Published: 18.02.15

Along with the river monster. Part 3


 Day 5

All night I couldn`t fall asleep. Moreover, the story told by Greg about unfortunate last year`s diving of South-American group added the fear. They arrived two weeks after Amos left the island. Initially the season was chosen wrong. In addition, the number of participants exceeded five. And when such a large group of divers surrounded the large male, the croc panicked and attacked one of the divers. The other diver could rescue the unfortunate tourist. He survived of course, but he is still working on the recovery of the limb. There is a rule - no more than 3 people at a time. Two divers have to secure the one who works with a reptile. You must always give the animal a chance to escape and in no event deprive it its own space, thereby causing it to defend itself.

I understand it well, but, nevertheless, the further we go, the more nervous I am. Every day I realise  what a dangerous trip I have organised. The sense of alarm is increasing day by day and I am really very scared when someone starts a countdown which inevitably leads me into the abyss of the murky water where I can`t control the situation at all. We all realize that we interfere in the world that belongs to the ancient reptiles and we are absolutely helpless in this conditions. It is our fifth day when we risk our lives in search of the huge crocodile, but every time we go down to the bottom, I can not help thinking that he has already found us .

This day is particularly frightful. All  morning I am feeling sick and have absolutely no appetite. With the last bit of strength I delay the time when it will be necessary to pull a suit for diving on and to prepare the equipment... finally we load everything on the boat and set off to search the one who can search any of us much easier... Most part of the way we don`t talk with each other. Everyone spends this time in his own thoughts, only occasionally, we meet the eyes and I understand that all of us are anxious about the same, only the motivation differs. I can not understand for myself, why I do it, I don`t think it is cool or fun anymore, but to give up is impossible for me because of my nature.

It seems like everything is as usual, but now my whole body shudders at the thought that again and again I have to jump into the icy water in the vicinity of the huge crocodiles. My poor body gets shock from the ice water. It is very hard to repress the feeling of cold, my  whole body trembles and desperately struggle against water. Guys have already stuffed my pockets with heavy goods, I have a rather heavy camera with a protective box in my hands, but still it is not  easy to get to the bottom. And only when I reached it I can breathe a sigh of relief. Here it is rather safe. Despite the stream, we can look around calmly and start looking for the croc. As a rule, each male occupies its own territory. It is winter in Botswana, and the animal prefers to be on the surface, as much as possible in the sun. In the coldest month the water becomes extremely cold. The Nile crocodiles is a very shy and timid animal, having heard the sound of a motor boat, it immediately slides into the water. 

As a rule, crocs stay not far from their favorite place in the sun, and it is not difficult for us  to find them under the water in the niche of clay or papyrus stems. The crocodile has a poor sight in the water, that is why it mostly relies on its sensors that are on the snout. And if you are not going to touch this toothy part of the body, you can spend with it quite a lot of time to explore this huge creature and take pictures. Walter and Amos even have a risk to hold its tail, I can not... The huge size of the  tail  which equals my size scares me no less than its famous smile.

Today we have already dived 4 times, but all to no avail. Crocodiles escape from us all the time, unfortunately we find them in the places where the bottom is covered with black clay and at any movement of  flippers, the visibility becomes nearly equal to zero. In such moments it is especially terrible to me to rise up to the surface. We almost can't see the croc and we  don't know where it is. Here is one more rule. We mustn`t  float near the shore, as this is a zone which  crocodiles protect, and at this time of the year they  try to be closer to the bank of the river in order to bask in the sun.

Thus, we swim off to the middle of the river, I should  completely unbutton the vest at the bottom, so that sometimes it keeps only by means of the air regulator in your mouth. Then I must as  a bullet from a gun jet to the surface, instantly get rid of the vest and jump into the boat.

How often these days I emerged far from the boat and at such moments I was captured with the despair and terrible fear...as this monster never attacks its victim at the bottom, he always catches it on the surface. And every time when I am  on the boat, I thank God for a successful immersion and emersion.

