As Michelle drives her dad’s old Toyota Coaster across the Nullarbor, taking Rex to his final resting place, old memories are flooding back.
It’s early March when I find myself in Alexander Bay, Western Australia. From the campsite, a path leads to a 9 mile wide open bay. The Easterly wind gently shuffles the green coastal heath. My toes sink into the purest white sand I have ever seen, while my eyes wander between emerald patches and the deep blue of the Southern Ocean. Breathing deeply, the ocean breeze fills my lungs, true serenity.
On my right, there’s a gathering on the rocks, people are having a lively chat about fishing gear and fish size. Standing tall amongst them, a slim, older bloke, wearing “sunnies” and the iconic Akubra hat, holds his catch of the day.
“Are you Rex?”, I candidly ask.
Everyone looks at me, the fisherman turns, surprised, “Are you looking for Rex?”
“I met a Swiss couple by a telephone booth in Esperance”, I answer. “Their enticing description of Alexander Bay brought me here,” “a secluded campsite, a white sandy beach with a couple of people fishing and living the life. A gem, few know about.” They added, “if you come across Rex, say hi from Franck and Carole.”
Here I am, taking a chance by asking the man with the big fish.
Is it intuition or sheer luck? I had just met Rex, the keen fisherman.
The fish of the day, a 2.5’ Pink Snapper is now cut and shared between all. Acknowledging my curiosity, Rex offers to take me fishing. I had never fished before so I accept. After lunch, we board his 10’ inflatable dinghy. One hour later, and a bucket full of herring, we store the boat for the night. Time to learn how to fillet fish.
During the following days, Rex teaches me about fishing tackles, rods, and reels. Cast, reel in, repeat, sometimes fight and land a fish. We have fun, laugh, talk, open up, and develop a lasting friendship.
By coming here, not only I have discovered a spectacular place, I also met an inspiring man who introduced me to angling, a thrilling and skillful activity. Whether trolling, bottom fishing, or casting off the beach, within 2 weeks, I caught 10 different species.
But, most importantly, Rex allowed me to experience the ability to address one of our most basic needs, feeding oneself. There is something organic, an overwhelming joy in hooking and sharing your catch. A unique feeling I will be forever grateful to him for.