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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Jumping Crocodiles

It was surreal for me to go back to Australia.

So many of my memories are tied to this country, that it’s far too difficult to measure. Perhaps that's why I've been so slack at keeping up with my writing. Memory overload. Apologies about the blog delays. There are a lot of variables worthy of being blamed... but my laziness tops the list.

Australia has played a big part in the shaping of my life, regardless of the amount of time I actually spent in this country all that time ago, which was just a few weeks short of a year.

A song that came on the radio, in 1994, ultimately decided my fate. What began as a working holiday, backpacker trip, unravelled into exactly who I am and where I am today.


All those thirty years ago, a friend and I were contemplating spending a year abroad and we were having difficulties deciding whether we should go to Europe or Australia. It went back & forth and back & forth. Our decision was ultimately made when "Land Down Under" came on the radio.

Australia, it was.

From there, I met a variety of wonderful people - many of whom I am still in contact with. A couple of new friends ~ Sarah and Ange ~ whom I met in the tomato fields of Bundaberg, Australia, convinced me to move up to Lake Louise after we all arrived back in Canada. And then everything just unravelled from there...

It's crazy how one move can determine the rest of your life.

One song.

So many fabulous times, wonderful memories and cherished friends have happened as a result of my going to Australia. I get emotional just thinking about it. Anyone who knows me can attest to this... and I was starting to well up standing in line to come back into Australia at the Bali airport. Of course, then that flight was cancelled... and my most of reflection tears dried up almost immediately. The delay was a bit of a killjoy for that emotional rollercoaster down memory lane...

So... Darwin.

I made it.

Ya... I'd been here before, albeit briefly ... I hardly remember the city at all, which may have something to do with the passing of time, as well as the amount of alcohol we were consuming at the time. I remember I had just taken the longest, most gruelling bus trip from Townsville to Darwin. I think it took somewhere close to 48 hours. Perhaps more. Probably more. Sitting on this dreadful, cramped and smelly bus, just staring out the window at the vastness of the Northern Territory. I was heading to Darwin to meet up with Sarah and Ange. Ange had found us a cheap vehicle that was decorated like a Canadian flag... funny enough... and from there, we were going to make our way down to Alice Springs.

We did it. We were broke for the entire trip... spending all our money on booze, fast food and cigarettes. I did, anyway…

We ventured down the Stuart Highway, stopping at all the main attractions in the Northern Territory. Because we had no money, we would sleep in the vehicle on the side of the road and sneak into campgrounds early in the morning to use their facilities.

During COVID, I went through all my photo albums and memory books and wrote what I could remember of our adventure.

This was a slightly different trip… unless you take into consideration the lack of funds. Finishing a 6-month journey in two of the world's most expensive countries was going to do nothing good for my bank account. The way I was beginning to spend money after such inexpensive travel in Southeast Asia, I could very well be sneaking into campgrounds to shower sooner rather than later.

I found a budget motel room that was quite centrally located. I ended up paying for 4 nights, though technically I was only there for two of them. I missed the first night due to the flight cancellation. Then on my final evening, I caught the red-eye flight to Brisbane.

I arrived in Darwin on Good Friday.

Not a particularly fab day to arrive... when you're hungry… and you get told that everything is closed. The motel owner was quick to warn me that EVERYTHING was closed.

“You won’t find anything open!”


That seemed a bit… extreme…





Can't seem real. Won't accept. it

Seriously. I refused to accept it.

She was quite adamant in her confirmation that absolutely every single business in Darin had shut down to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

I was hungry, I needed a glass of wine… and I was having a difficult time processing the absurdity.

Well.. turns out that I found a bar. Funny that. It was just down the road from my motel and heaving with both tourists and locals watching rugby on the big screen. It reeked of cigarette smoke and cheap beer, but nothing bothered me. I was famished and delighted to have found something open. Because it was Good Friday, they had a limited menu and none of the choices were very appealing. There were none of the stir fries or pad thais I’d become accustomed to eating, so I had to settle for a deep-fried chicken burger with fries.

