Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Farewell to Shark's Bay

Fred and Nancy at Shark's Bay

"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise," according to poet Thomas Gray. I cringe at the thought that we lived our lives according to that principle, but when I remember Shark's Bay....

Farewell to Shark's Bay
(from Voluntary Nomads, Part Five: Somalia Safaris, Chapter 21)

On the trip back to town, passing Shark's Bay, Fred drew our attention to the unusual number of cars parked on the beach. A few months earlier the trip to Shark's Bay had been simplified by the construction of a real road. The Somali government built a highway to reach a prisoner-of-war camp down the coast from Shark's Bay, and the road passed close enough to the beach to give access to any kind of vehicle, including ordinary passenger cars and motorcycles. Shark's Bay became a popular recreation destination, no longer our private beach. With the shine of adventure removed, our trips there had become less frequent and we hadn't been there in months.
Fred signaled Buddy to stop, and we walked to the beach to see what was going on. People gathered in small groups. There was not a single person in the water. The absence of laughter and happy beach noises left a disturbing void. Buddy approached one of the groups to ask what had happened. He learned that a shark had attacked the teenage son of an Italian diplomat. Two other men yanked the boy from the shark's jaws, but not before the shark had bitten through his leg. Friends had carried the victim to their pickup truck and raced off toward Mogadishu, but the truck spun out in the sand and rolled over, throwing the injured boy out of the truck bed. With the help of bystanders they flipped the truck onto its wheels and went on to the hospital in Mog. We heard later that the victim's family arranged to fly him home to Italy for further treatment, but he died before the plane reached Rome.
In the following weeks we heard another horror story about a family who had invited a friend of their eight-year-old daughter to go to Shark's Bay with them. A shark attacked and killed the daughter's friend, biting her poor little body in half.
I couldn't count the number of times we had played in the water at Shark's Bay without ever worrying about sharks, much less seeing one. I wondered if the new road had brought so many people to the beach that the sharks took notice. Someone told us that the sharks were Zambezi River Sharks that had adopted an alternate migration pattern.
We knew about the danger of sharks on Mogadishu's city beaches. No one from the international community dared to wade in the water near town where aggressive sharks attacked in the shallows (except for the two German men who were killed on the day of their arrival, without getting a chance to hear the warnings). Mogadishu had become a busy port through the destruction of a protective reef. The sharks had unobstructed access to the offal dumped into the harbor by the large-scale meat processing plant located there. Now the sharks had discovered our former paradise and it would never again be the safe playground we had enjoyed so much. ###

There's more to the story than just these excerpts -- find the whole adventure in Voluntary Nomads in paperback at (click here ) and Barnes & Noble online (click this ) or digital versions for Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo, iReader, all in one convenient location at Smashwords (click now ), or download the PDF for your PC or laptop at Outskirts Press (click away ). So many choices!

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