Just another average hike on another average island in Australia
First and foremost I want to apologize for my previous blog post - that is what happens when I leave posting until the last minute that we have internet and don't bother to edit. At least you got a few pictures, right?!
I would like to revisit Lizard Island briefly because I really did not do it justice (in my own humble opinion). You see, Lizard Island was the last safe place to swim. Even though there were crocodile warning signs on the beach, the water was clear and nobody had sighted a croc there in a long time, so we all felt safe enough going in the water. And thank my lucky stars for that.
The reef right there in the anchorage was amazing. I already told you about the giant clams - clams that probably weighed 500lbs and wouldn't fit into your bathtub, so old they had hard and soft corals growing on their shells. It's strange how on some snorkels you don't see very many unusual things, but on my last snorkel of the week I saw all sorts of cool stuff. I saw a massive octopus that changed color every time I looked at it. He watched me watching him, and although I tried to make it very clear that I did not want to eat him, I'm not sure he believed me. I saw a Maori wrasse the size of a car door munching on coral. Jenny spotted a lion fish with his wings spread out so he almost looked like a bird. We swam through huge schools of fish which parted ways to our every movement, making me feel all-powerful. I followed a young turtle for a while, and though he was not huge he was healthy and beautiful. I spotted a few sharks but they were uninterested in me. While Dad and I cleaned the bottom of the boat a massive ray settled under the boat to eat the algae that came off the hull as we scrubbed. Its wingspan was easily the same length as mine, not to mention the long tail with a nasty looking barb halfway down it.
Yes, the underwater life of Lizard Island was some of the best I have ever seen. The place was magical. One day we hiked to the top of Cook's Lookout, where Captain Cook himself had stood, trying to figure out how to escape the labyrinth of reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef. We could see out to the Ribbon Reefs as well as in to the mainland, and reefs and sand cays in between. Far below the boats in the anchorage looked the size of Battleship game pieces, sitting serenely in azure waters.
But enough. I don't get to swim anymore. Sure, I can hike, but landing the dinghy on shore makes me nervous. Why? Because this territory is infested with crocodiles. And crocodiles are scary. Hella scary. Saltwater crocodiles are one of (if not) the only marine animals that will hunt humans. They will watch humans, learn their habits - such as taking the dinghy into shore at the same time every day - wait for the perfect opportunity and CHOMP! You're gone. They live in the shallows but can run fast on land, are aggressive, territorial, not afraid of humans and are stealth hunters. They are also protected in Australia and, as a species, are doing very well. Where is the Crocodile Hunter when you need him?!
You might think I am exaggerating. Maybe I am, but I don't think so. Today a few of us cruisers went for a hike where we heard we could see Aboriginal cave paintings. We had to pull the dinghies through shin deep water to get to shore, and the whole time I kept a vigilant eye out for the ridge of a croc's back. After tying the dinghies up we walked through muddy mangroves - a croc's favorite hangout. When we got on the trail there were crocodile warning signs, although those are commonplace around here.
Maybe I am paranoid, but the whole time we were hiking along the beach and through the grasses I felt uneasy. As we got higher up into the hills I relaxed, and was able to enjoy the cave paintings we saw. They were mostly done in the past 200 years, depicting crocodiles, dugongs, birds and ships. Captain Cook and the arrival of the white man were definitely noted here. While the paintings were not that old, I read that Aboriginals had lived in the area continuously for the past 6,000 years, and in the land that is now Australia for the past 40,000 years. That is impressive. Unfortunately Aboriginal populations (like most native people whose land was invaded by Europeans) were decimated after Europeans showed up. But we can go into that another day.
Aboriginals of the area didn't like crocodiles either..
The cave paintings were nice. The hike, albeit hot, was invigorating. It always feels great to walk around after sitting on the boat for a few days. We decided to have a little lunch on the beach and as we were sitting down, one woman noticed a track sliding down to the water from the beach. "Did you make that?" she asked me, there having been nobody else on the beach. "Um... no," I said. "I think that's a croc track!" she said, quite excited. Upon further investigation, sure enough we could see claw prints on either side of the track and, just by the water's edge, the distinct mark of a tail.
Oh, shit. Ok, guys, eat your lunch and let's get out of here! Everybody else made jokes about how the croc must have had his lunch already and went for a swim (we know he was there recently because the marks had not been washed away by the tide) and the only evidence left of his lunch was a lone flip-flop. I smiled, and not because the jokes were funny, but because I knew that I could outrun every other person on the beach.
Alas, we did not see any other evidence of crocs for the rest of the excursion, but I hiked back to the dinghies quickly, relieved to see that they had not been used as a chew toy for a young croc (which they have been known to do). Tomorrow we are heading north again. As we head north it will get hotter and hotter and more and more tempting to go for a swim. I hope to keep you updated.
At 6/18/2013 11:54 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 14°10.59'S 144°13.78'E
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com