Guess beggars can’t be choosers.

On top of the already astronomical prices, each restaurant and bar in Darwin was charging an Easter weekend surplus to the bill.

On Saturday evening, I found a sushi restaurant and they added $7 for a “public holiday.”

I said, "It's not a public holiday."

"Yes, it is."

"It's Saturday. No, it's not."

“Easter holidays are Friday and Monday.”

Regardless… I still had to pay for it.

Other than those inconveniences of travelling on a holiday weekend, it was nice to be back in a place where I could openly and easily communicate with people without any misinterpretations, awkward pauses, Google translations, hand gestures and tearing my hair out.

That was a bonus.

Does everyone remember when I was stuck at the Bali airport? Well, I wasn't really STUCK, in so many ways... they had just cancelled our flight to Australia for the time being. While I was waiting in line, I met a short, stocky man from Darwin. We ended up chatting away in the queue, as we were both victims of Jetstar’s pickle! Turned out he was the owner of one of the Jumping Crocodile cruises… and he gave me his card.

At first, I was adamant that I would not be going, as I'm not normally into participating in anything that necessarily interferes with wildlife. BUT... as I'd been invited… and the crocodiles weren't really in captivity at all… and I needed something to do besides walk around the streets and parks of Darwin… I signed up. I am and always will be deathly terrified of crocodiles, but I figured I would throw caution to the wind and go.

It ended up being terrific.

The tour combined Litchfield National Park with the Jumping Crocodile tour. Now... I am deathly afraid of crocodiles. I used to think that my fear mainly focused on sharks... but I think crocodiles have taken over.

Sharks and crocodiles and hippos - those are my main fears... and obsessions.

Did you know that crocodiles have the strongest bite ever? They have a bite force of up to 3,700 pounds per square inch and use their powerful jaws to tear off chunks of flesh from their prey when it's too big to swallow whole.


These beasts were like dragons. They're assault creatures, meaning they attack for the sake of the kill, even if they aren't hungry.


I looked up "what animal kills the most humans every year" and expected it to be the crocodile... but it's not. It's the mosquito. Ya... of course it is. But still... I think crocodiles kill about 1000 humans per year... but mostly in Africa. Not Australia. Regardless... stay out of those billabongs, people! None of us wanted to be a statistic... or a lesson. Thank goodness we were in the boat and not lingering on the banks of the river. They say that with global warming, the ocean is getting warmer and crocodiles are beginning to make their way south, into areas of Australia that they hadn't normally frequented. Ya... so I guess that's it for ocean swimming for me. I was never really a fan due to my semi-abnormal fear of sharks... but now it's a definite NO if they're sharing the waters with these beasts. While we were in the boat, they told us it was dangerous to even hang an arm out the side of the boat, as the crocodiles could potentially jump up and attack. I ensured every single bit of my flesh & bone was within the safe parameters of that tiny tinny. Our guide, Damo, used a long stick like a fishing pole to dangle pieces of raw chicken over the side and attract the beasts to the boat. Some of the males hit the side of the boat with such force, I was sure we were toppling.

Damo was very entertaining. Very typical Aussie male ~ loud, boisterous and fun. You can see by the photo that his shirt wasn't buttoned up correctly... and I don't know if this was done on purpose or in a hurry.

After we'd had our fill of jumping crocodiles in the river, we made our way to Litchfield National Park. We visited a few billabongs and waterfalls but were not permitted to swim in most of the natural pools yet. I guess it was still a bit of still dangerous place to be because of the murderous crocodiles. They monitor the pools and rivers and billabongs until the saltwater crocodiles are all out. I still don't quite understand why the crocodiles leave... and where they go... And how do they know 100% that they're gone?

Apparently, it's safe to swim with freshwater crocodiles... but imagine if they missed one. They were telling us some pretty freaky stories of kills in the area.

So yes... I DID waddle about in a water pool with the freshwater crocodiles... and I lived to tell, but I definitely made sure that I had buffers surrounding me at all times.

They die first... while I escape to safety.

That's my plan, anyway.

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