OUR first stop this morning is at the Howard Springs chemist. One of the keen pleasures of living in a car is the amount of exposure one has to the elements. What began as a simple cold has now developed into a rib-breaking cough. I pour a raspberry flavoured syrup into the bottle lid and knock it back as we drive toward Kakadu National Park.
31kms along the Arnhem Highway we begin to spot signs for leaping crocodile cruises and bounce down a dirt road to the first tour operator we find. Buffalo wade in mud pools cooling off in the heat.
The croc tours operate out of a small shed directly on the Adelaide River. There is a selection of pythons to hold and touch. As I had lathered my skin in 50+ to protect my skin, I am unable to hold one. Unbeknownst to me, sunscreen can be absorbed through the snakes’ skin and kill them. The walls are lined with clipped articles of the many fatal crocodile attacks in the river we are about to launch onto. Comforting.
The boat only travels 200m before we see our first crocodile. A four-metre female, she nudges the boat awaiting a chunk of buffalo. Jess, our tour guide explains the mechanics of a death-roll and informs us the crocodile launching itself towards our boat is capable of turning a grown man to jelly for slow digestion. Crocs are attracted to vibrations in the water and splashes only bring out more of the man-eaters. We are also told that if we fall in we are better off floating than swimming. Any movement would act like a Big-Mac ad: ‘Eat Me’.
On our cruise we also meet ‘Stumpy’: a five-metre male, and ‘Hannibal’: a six-metre monster with a suspiciously bloated stomach. He sun bakes on the riverbank digesting a fully-grown cow.
Despite the terrifying possibility of being eaten alive, we have a perfect day. The water is muddy and completely opaque. The trees lining the bank are full of screeching corellas and the sun is blinding and hot.