat with the exception of a slab for two, which we took to a local restaurant to cook seven different ways. Nothing better than freshly caught fish and the Marlin was absolutely delicious! He’s now getting mounted in Florida, then shipped back to us in BC.
To top up the experience, we saw some humpback whales in the ocean and on our way back to the marina, a group of dolphins were swimming along the side of our boat. Magical day, once in a lifetime experience.
A couple of days later, we went swimming with dolphins. We’ve all seen them on TV and more recently, we had seen some by our boat after fishing but to seen them from up close, it would be a first for us. Life jackets on, we stepped into a shallow portion of the pool where Mirai, a ten year-old female, was waiting for us with our trainer. Soft rubber is how I would describe the feel of a dolphin. She was extremely friendly, docile and well behaved. She loves people and doing tricks. She kissed us, we kissed her back.
After a few meet and greets, she performed a few tricks for us as we’re sitting in the shallow end. Then, we get to decide the way we want to swim with her. I chose the deep swim by her side. So I remove my life jacket, put on some goggles and jump into the deep end beside her. I grab onto her dorsal fin with one hand, and her side fin with the other and on the count of three, I take a deep breath as Mirai dives in with my by her side. We went to the bottom of the pool before she accelerated, as I’m feeling the power of this amazing animal. She then started swimming directly upwards and jumped out of the water with me by her side and that’s when you have to let go, which I did, half my body out of the water. What a thrill! An experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. For video of the swim, you can see it on Twitter or Facebook.
BACK TO REALITY
After spending seven days in the hot sun, I have had enough. While I had a great time, it was time to go home and away from that hot sun. Tanned, rested and satisfied, we made the long trip back to Canada. Thankfully, we live in the Okanagan and came back to a plus -2 degrees as opposed to the freezing temperatures some others had to returned to. But it’s still a 25 degrees difference from where we came from.
Now, bring on the NHL trade deadline… and more exciting news and adventures.