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Fly fishing on Kiritimati: Part 3–The people and the place part

In case you missed it, Part 2 can be found here. If you’d prefer not to read Part 2 please do not click the link.

“There’s more to fishing than catching fish.”

While perhaps an overused cliche, the above quote really is true and was particularly relevant on Kiritimati. We went there to fish, and were not disappointed in that aspect of the trip. But it was the people—our fishing companions and the locals we met—that made the trip special. I certainly came away with an appreciation for the people of this remote place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

We met a few other foreigners on the island that were just passing through, but Kiritimati is not what anyone would consider a popular tourist destination. Two sailboats were anchored just off the beach at Sunset Horizon and we briefly met the crews from each boat. One boat was owned by The Great Danes, a couple from Denmark and two young crew members who had been at sea for 15 months. Kiritimati was their furthest point of travel before they would soon begin their return voyage. The other boat was under the command of Crazy Larry from Kansas City, whom we met briefly one day as we returned from fishing. Crazy Larry had a most impressive mustache that curled under his chin and muffled his voice and made it nearly impossible to determine whether or not he had a full set of teeth. He was quite the character, traveling with his two crew members: a very attractively-built, late 30-something woman from Italy with unshaven armpits, and her son boyfriend much younger male companion. I’d love to have had time to sit down with this crew and hear their full story because it would no doubt have been rather intriguing. Crazy Larry hadn’t been home to the States in nearly 20 years and this was his second trip sailing around the world. Yeah, his story would probably be the stuff movies are made of. Apparently he and his crew had been “stuck” on the island for 5 months, waiting for a necessary part for their boat that had taken 13-1/2 weeks to arrive. They were eager to get back out to sea, however some sort of hold-up with the immigration office had prevented them from departing the island. Apparently they did resolve the immigration issue and had left before we did. I wish I’d been able to capture a photo of Crazy Larry, but my hunch is that he wouldn’t have wanted any public exposure.

Our lodge companion, a young woman by the name of Waltzing Matilda, had departed her home in France after graduating from college. From there she set out to travel the world by herself, first going to Russia and from there to South Korea, the Philippines, Hawaii and then Kiritimati where she undoubtedly encountered a place very different from what she had expected. After a few days she realized that if one were not here to fish, there wasn’t much to do (she was not there to fish). Sharing our evening leisure time with Waltzing Matilda was a nice reprieve from talking about fishing with a bunch of crusty old farts. Matilda was a great sport as she accepted a gift of the Big Sexy shirt. Speaking of good sports, I promised Goose that this would be the last time I post a photo of the Big Sexy.

Waltzing Matilda and Goose.

Waltzing Matilda and Goose.

Our lodge was in the heart of Ronton (London), which is the main settlement on the island and home to somewhere around less than 2000 people. We spent our days fishing and didn’t have much time to take in the town until our last evening. After returning early from fishing, we decided to take a bag of candy and walk around the streets near the lodge, meeting the locals and passing out sweets to the kids.  We took our French traveling friend with us lest the children be put off by a bunch of old American fishermen walking around handing out candy from a van. Mathilda’s charm obviously worked because the candy didn’t last long.

A likely looking group of candy recipients approaches.

A likely looking group of candy recipients approaches.

Matilda makes friends as she passes out candy.

Matilda makes friends as she passes out candy.

The locals were friendly and politely accepted candy with warm smiles. None of the children were greedy and freely shared their bounty with others.

This little guy was a bit shy, but his father politely thanks Matilda for the candy.

This little guy was a bit shy, but his father politely thanked Matilda for the candy.

Jimmy hands out candy to a truckload of happy kids.

Jimmy hands out sweets to a truckload of happy kids.

After the candy was gone we decided to walk down the street to one of the local bars and see what the evening night life on Kiritimati was like. Passing through town we got a very small glimpse of life on the island. The people were friendly and quick to greet us with smiles and waves. The town was bustling in the relative comfort of the evening.

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 works at the security gate at the entrance to Sunset Horizon Lodge.

Nantara works the security gate at the entrance to Sunset Horizon Lodge.

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One of the bars bore a large sign that said, “Anglers”, making it a clear choice for our group. However the joint was closed so we headed to another nearby establishment that was open for business. The barkeep at the Lady Wheel Bar was undoubtedly glad to sell us a round of Budweiser from the slightly-below-room-temperature refrigerator. As we choked down enjoyed our beer, our hostess from the lodge, Lisa, joined us, though not to drink, mind you, as she was 7 months pregnant. Lisa had seen us enter the bar and was concerned we would get sidetracked and not make it back to the lodge in time for dinner. It was her job to herd us back in time for a very special celebration that the staff had prepared for us on our last night. We would not be late for the festivities.

Visiting the one local bar that was open.

The beer was almost cold at the Lady Wheel Bar, where we were joined by our hostess, Lisa.

Our friendly barkeep and Goose.

Our friendly barkeep, Ririi, and Goose.

Marck and Cap'n Jesse celebrate the last day of having to drink room temperature Budweiser

Marck and Cap’n Jesse celebrate the last day of having to drink room temperature Budweiser.

Back at Sunset Horizon Lodge, it was time for our big feast and celebration (luau) to begin. The staff had prepared a grand feast that included a spit-roasted pig and more side dishes than I can recall. The pig was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. I think even the boys from the Lone Star state, Gus and Woodrow, agreed that it was worthy of Texas BBQ standards.

Roasted to perfection.

Roasted to perfection.

As we feasted we were entertained by three very talented youngsters who performed a traditional dance. It was quite a treat.

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It was a fantastic last evening and a really nice show of hospitality by the staff at the lodge.

Waltzing Matilda and Lisa.

Waltzing Matilda and Lisa.

Texas Gus and Goose.

Texas Gus and Goose.

Our gracious server,

Reaitati, one of our gracious servers at Sunset Horizon Fishing Lodge.

The lodge manager, and Goose.

The Sunset Horizon Fishing Lodge manager, Aretima, and Goose.

Marck and Billy Joe don't appear to be happy about leaving int he morning.

Marck and Billy Joe don’t appear to be happy about leaving in the morning.

Jimmy, Cap'n Jesse, Billy Joe, Texas Gus and Woodrow, Joe, Goose, UA, Marck, Waltzing Matilda and Kuri (one of our guides during the week).

Jimmy, Cap’n Jesse, Billy Joe, Texas Gus and Woodrow, Joe, Goose, UA, Marck, Waltzing Matilda and Kuri (one of our guides).

And that’s a wrap on our visit to Kiritimati. The next morning we would rise at 4:30am for an early morning truck ride to the airport and 7:30 flight back to Honolulu. Next year I hope to go back and spend more time outside of the lodge, seeing more of the local flavor.

Here are a few more random shots from around Ronton and other nearby villages.

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Upon return to the marina we were greeted most days by a crowd of enthusiastic children.

Upon return to the marina we were greeted most days by a crowd of enthusiastic children.

A truckload of children on their way to school.

A truckload of children on their way to school.

Children playing in schoolyard one morning.

Children playing in one of the schoolyards.

One of several schools near Ronton.

St. Francis High School.

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A cemetery outside of the town of Ronton.

A cemetery outside of the town of Ronton.

 

 

I discovered this blog while doing a search for local information about Kiritimati. It’s quite well done so if you have interest in reading some firsthand insight into the island I recommend having a look-see: A Snapshot of Life on Kiritimati (Christmas Island)

 

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