Speaking of being bitten by things, I thought I’d start this post by revealing a couple of things that usually provoke a response of calling me a liar, or chuckling good-naturedly and thinking me a liar: I once caught a crocodile with my bare hands, and I’ve been bitten by a piranha. Now, I’m only too aware that I have done some pretty cool and interesting things in my life, but I am also conscious that I don’t want to be a travel bore. If I’m in a group and somebody is talking about a close encounter with a crocodile, say ... at the Croc Cage in Darwin, I’m inevitably reminded of wrestling one such crocodilius into a boat with naught but my ten fingers and nerves of steel. However, I’m honestly just as likely not to mention it as to launch into the story. It would depend on the company, how much I’ve had to drink and whether I gauge the crowd to be tolerant enough to put up with one of my tales.
Deadly piranhas trapped inside phone case
That’s partially the reason I started this blog – it gives me an outlet for my stories without holding centre stage. At heart I’m quite shy, you see. I get uncomfortable and self-conscious when talking to a crowd of more than about five; I imagine they’re all just waiting patiently for me to finish so that they can speak. There’s no way to start a story: “This one time I was strafed by the El Salvadorian Air Force while standing on top of a volcano...” without sounding like a bit of a tosser. So instead I write them down and hope they are enjoyed.
It’s dead true though – those things happened, in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest near the Brazil/Peru/Colombia tri-border. I was on a three day jungle trip and one night we went out with our guide hunting crocodiles. We were only catching and releasing them, not shooting them. By shining a torch at the shallows we could see their red eyes glowing, and we’d paddle up to them and grab them behind the eyes.
The secret is that they’re less than a metre long and you can lift them with one hand, but that didn’t make me any less nervous. Each time my hand made contact with scales it would jerk back into the safety of the boat. I had to really force my fingers to lock around a wriggling neck and haul one out. It was a trip, I can tell you.
Later in that same expedition, we were swimming in the river. “Well, what do you expect?” you’re thinking, “Of course you’ll be attacked by piranhas if you swim in the Amazon.” Well, no actually. The locals swim all the time. Piranha are actually only really dangerous when the water levels are low, they’re trapped in little pools and they’re so hungry they’ll eat each other. Most of the time they aren’t a problem. I’m more worried about the Candirú to be honest, that tiny fish that supposedly follows your urine stream and swims up your urethra if you pee in the water. It’s a myth but I kept my shorts well and truly on just in case.
So we’re swimming and I feel a nip on my arm, like a pin prick. Not much. I didn’t think anything of it until a second, harsher bite on a small mole on my forearm. Then I was concerned enough to mention it to the guide, who was also swimming. “Oh, is just small piranha,” he says, casually. “What?” I gasp, striding for the shore, “See you later”. He laughed, “Don’t worry, is just baby!” “How do you know that?” I said. “It bite you there because it can’t get teeth around anything bigger.” As I said, I was glad I’d left my shorts on. “Bugger that!” I told him, “He could be just working up to it, or maybe he reached me ahead of a ravening shoal of killers.” I completed my exit from the river. “I tell you, is just baby,” he laughed, “Is no danger.”
It was about twenty seconds later that I heard a loud yelp and turned to see the guide emerging hurriedly from the water, blood flowing freely from his left nipple. “Is just baby,” I told him, “Is no danger!” To his credit he managed to keep his composure rather well. “I think is time to leave this place,” he said. Ho ho.
Oh, I was supposed to be reviewing something wasn’t I? How about this waterproof phone case? It seems to work okay.