Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shedding Crocodile Fears

Ever since we arrived in Australia a trip to the Top End has been in the planning, but somehow it never seemed to make it onto the calendar.  Something always stood in our way--nearly 3,000 km, a sold out train, the wrong season, very expensive airfares, or no space at the inn.  With enough advanced planning each of these obstacles could easily be over come, but there was one big hurdle that would be hard to get around--the area we planned to visit was a natural habitat for crocodiles and I am terrified of this beast.
Whenever my fear was discussed with other people that had visited the area, I was always assured that the National Parks did everything in their power, through warnings and closures, to keep their visitors safe.  But I wanted to know how on earth could they monitor a true predator in thousands of acres of its natural habitat?  Sure, the highly visited tourist attractions would be crocodile free, but what about the less visited longer hiking trails?  Couldn't there could be a large voracious aquatic reptile hiding in the tall grasses, just waiting for a tasty nibbly to walk by.  My only hope would be that it didn't fancy a tasty New Mexican treat.

One friend tried to convince me that the crocodile's bark is worse than its bite.  Perhaps that person didn't grow up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, because I don't exactly remember the Sunday evening doco of my childhood depicting  this wild creature as docile. Another Ex-pat confided that the the crocodile myth was just a bunch of croc made up by the Ozzies to scare foreigners.  Hmmm, what about the young girl that was drug away by a crocodile while playing on the riverbank a couple of summers ago?  The photos from the news reports are still vivid in my mind. 
Even though I was not convinced that the Top End was the safest place in the world, this past April I decided it was time for me to face my fears and we began to plan our trip for June. The timing seemed perfect since it would be the end of the wet season and start of the dry.  This meant that the dirt roads in the National Parks would be passable and hiking trails would be open.  Airfares were still affordable because it was the shoulder season, and we were able to finagle tickets for travel on the sold-out Ghan (I welcomed this opportunity because I was lacking the segment from Darwin to Alice Springs in my crossing of the continent from north to south and east to west by train).  It seemed like it was all coming together nicely, or at least it was until we started to look for accommodations.  There were plenty of rooms, but the the prices were outrageously high, and all of the hotel reviews stated warned avoid staying at the properties at all costs.  Camping had been ruled out after hearing stories of crocodiles roaming through campgrounds.  
Mark and I sat frustrated in front of the computer.  We were on a site trying to figure out why at one Caravan Park you could camp for less than $20, but a dumpy private en-suit unit was well over $200-- when suddenly we realized that the solution to our problem was simple.  We had rented a RAV 4 because of all of the dirt roads we would be driving on, and we could easily sleep in the back of the vehicle.  It wasn't like we hadn't slept in the back of such a car before.  We would be safe from any roaming crocodiles, and the only problem we would encounter would be the nighttime trek to the restroom.  This could be solved by limiting fluid intake in the evening.   So, with the addition of sleeping bags to our hiking gear, we were now ready to tackle the famous National Parks of the Top End.


  1. Hi Maya, I don't blame you for being fearful of crocs. I for one have not been the same swimming in the ocean after watching Jaws. This trip sounds interesting coupled with the fear factor. I'm looking forward to reading more about it. Have a wonderful weekend.

  2. Hi Kathy, fear was a factor on this trip! Even my husband who loves the water ended up not entering the swimming holes. I'm looking forward to sharing more about the top end with you.