I heard on the news this morning that another unfortunate soul has been killed and consumed by a great white shark off the coast of Western Australia. It`s the fifth fatal attack in less than a year and it reminded me of living in Darwin. Darwin`s sea which is the beautiful Arafura Sea, is mostly infested with salt water crocodiles rather than great whites and dozens are fished out of the harbour each year. They are still a protected species having been hunted almost to extinction in the last century so they are usually placed in crocodile farms or released in Kakadu National Park or somewhere which is patrolled by croc` wardens every day.
I wouldn`t go swimming in Darwin`s ocean, I considered it far too much of a risk. It wasn`t just the croc`s either, Box jellyfish also inhabit the waters there, the most deadly jellyfish in the world. One whip of a tentacle can kill a weak person or a child, if it doesn`t kill you the pain is so intense, you would wish you hadn`t taken that refreshing dip.
The first day I arrived in the Northern Territory I was taken for a swim in a billabong. I always thought that billabongs were small ponds where you could fill up your billy can but no, this one was a huge and beautiful lake set in fabulous bushland and I really enjoyed the freedom of swimming in open water and pretty much on my own. It was so peaceful and I felt alone, which is what I needed at that time and I felt chilled and very happy. I couldn`t help thinking though, “What if there`s a croc` lurking somewhere about to munch me up?” You know that Jaws` music, du du du du du du du…. came into my head. Couldn`t help it. Fortunately, at least half of the people in Darwin have their own swimming pool so it`s easy to take a dip every day.
Lots of areas in Darwin are infested with crocodiles and there are many signs all over the Northern Territory warning people not to swim in waters which aren`t wardened, so it`s all the more shocking when they do! Some years ago a teenage girl who was visiting from Germany took a dip, she ignored the signs or maybe she simply didn`t understand them but in any event she was taken by a croc`. The top half of her was found and later on, two miles up river the croc` who had killed her was also discovered and shot dead, the unlucky girl`s upper legs still protruding from its immense jaws. Poor croc` he was only doing what comes naturally.
On another occasion, a man out swimming was taken and the croc` decided to put him in his larder. Like a lot of creatures, crocodiles store food for later on in larders all along the river banks. This man, still alive was fortunate indeed because there was a pocket of air which kept him going for around two hours he thinks, until he was brave enough to venture out and scramble up on to dry land. Do you suppose he will ever fully recover from that near death experience? Actually I was recently dismayed to read that the Australian government has agreed for crocodiles to be hunted again and business men, mostly from Japan will have to fork our 10,000 Australian dollars for the privilege of shooting one. It`s a sad old world for croc`s.
As with the West Coast, the Arafura Sea hosts great white sharks too. Years ago, Darwin`s council put a wide, metal mesh net right across one of its bays to try and keep them out. It was vandalised by kids within weeks leaving gaping holes for the sharks to swim through. And you think the youths over here are a nuisance!
I have been back in the UK for a while now and I enjoy swimming at Ninestiles Leisure Centre. It`s pretty good and the only sharks you are likely to encounter there are of the human variety.
As I lay in bed in Birmingham, England, late one night with my pj’s on, I became aware of a sensation just as though something was crawling up my lower leg. Because I was sleepy, I decided that it was just that, a sensation and I ignored it. A few minutes later, the feeling had moved on up to my thigh and I realised there was indeed something crawling up my leg. I put my hand down and felt a large, lumpy and definitely alive, something or other inside my pyjamas and whilst I appreciate there is massive room for many jokes here, it wasn’t very nice at the time!
I scooped a swathe of material around whatever it was and peeled off my pj’s. My partner at that time had started to laugh rather raucously by now as I gingerly undid the bundle of cloth in which I had trapped my invader. Whatever it was, it was big, it was black, it was plated and hard, like a large beetle and as I un-wrapped my hold on it, the creature literally leapt from my hand and scurried off, alien like to who knows where…….. I can only assume it has now taken up residence in my bedroom.
It reminded me of when I lived in Darwin in Australia and shared my house with all sorts of creepy-crawlies. For example, there are two hundred species of ants in the Northern Territory and they all lived in our kitchen!
Situated in a spare room of the house where I lived was the computer and it was not unusual within minutes of sitting down to find a column of ants steadfastly walking with some apparent aim or other, up my leg, some as tiny as specs of dust I could blow them away with a breath.
Geckos lived in the house too and were very welcome as they are beautiful, like little ribbons of sage velvet darting across the walls and also because they ate a lot of creepy-crawlies. We had bush rats in the attic and cock roaches pretty much everywhere.
The bush rats usually headed up to the loft to camp out and were as much of a nuisance as escapee hamsters are here in the UK since they will gnaw their way through anything, including electric wiring. I shared the house with someone who would put down poison for the bush rats. I would protest because I hate killing things, until I realised that the cockroaches absolutely loved the poison, they thrived on it and ate it gleefully, growing to gargantuan proportions. The bush rats were fine too since the cockroaches cleaned up the poison. It was a win-win situation all round.
My Ossie mate once recounted to me that one morning he had been awoken by a very odd sensation on his face. Placing his hand there and to his horror, he discovered there was a large and hungry cockroach sitting astride his rather ample eye brow, clinging on for dear life and munching away at his hairy brow. Like something out of a Hammer Horror movie he leapt out of bed with cries of, ‘oh, oh!’ hopping about on one foot, desperately trying to bat the unfortunate creature away.
They don’t tell you about that on ‘A Place in the Sun’ do they!