Deep in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, with sweat rolling down my back, I sat patiently in the dug-out canoe under the equatorial sun’s harsh rays. The surrounding jungle was tranquil in the mid-day heat and not the cacophony of sounds heard the night before. The occasional mosquito buzzing in my ear wasn’t enough to make me lose my concentration. Nope. Bathed in DEET, I was jungle-ready and determined to catch a piranha!
Piranha fishing? Whoa…back-up. Initially my boyfriend (Mike) and I were totally shocked by the guide’s suggestion, not because of the activity per se, but because there could not possibly be piranhas in the same river that we had swam in twice the day before, right?! Don’t get me wrong we were a bit crazy and had knowingly (some may say insanely) swam in the same river that we had spotted black caiman and massive anacondas in earlier…but piranhas?! They are all kinds of terrifying! Why didn’t the local guides tell us about the piranhas before we had gone swimming? Clearly because we NEVER would have gone had we known. Ever.
Armed with nothing more than fishing lines, rusty hooks and rotten pieces of chicken, we were poised to catch ourselves some fierce little piranhas from our dug-out canoe. Our Huaorani guide, Eduardo, demonstrated his fishing technique with such ease and within seconds, he had a piranha on his line. The fish was voraciously gnawing away at the meat…not even on the hook…when Eduardo plunked it in the canoe. It flopped about the boat like any other fish out of water would, except that it was chomping away with its razor-sharp teeth like something out of a horror movie. When piranha chilled-out a bit, our guide grabbed the fish and tossed it into a bucket.
Mike and I attempted to copy the technique Eduardo had shown us, but failed over and over again. After losing almost a dozen chunks of chicken, each within seconds of dropping the lines in, Eduardo decided to give me a bit more guidance. He placed his hand gently over mine and with the faintest tug on the other end, jerked the line up. Ha…piranha! Shortly after Mike had one on his hook. It was big. A giant piranha, also known as the perfect photo-op! With jaws still chomping, our guide carefully picked up the piranha warning my boyfriend to hold on tight as he passed the vicious-looking fish to him. I grabbed the camera and pointed it in the direction of my boyfriend just as our guide shouted “Kiss it!” What?! No sooner had those words left Eduardo’s lips when the slippery piranha lunged out of Mike’s hand the 6 inches towards his puckered lips. Its jaws were open wide before fully chomping down with its blade-like teeth on my boyfriend’s bottom lip. Fish flopped, blood dripped, sweat poured, mosquitoes buzzed, guide apologized, and I sat there dumbfounded with no photographic evidence.
Seriously though…how was holding a live carnivorous fish with super sharp teeth 6 inches from your lips EVER going to be a good idea!? Total photo-op fail. We live and learn. I must say that the piranha soup we ate back at the lodge was absolutely delicious though I was certainly glad that I wasn’t foolish enough to pucker-up with a piranha!