Our objective is to make the River prawn harvesting a memorable experience.
We are city dwellers who cringe for a little excitement.
And this is our story.....
We are city dwellers who cringe for a little excitement.
And this is our story.....
The government had increased the Petrol price per liter from RM1.95 to RM2.10 (RM0.20).
Really? Switch on to NGV my friend. Petrol consumption is your worst enemy, your NGV is an investment.
Headed to Sungai Besar, Selangor on Saturday, 7th September 2013, 145km from Kuala Lumpur.
We need to be at the location around 3.00 pm. Picked up my old childhood pal, Mr Naza at Gombak around 1.00pm then straight to Latar Highway.
There is only one NGV station in Ijok if you intend to travel to Kuala Selangor
We dropped by at Petronas NGV Ijok town for refuelling, my old car had travelled around 45km at this point. Then, headed towards Sungai Besar where Mr Afandy who was supposed to meet and bring us to the exact location (near Sungai Haji Dorani).
We reached the location around 3.30pm (2 hours journey from Kuala Lumpur), to this old shack which is situated in the middle of palm oil plantation few kilometres from the main road via Jalan 9. About 100 metres of gravel road leading to here. At this river bank, there are 2 shacks which were built few metres higher from the ground. This is to avoid the flood water during a heavy downpour or rainy season. The electricity here powered by a small fuel-operated generator with a loud buzzing sound throughout the night.
Mr Jamil is the proud owner of one of this rickety shacks said that this is his getaway place-to-be to accommodate his hobby an interest, that is, catching marine life and most popular, river prawn.
There are two black, big, square containers of clean water placed a metre above the ground for washing and cleaning up here. The clean water was scarce here, so, better bring your own extra litres.
Down below at the river, there are two small man made jetty, with a series of wooden planks that neatly joined together and using a lot of air tight containers beneath to keep it afloat. A small, thin woods were used as a bridge to connect the land and the jetty. Few bunches of sticks made from bamboo were grounded from the river floor protruding few metres from the surface, the boat is used to park in between the bunch of these stilts to minimise the ‘shaky’ movement during in and out the boat. We also can grab hold of these sturdy bamboos for proper balance.
Keeping your balance is important at this level as the jetty will move up and down inconsistently whenever we step on it or due to the small waves cause by passers -by boat.
The ‘curved’ river is similar to 8 lanes of tarmac road surrounded by thick foliage at both banks. The mangroves are the dominant occupant in this area.
The Netting Process
We’re supposed to get down to the river at 5.00pm, we have 2 more hours to get ready. It was recommended to start setting up the fishing net during the lowest tide. It will work like this :
· - Find a potential spot
· - Lowest tide i.e 5.00pm
· - Set up the net
· The net will be set up on the ground in a U-shape format like a fence from one end to another
· With the rising tide, the marine lives, fishes and river prawns will normally moving towards the river banks (in search for food and get socialized..I think)
· During high tide, the net which had been set up earlier will be raised few inches from the water level manually at 9.00pm
· As the fish normally parallel with the water level, and while the tide is getting lower, the fishes in the river banks earlier will get caught· Harvesting time – at 5.00am
Get Down to Business
I packed my handphone and dslr camera wrapped with plastic, put it in my backpack. Everything shall be captured in photos, I claimed.
After changing to our outfit (shorts) and barefooted, 2 boatmen requested us to get into the boat. The show has begun. It was me and Mr Naza with our boatmen respectively. The super lightweight fibre-glass boat propelled by small but powerful RM3K engine, speeding fast through the murky water. Expected this was not Venice type of leisure ride, the boat was administering sharp corners perfectly and about 5 to 10 minutes, we reached to what was seems to be a promising spot for river prawn.
Smoking on the boat sitting on the fishing net - heaven!
It was an open area, undisturbed and mud-filled, what used to be a river floor few hours earlier. The boatmen, Mr Jamil and Mr Ikhsan setting up the net, fencing the area. The net stretched like 50 metres long. The bottom part of the net need to be buried sufficiently in the ground with your fingers in order for it to hold firmly during high tide and provide no escape plan for the fish to runaway. Then, a scoop of mud will be put on the net – to temporarily assigned the net in that position waiting for the tide to come.
