Sunday, May 9, 2010
Swimming with sharks (well, crocodiles actually)
Generally, I'm not a paranoid person.
I like to jump into things, and really experience them. I like the sense of adventure. The adrenaline rush. The feeling of a personal challenge accomplished.
But before yesterday, I had never swum with crocodiles.
We'd tramped over the hills,the eight of us - four locals and four blow-ins - the two boys running over the rocky ground like mountain goats and the experienced walker carving a path through the long, dry grass through which we all tried to follow. After about an hour of sweating through the sun and the heat we came to the crest of a hill, and there, spread out beneath us on the other side like a literal oasis in the desert, was Packsaddle Gorge.
Peering down over the lip of the bluff, Mandy pointed out two shapes floating motionless in the gully - freshwater crocodiles.
Tittering nervously - we're all slightly concerned about crocodiles, and not sure whether we are insured through our companies for a misadventure-by-crocodile type of event - we made our way down the steep face of the cliff until we got to the long, dark waterhole spread out in front of us.
I kicked off and paddled about a bit until suddenly I felt the rocky ground drop off beneath my feet - and with that, I was deep in the throat of the gorge.
Freshwater crocodiles won't attack you unless they're provoked, I'm told. For example, if you accidentally jump onto one of them, you're likely to get bitten. Which is fair enough, because if someone jumped on me, accidentally or otherwise, I'd be likely to bite them too.
Treading water calmly, with the red arms of the cliffs encircling us, I told myself that everything was fine. we had two kids with us, after all, and a dog, and the local wisdom is that you always send the kids in first - because they're smaller, and easier prey, and the crocodiles will go for them in preference. (Great! I feel so much better now!)
I damped down the nerves and relaxed a little, swimming further out and turning onto my back to stare up at the enormous blue bowl of the sky above me. The feeling of isolation was amazing, and the scenery breathtaking. It felt like I was the only person in the world.
But I couldn't shake the feeling that somewhere, beneath my paddling feet, in the depths of the waterhole, something was lurking ....
... watching ....