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March 25, 2005

Dances with Crocs - Part 1

I'm writing this at the top of Lookout Point (on the mainland), a rocky headland that sticks up about 150ft above sea level. The reason? There's a four and a half metre/15ft croc on the beach below that wants to eat either me, the kayak or both. More on this later....

For a day that's had more than it's fair share of dramas, the morning by contrast kicked off pretty well. I left around 07.45 from Lizard for Eagle Island, 4.5 nautical miles almost due west, confident that the recent leaks in the canvas kayak were all fixed. The conditions were fairly ideal; NE wind at 5-8 knots with less than half a metre swell. Apart from my aching arms and shoulders, the only mishap was being pursued by a large sea-snake for a short sprint (thought he might hitch a ride). Shortly after a pair of dolphins escorted me either side for at least 20 minutes before peeling off to find something more interesting to do. I've always felt it a great honour, especially when feeling a little nervous about the craft I'm pedaling/paddling in, to be watched over by these gracious guardians.

On arriving at Eagle Island, a small sandy stub of land with low scrub and the odd tree, I was devasted to discover the entire rudder mechanism had pulled out of the outer hull and was hanging on by a thread. How could this happen? How, after all this effort to get up to Lizard Island for a third attempt at getting to the mainland, could I have allowed something as simple as basic failure of the craft I'm in be the weakest link? And why didn't I just hire a decent kayak when I was Cairns?

Fortunately it wasn't too late to call Bob and Tanya via the satphone, who were heading out to Eagle Island anyway in one of the research boats. 45 minutes later Bob arrived on the scene with more silicon, and the gaping hole in the rudder stem was closed forever, which also mean't no rudder to the remainder of the journey. A small price to pay I felt for the kayak not sinking mid-passage.

It was a long crossing to Lookout Point, 16 nautical miles away, made longer by not having paddled for so long and being pretty unfit. However, with 5 minute water and muesli bar breaks every hour, slowly the low-lying shape of Lookout Point began to take shape, getting agonizingly nearer minute by minute. And the more the afternoon wore on, the stronger I felt. Finally after 5 hours of paddling I rounded the southern edge of the headland and made for the sheltered sandy shore where I intended making camp for the night. And that's where the croc/s come in, and the fun really started...

I'd heard a lot of locals both in Cairns and on Lizard warn of crocs up around Cooktown, more plentiful now than ever since the hunting ban (in the '70's?). And I'd heard recent cases of croc attacks in which people were actually hauled out of their tents and dragged to the water. But I'm the most guilty when it comes to the old 'it'll never happen to me' line that runs through one's head.

OK, sorry but I'm dog tired - will finish this saga tomorrow. In the meantime please know that I am well, safe (on the rocky headland - crocs can't climb) and on the mainland.


Posted on March 25, 2005 12:47 PM