Today I am so scared that I cannot fight the cold any more and I refuse to dive for the fifth time.This time we find  a crocodile in a peculiar lagoon which, undoubtedly, it considers only its house and that is why such places are very dangerous for divers. The croc is just  3 meters long, that means that he is rather young and unpredictable. Amos begins to persuade me to dive one more time, the last one for today. And I was about to agree, but some inner feeling, so called the Gut feeling, does not allow me to take a step.

I  apologize, very upset with my  cowardice. Amos and Walter decide to go without me. A few minutes later, they discuss who and how will act, because the situation is complex. They decide to be on both sides from  the entrance to the lagoon, in order not to break the territorial integrity of a crocodile. They dive into the water, and here we see that the splash has attracted the attention of a reptile, and it is swimming rapidly to the exit from the lagoon. And here with horror we notice  that Amos, disregarding the  rules is floating towards the crocodile. Suddenly we see the seething water and that something is happening underwater. Then the water becomes muddy. We are paralyzed with fear, only our paraphysician  Francois peers into the depth in the hope that it wouldn`t apply his knowledge today.

Within several minutes there is a fight under the water, now we all understand it. My heart is beating with breakneck speed. I can not believe my eyes. It can not be!....The long 15 minutes pass, and Walter and Amos show up on the surface safe and sound! Thanks God! As it turned out the crocodile tried to attack the divers, and but it missed and grabbed the monopod. We were diving during  two days after that in search of this ill-fated camera, but it is gone, it seemed the crocodile has swallowed it as in Korney Chukovsky`s verses together with the sun.

Actually, it is necessary to tell that it was the only attempt of the river monster to attack us. And in this case it was only our fault. We violated the established rules: never swim  in the place where it is not deep enough and that creates all conditions for the attack.

The remained days passed without any excesses, we dived five times a day, and in the evening we had a good time catching small crocodiles, taking pictures with them and the next day released them back to freedom.

Epilogue.

Therefore we have achieved our goal, we have made more than 25 dives in the icy waters of the Okavango. All these days I was fighting against the feeling of cold, fear, problems with ears and with myself. On the third day of our trip, I failed to sink to the bottom . A sharp pain squeezed my ears and then it hit my temples and the forehead. The pain was so strong, that tears came out  of my eyes. I gave a sign to Walter that I had problems with the pressure in my ears. I tried again and again to equalize my ears, but everything had no effect. I needed to rise at least a meter up. However, the crocodile was nearby  and one wrong movement could cost me my life. Walter fought between the common sense and a compassion for my suffering. Nevertheless, he decide to keep me at the bottom while the crocodile goes downstream. These minutes seemed to me an eternity filled with terrible pain. Next two days I wrestled not only the pain in my ears, but I was thinking about not returning to the water at all  because I had seen the crocs already. And at this difficult moment for me the doc Fransua found the right words, saying :" Do you know how many people were on the top of the Everest? More than one thousand. And how many people have been able to overcome the fear and go down the water and dive with the Nile crocodile? No more than twenty. And you are the only woman who dared to do it. You did it! And you have done it so much bravely  that I would never thought that  it was for the first time. Do you know how many men came here and refused to go into water after having seen by their own eyes the real size of the reptile? But you did it! You came her to fight your fear. So you must fight. Otherwise you will give up the halfway the whole your life. Moreover you are not along. You have Walter. I trust him like my own father ". How important and necessary  were his word for me. I do appreciate it. He didn`t let me give up. Thus, I earned a respect  in the men`s eyes and in my own. You know, it is a very important quality to compose yourself in a difficult situation. The life is different  and sometimes the meeting with crocodile may be just a lovely walk  under water.

But I must say that not only the feeling of fear accompanied me the whole trip. There were unforgettable evenings filled with laughter and endless life stories nearby the fire and the best in the world bush TV-TV in the wild nature! There were the numerous fishing and feeding the eagles by freshly caught fish, the daily picnics in the middle of the river. Sometimes we were moored to the land, and were occasionally met by a huge hippopotamus. And yet it was the endless starry sky, the air filled with the sounds of newlyweds` frogs, which to inspire each other were producing so fascinating sound that reminded me the ringing of bells or crystal glasses. And how many shooting stars flew past our camp these days! And how many times I have thought to go back there again, with the same company, to the same place next year again to test myself one more time and to meet alone with the River monster!

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