Saturday, September 13, 2008

Prawn Fishing in New Zealand

Traveling can generally be divided into two schools of thought. First, you could attempt to learn how locals live their daily lives. This becomes a much easier task when your travels include long-term residency. Your best options include taking a working holiday, studying abroad, or staying with friends who can show you the sights not listed in every guidebook.

Option two is to take advantage of being on vacation and indulge in activities that you, or those native to the area, wouldn’t normally be inclined to do. These can fall along the lines of guided tours, visiting historical sights, or finding the perfect scenic backdrop for a photo op to memorialize your experience. You could even call them a traveler's guilty pleasures.

I generally fall more into the first category. It took me three years of living in New York City before I made it to the top of the Empire State Building, but I was thrilled when friends visited and suggested that I join them. Every once in a while you have to let your inner tourist emerge.

This is how I ended up at a prawn fishing farm in Taupo, New Zealand. I’d been to the town many times, as it’s generally the closest big city for us to go out for a night or do some decent shopping, but today’s mission was different.

We arrived at Huka Prawn Park, paid an admission fee and received a brief lesson on the best techniques to catch a prawn. Apparently, once you feel them take the bait on the end of your pole they have to walk around and show off their prize to all of the other prawns around them, so you don’t want to pull up as soon as you feel a tug. Instead, you’re supposed to follow them with your line as they stagger about with bravado, waiting for the jerk that means they’ve finally taken a bite before pulling them out of the water.

Some of us were better at this than others. Although I was one of the first to feel a tug on my line, I managed to either pull it up too early or wait too long and discover that they had eaten the bait and scampered off on their prawny way. We watched as the boys managed to catch a few (including Arturo’s monster prawn) and laughed as Keri squealed with a combination of delight and fear when she pulled hers out of the water but was too horrified to take it off the hook herself.

We brought our bounty inside to be cooked (slightly disappointed that our time and effort resulted in about one bite per person as opposed to the full meal we had been expecting) and hit the driving range in the meantime. There were inner tubes floating at various distances offering prize money for sinking a hole in one, but I simply prayed that it wouldn’t take me too many swings before making contact with the ball. I managed it in two.

We finished our afternoon with a stop at one of the more natural attractions of New Zealand- hot springs.
 After a stop at the store for some picnic food, we changed into our swimsuits and began vying for the best seat among the rocks. We sat back and enjoyed absolute tranquility- until it started to rain without a single trademarked umbrella in sight! Tourists may occasionally be better prepared, but it’s unpredictable moments like these that will stick in my memory long after the prawns have left the farm.

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