I've never understood what people gain from jogging (apart from joint problems) or why any sane biped would want to run a marathon.
Of course I did do cross-country running for PE back in high school (we jogged out the school gates, sauntered to a friend's house, drank coffee for two hours and then jogged back in through the gates). I guess that doesn't count.
However, since coming to Africa, I've discovered that there are times when I'm happy to run with the best of them.
And yesterday was one of them.
|A Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) paddling in the dam near my house. When I stopped to photograph his grisly prize (an ill-starred waterbuck the size of a large horse), he hastily towed it further off shore.|
So when it came to walking with my dogs in the river bed, I was initially very wary about getting too close to the water. After all, I'd seen those scary wildlife documentaries where the crocodiles leap out of the water to snatch milling wildebeests off the bank. And let's not forget killer whales, beaching themselves on the sand for a mouthful of unsuspecting seal pup.
You simply can't trust aquatic predators to stay in their rightful element.
Yet after three years of riverbank rambles, free of anyone trying to eat me, I've become a little blasé.
Well yesterday I got a shock.
The dogs and I were wending our way along the river bed, ploughing through the drifted sand and clambering over rocks, when I spotted a huge crocodile basking on the beach of a mid-stream island. It was one of the really massive ones, close to 4 m (13 ft) long and it looked more like a felled rainforest tree than an actual animal. I cannot describe to you how awesome these creatures are. It's not so much their length as their immense bulk; they can weigh up to 1000 kg (2200 lbs). I can never look at them without shivering inside and feeling that reptiles simply should NOT get this big. And they've effectively cured me of a lifelong desire to meet a dinosaur.
The dogs and I picked our way across the sandy beach toward the creature, stopping about 3 m (10 ft) from the water's edge. I'd been a bit hesitant about approaching it so directly as I didn't want to disturb it, but these big guys tend to be very confident and there was about 25 m (82 ft) of fast-flowing river swirling between us. The dogs, of course, simply didn't see it (they never see crocodiles unless they move) and I was keen for them to do so, so they'd understand why I keep insisting the water is dangerous.
While we were standing on the beach, enjoying the vicarious thrill of gazing at such an awesome predator, the awesome predator lurched to its feet - standing up on fully straightened legs (called a 'high-walk' in crocodile parlance) which made it waist-height - swung round to face us and plunged into the river. It came surging toward us through the water at full speed (about 15 kph/10 mph according to the books), and it took me a moment or two to realise, 'hey, it's coming straight at us!'
I walked a few steps downstream and it immediately altered its path so its trajectory would intercept us.
By now it was half way across the river and I felt a rush of alarm, disbelief and dismay as I realised we were now on the menu. I envisioned the beast hurtling out of the water in front of us; a creature at least ten times my own body mass.
It was at this point that I turned and ran.
I'm afraid I cannot tell you whether the crocodile actually emerged on to our beach, as I didn't stop to look back.
And neither did the dogs.
We just ran.
And from now on, I'm going be to very cautious again!
|I thought you should see what these big guys are capable of. If you go here you can view a series of eight photos showing what happened during this horrible interaction. |
Photo by Martin Nyfeler/Barcroft Media, and posted on Flickr by Arno Meintjes.