When Salty called yesterday and asked me if I wanted to join him and a few others on a 10-hour trip to return the riverboat Wildcat to her home on the Adelaide River, I gave a noncommittal reply, told him I’d call him back, and then made up my mind not to go.
My reasons were that I start work very early Monday mornings, my bicycle still isn’t going so that means getting up even earlier and walking to the City, and I knew I’d be so tired if I spent the whole Sunday out on the water in the sun and rain. But I didn’t call Salty, just figured that if he didn’t hear from me, he’d assume I wasn’t interested.
When I got up this morning at 6, I knew I’d make a terrible mistake. I even e-mailed a friend (poor Dave, sorry mate!) about it, first thing in the morning:
I feel like an idiot, passing up on a great trip through the crocodile infested river with a friend and crocodile expert, because I’m worried I’ll be late for my salad-chopping and sandwich-making job the following day. What has become of my life, that I should play things so safe? As though this job, which I only have for one day a week and isn’t really supporting me much at this point, is so goddamn important? What’s happened to my priorities? I’ve been lulled into that sheep-like state, where I do things without thinking, I accept things without questioning. I think the veil was slowly dissolved last night, as I was reading a book called The Country of Marriage by Antony Giardina. I don’t recommend it, unless you want angst and Weltschmerz. It filled me with a slow panic and horror at the way my life seems to have become so placid, so predictable and safe. It was scarier than reading any horror/suspense novel. Scared me into wanting to do something radical and mad, to wrestle the steering wheel of my life from the frumpy woman that’s got it, and go bumping off the road and through the wilderness.
I finished my e-mails, signed off, put away my laptop, and was making my usual rolled oats soaked in orange juice, when Salty rang me. They would be coming down the Sadgroves Creek in a few minutes, and could take me straight off Sonofagun on the way down. Woot! I’d been given a second chance! I said Yes! Yes! and Yes!
Threw some junk into a bag, shut my own boat’s windows in case it rained, and bolted my breakfast as Wildcat appeared. Salty eased her up right behind Sonofagun, and I stepped from one to the other, like off a curb and onto a bus.
Great weather to the mouth of the river…past the Vernon Islands, roaring along at 7 or 8 knots, sea wind and not much spray. Not very exciting views out this way, but the clouds were heavy with light, the sky was gorgeous with blue.
At the mouth of the Adelaide River, weather went grey and wet. Not much fun for a while, crawling up the muddy river in the driving rain, soaked through and actually shivering with cold. But it didn’t last too long, and skies cleared at about 3 p.m.
As we chugged up the river, huge Mephistophelian crocodiles (after whom The Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise is named) slid from their mud banks into the water, and came towards us. Wildcat is the boat that takes visitors on that cruise, and all the crocodiles know her engine’s sound, so instead of disappearing craftily, they come right up to the boat, hoping to get a feed.
This wasn’t a show trip, though, and we had no meat on board for them, so there are no jumping crocs among my photos…still, you never quite get over it when one of these prehistoric reptiles is silently turning, its eyes fixed on you, in the green water, right at your feet. It’s like coming face to face with a dinosaur from Jurassic Park…you are looking at something whose kind roamed the earth long before humans existed, and it doesn’t like you very much…but somewhere in its reptilian brain it remembers that your kind were prey for a long time.
Still are, on those rare happy occasions.
And this old timer had a blunt, messy snout…
This pretty yellow-eyed one was hanging around under the jetty when we arrived.
Salty is THE man to see about crocodiles in the Northern Territory. His Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise is the oldest on the Adelaide River, and was started not merely to make money, but to help educate people about crocodiles, and thereby protect the crocodiles themselves from the sometimes vengeful, exterminating instinct that man has for anything that he fears and does not understand.
When Salty gives the tour, his never-ending stream of facts and figures and cautionary tales about these fearsome creatures is fascinating. When in Darwin, look out for the jumping crocodile logo, and have a look at the wicked picture gallery on their website, too!
P.S. I think I may have overdone the links…I know, it looks like I’m advertising in exchange for a free t-shirt! I’m not, though…just over-enthusiastic about the crocs, themselves, and Salty’s been a good friend of the family for a long time. If you ARE going to head to the river to see crocs, you may as well get the right guides.