When you fly into remote villages in the jungles of Ecuador, you get all kinds of requests to transport unique objects. So I didn’t think much of the request of two local fishermen to transport a fish they had caught in the massive Pastaza River.
After asking me if I could wait while they fetched the fish, the pair returned five minutes later carrying a vagre (or catfish) weighing about 300 pounds! The fish’s head – carried on one fisherman’s back with his hands over his head in the gills – was about two and a half feet wide. Its whiskers were wider than my arm span. The other fisherman was doing all he could to hold up the remaining weight of the six-foot-long fish by hoisting up the slippery tail fin.
There was just enough room to squeeze the fish into the cargo pod beneath the airplane. However, the fish was still alive. Throughout my flight back to Shell, the fish thrashed about in the pod with such veracity that it caused the plane to shake from side to side.
Once we finally landed, some of the workers at the hangar cleaned the fish and cut up fillets to be sold locally. It was incredibly delicious.