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on the run, on my own: ‘it looks a bit crocodiley down there’

One of my favourite things about Australia, and something that I didn’t realise before I came here, was how diverse its landscape is. I knew Australia was vast but my idea of this crazy country was pretty much similar to one of those maps you see on Tumblr or Buzzfeed: People living on the coast, a whole lot of nothing in the middle, a few beaches (with deadly sharks waiting) and then the Opera House somewhere on the East.

Of course when I did some research, I got more of a grasp of what I was getting myself in for. So far my travels have seen me in the busiest city in Australia, then to the Outback, and now I’m working on a mango farm about an hour east of Darwin. After being surrounded by reds and browns, I’m now surrounded by green.

Lots of it.

Image: Jo Williams

Image: Jo Williams

The other day after my shift, I went for a walk. I’d been warned that there’s not actually much to see around here unless you have a car or a bike, but I still felt like I needed to stretch my legs and just get out for a while. Armed with my favourite playlist and my rather fetching hat (even at four in the afternoon it’s still about 28 degrees with blazing sun) I set off down a road so straight it must have been drawn with a ruler.

Image: Jo Williams

Image: Jo Williams

To say that there was nothing to see wasn’t exactly true. As I walked for about 45 minutes without the option of any kind of turn, I had passed two cars and four wallabies and a whole lot of farms. And one house that just sold ice. Ice. The road was also lined with all kinds of termite mounds, trees, flowers – and everything was so lush it’s difficult to get my head around the fact that this is actually the Dry Season.  When I was back at home, I worked in the city centre and used to relish the odd days that Mancunian weather allowed me to sit by the river on my lunch break.

Now I’m completely surrounded by nature and I can’t get enough of it.

About a five minute drive from where I am, there’s a natural spring that’s open for swimming every day.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘But should you really be swimming in a spring? In the Northern Territory? IN AUSTRALIA?’

Don’t worry, I thought that too – and it’s why I won’t go swimming if there’s not already ten people already swimming. I figure that if there had been a crocodile in there it would already have eaten one of the others. Failing that, there’s always accidentally forgetting something in my bag while one of my fellow backpackers go in first.

Image: Jo Williams

Image: Jo Williams

In all seriousness, the springs is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Australia, especially after a long day at work. My first impression of the place was how gorgeous it looked with trees bent over the deep pools, dipping their lush green leaves into the water. It also looked absolutely Baltic but I was pleased to discover it was actually pretty warm.

The first pool was fine. It has this stunning waterfall that requires serious thigh work to actually get close to it but once you do, you can join the other 15 or so people and sit under it making awkward conversations about crocodiles. There’s also a shoal of fish that seems quite content to nibble all the dead skin from your feet, which is oddly disconcerting.

A short scramble down a stream, complete with huge, sharp rocks that were seemingly placed there to maim, takes you to the second pool. And this is where the doubts started.

I’d been dutifully reassured that there were only Freshwater crocodiles there sometimes, but I don’t know about you but I’d rather no crocodiles where I’m swimming.

This is what the second pool looks like. It’s beautiful, but in the words of my friend Jess, ‘It looks a bit crocodile down there.’

Image: Jo Williams

Image: Jo Williams

It doesn’t help that you’re also completely out of your depth and even though the water is clear, it’s so deep you can’t see the bottom. So when you’re swimming across, it’s difficult not to feel like you’re in a poster for a straight-to-DVD horror film about a British backpacker who gets eaten by a monstrous crocodile that’s watching from a metre below them. But once you’ve got over the crippling fear of being eaten alive, it’s the perfect place to relax and experience what Australian nature has to offer.

I can’t decide whether I prefer the red or the green, but either way, it’s definitely not bad having this practically in your back garden.

Image: Jo Williams

Image: Jo Williams

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