Saturday, 2 August 2003

Crocodile Attack!

Would any holiday be really complete without a tall tale of death and danger to tell? Last time was 'Snakebite in Sri Lanka', but this one is far meatier! I went on a boat trip up a river through the jungle yesterday with a couple of American guys and two English girls to see the wildlife and visit a freshwater spring for a swim. It was one of the highlights of my holiday so far, and at times the scenery was like something from an Indiana Jones movie, with the jungle canopy closing over the river, insects and other animals performing their orchestral duties and murky shapes moving just beneath the surface of the brown water.

There were no visible river banks, just metres of mangrove roots instead, providing the crocs with their hiding places. As far as wildlife goes there were sleeping owls, herons, birds of other names either unknown to me or just unpronouncable, a few little crocodiles, catfish, and countless river turtles. Our first stop was the crocodile farm to have a peek at some big old residents safely behind bars. It was pretty cool, but we only stayed fifteen minutes before heading off again to the spring itself. It took about an hour to get there, perhaps a little longer, but was well worth it. The water had become a lot clearer and there were now turtles everywhere. Mostly posing for photos it seemed....I was half expecting one to hold out a hat to demand "una peso!". Anyway, we had lunch at the restaurant, and then everyone went off to swim while I finished my cigarette. There is a swing attached to a tree branch on one side of the spring, which most people use to grab hold of and leap into the water, and then swim to the other side of the spring where there are some concrete steps to climb out. I put out my cig, grabbed hold of the swing and took my leap of faith. The water was cool which was nice (another very hot day surprisingly enough!), but what wasnt so nice was the shouting from the other side of the spring, most of which I couldnt hear or understand, except for the word 'crocodile'.

I thought they were taking the piss, but it did suddenly occur to me I was the only person now in the water when it had been full of people just a moment ago. And they were all looking either at me, or just behind me. Thought Id have a peek over my shoulder, and would you Adam and Eve there was. A bloody great crocodile a good 10 feet long not more than 15 metres away and closing! Im not a particularly quick swimmer, but I suspect Duncan Goodhew would have been a bit proud of the time I set in getting to the steps and out.

And fear not, first thing I did was grab my camera and photograph the monster, and the can all look forward to a digitally enhanced reconstruction of the entire event a some stage! I should end the story there really, while it still sounds dramatic but i guess I should mention that this crocodile has been residing in the stretch of river around the mouth of the spring since it was a baby, and comes up at least once a day for a big hunk of meat from the restaurants. I don't think you can call any crocodile tame as such, but this one apparantly hasnt eaten anyone for ages (!), and settles for the meat it is given each day instead. Still, no one went swimming till it went away again.....I suppose whilst there is the unwritten agreement between the croc and the locals regarding its feeding, no one is entirely sure how much of the small print the croc understands.

Anyways, the rest of the day (and this goes for the rest of today....and tomorrow...and the day after etc!) was pretty much taken up with more swimming in the sea (the waves are pretty cool here...get hit by one breaking on top of you, and you will somersault underwater a half dozen times. I now know what it feels like to be in a washing machine!), more gluttony, and more sleeping and lazy stuff. I could easily stay here for a year!