Contributing Author Malcolm Callister
It was the Mid-October in the Mexican tropics; the sun was burning down out of a clear sky. Linda and I together with two friends stood on the beach near the village dock on the north shore of the Lake Chapala. This day out was to be an adventure on Scorpion Island. We had heard the stories of giant scorpions and an isolated indigenous band with whom arrangements for a boat had been made at a meeting in a dark corner of a local outdoor restaurant. Now we waited. The boat, when it finally arrived was an old patched panga, an open fishing boat with an ancient outboard engine. The floating dock that was made from wooden pallets and old plastic drums, it shook violently as the boat bumped into it.
The young boatman waved his hand to us and smiled. His waving hand held a cigarette and cell phone. He was sitting on a plank resting, not secured, on the boat sides rales. His other hand controlled the boat gasoline engine. It was this piece of floating fiberglass that we were going to trust to take us the five kilometers out to the feared Scorpion Island in the middle of Lake Chapala, and back later in the day.
Today we would explore the island, its unique fishing practices, sculptures and hold live scorpions. We would walk through the old village with its thatched roof houses, the church, then have a drink of beer and a meal on the dockside while waiting for the return of our boat to take us back to the mainland.
The boat ride was enjoyable, and we quickly reach the island dock. The island is a volcanic rock about 1km long. We walked first to the commercial fishing area, an area of fishing traps, nets, and fishermen. Here we met Manuel who spoke some English. With Linda’s broken Spanish we held a conversation, complete with sketches in the sand. Manuel explained in Spanish, about the islands name being similar to the shape of a scorpion, and how they made the fish traps using bottles from the mainland garbage dump.
“The villagers,” he said with a smile, “earn a living off the fish traps, tourists, and the restaurant.”
I was not sure of the translation, did he mean fish and tourist traps. If he meant that the stories of giant scorpions were tourist traps when they referred to scorpion rock sculptures, he was right.
We had visited the island on a weekday and has observed several school-age children about the village. When I asked Manuel about schooling, he looked away.
“School clothes, mucho dinero.” He finally said. “Some of the children sometimes go to school on the mainland.” It did not seem a priority for him.
The visit to Scorpion Island had been an educational and enjoyable experience. The Giant Scorpions are a myth if you do not consider the rock sculptures. We had willingly fallen into the tourist trap, paid our boat fare, purchased a few beers, a meal, and had tipped well.
Our guests on this trip to Scorpion Island had been Ross and Carmen from British Columbia. We had first met them when we all took a one-month RV Caravan down the Baja to Cabo San Lucas and had maintained contact since then. At that time both our rigs were 5th Wheels, pulled by diesel trucks.