Once upon a time I was in Katherine Gorge in the Northern Territories in Australia. The town of Katherine is set amongst a landscape of ancient limestone formations: there are pockets of monsoon rainforests, eucalypt forest, and rocky escarpments. Katherine Gorge itself is a series of thirteen gorges along the Katherine River.
The region abounds with exotic wildlife including, in the river, fresh water crocodiles. The first inhabitants of the area were the Jawoyn people and the Wardaman people for whom it was an important meeting place. Europeans arrived in about 1870 and they called the town they established Katherine, after someone’s wife.
While we were there we took a boat trip down the river. The trip was interesting but it was so hot that I almost couldn’t enjoy it. Added to which I felt incredibly thirsty and although we had water with us it didn’t seem to help. During the boat trip the guide pointed out some spiky shapes in the water, which he told us were crocodiles.
When we got back to the shore I was still very thirsty and hot and I was desperate to go for a swim. It was an absolute longing, such as I have often experienced in my life when I am near water; I almost always want to dive in, even if it is cold. I sometimes feel this when I am just walking along by the Thames; here in Katherine, in the sweltering heat it was quite overwhelming.
The only thing really stopping me was the fact that we had seen the crocodiles and I didn’t, and still don’t, know how dangerous they were. I kind of had the idea that fresh water crocodiles don’t attack humans; it is the salt water crocs that are much more likely to eat you. My longing for a swim was so great that I convinced myself that this was an absolute fact and that I was in no danger at all from these much smaller chaps. Also, I told myself, they were quite far away, nowhere near this little bit of beach we were on now.
Eventually it was too much for me and I dived in. The water was cool and lovely. I had not a thought for the crocodiles whilst I was swimming. After some minutes I swam to the shore and climbed out, unharmed and safe.
I discovered later that I had been sweating so much in the heat that my body was lacking some kind of minerals or salt or something and that was why I couldn’t seen to quench my thirst. I never have found out how dangerous fresh water crocodiles are, and if they ever attack humans, but on that day my desire for a swim outweighed all other considerations.