The four of us need to braved the knee-deep mud (waist deep in certain area) setting up the net. Few long poles were also mounted on the ground few metres apart in line with the net. The poles will be used as an anchor to fasten the net during high tide.
The process took us about 45 minutes to one hour and we have one more set of net to go.
The tide is coming!
The water had slowly increased a few notch within minutes by the time we reached the second spot (few hundred metres from the first one), Mr Jamil and Mr Ikhsan had difficult time setting up the net while in the waist deep water. The process was a daunting experienced but considered normal by the locals. We completed fencing the areas in 1 hour 30 minutes or so, we returned back to the shack by almost 7.00pm. I realized that we haven’t had our proper meal since breakfast. We headed down to the nearest food outlet, some 10km away. It’s kind of far (too far) just to eat. I had my ‘soto ayam’. I normally had Soto ayam which is soup and square-ish pressed-rice but this soto ayam was different and kind of special in this area. The soup had been replaced by ‘kuah kacang’ (bean gravy). Yummy!
The chicken chunks was at the bottom
The Net Repositioning
At 9.30pm, there we were again clad in our shorts and tshirt that we used earlier. We put on our headlamp. In a flash, we’re in the boat already. The tide was at the maximum level at this hour, the jetty seems at the same level from the land. In total darkness, our headlamp was our primary gadget to brighten the elusive path ahead. The boatmen, both using high powered headlamp, with the powerful lumens, navigating from a distance.
My headlamp only able to brighten area of few feet away, seems hopeless. I have to salute Mr Jamil and Mr Ikhsan to be able to locate back the correct location, it’s a skills that had developed through years of experience. Upon reaching the area that had been fenced earlier, Mr Ikhsan then tied the net to the pole few inches above the water surface. Then, moved to adjacent pole, repeated the process until the net at all poles point had been fastened. The whole process took about 1 hour or so, then back to our shelter. It was dark, quiet and cold. There was nothing to see in front of me but when I looked up, I’ve been mesmerized by hundreds of shining stars.
The time was 10.30pm, washed our bodies and went inside the shack. It was mostly carpeted flooring, high ceiling. Few essential items were placed neatly on the shelves. I saw few car batteries to operate the electrical appliances, fan and radio. Mr Naza and Mr Jamil continued to chat all night, for me, it was time for my bed. Nite-nite. We need to get up at 5.00am. The radio turned on the whole night, nobody seems to bother except my friend, Mr Naza who could not sleep, disturbed by the pounding sound.
The Harvesting Time
Awakened at 4.30am, it’s Sunday, 8th September 2013, we prepared our gear, well, not much, just shorts, tshirt, sweater and headlamp. I brought my camera with me. We rolled out at 5.00am. As we reached our spot, no time to lose, 4 of us jumped into the cold water and deep mud inspecting the net. Me and Mr Ikhsan at one end and Mr Naza and Mr Jamil at the other. Eventually we will meet in the middle. The tide had subsided. With the help of my soft-light headlamp, I saw the net some sort of hanging few metres above.
The trapped fishes and our targeted river prawn were squeaking uncontrollably when we scoured the net. We collected the poor fishes and put it in a container. Now off to second spot, repeat all the steps again. The fish harvesting moment lasted about an hour.
Back At the Shack
At the shack, they divided the fish and the prawn for us (yay!). They separated the bigger fish as they intended to sell it off to fish-merchant who will be coming a little later, about 8.00am. The catch of the day is about few kilo of ‘Tapah’ and ‘Baung’ which could fetch high market price per kilogram.
The fish-merchant came shortly after, in the middle of our effort to get my stuck car from a pool of deep mud. Mr ‘Apek’ (what the locals call him) offered us his service to tow the car. Succeeded!! Thanks Apek!
The reward for us? The excitement, the priceless experience and most importantly, the river prawn!! We got few kilos of that big-headed prawns. The cost of the whole experienced was at RM70-00 per person seems a trivial matter to us compared to the new friendship, what have we learned and living in a secluded location with lack of basic needs.
Will we repeat? You betcha! See you in December. Interested? give me a buzz...