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The Darwin Diaries - Day Six: Old Crocs

With thoughts of the previous day's disastrous outing against Cayman Islands still fresh in their minds, day six in Darwin started with a practise session for the Hong Kong team. Whilst yours truly spent three hours in the Telstra shop trying to get a local internet connection sorted out (unsuccessfully in the end), the team headed to the local indoor cricket facility for some much needed batting, bowling and fielding practise.
In the three net facility, one net was set up with a bowling machine; one was used for throw-downs and fielding practise while the third net was used by the bowlers. Batsmen operated in each net, under the guidance of coach Sameer Dighe. The session ran from 9:30AM to 1PM.

After lunch, the team used the afternoon to take in some of the local sights. With Hong Kong supporters Phil and Agnes Glenwright providing the transportation, the team ventured about 40 kilometres out of Darwin to the Adelaide River, just past the delightfully named settlement of Humpty Doo. There we boarded the Adelaide River Queen for a cruise up the river for a view of some of the biggest and ugliest salt-water crocodiles in the area.

'Bogart' is the first crocodile we encountered. He's an ugly brute - five metres long and with only one complete leg. His other legs are just stumps, 'trophies' of territorial battles fought over his 40-odd years with other male crocodiles looking to take over his 'patch'. Bogart is a salt-water crocodile, yet we are nearly 30 kilometres inland in a predominantly fresh water river system. Apparently, even the salt-water crocs need to spend three months each year 'desalinating' in the fresh water rivers.

Our skipper, Briony Appleby, tells us that these monsters, living relatives of the dinosaurs, are very territorial and each female jealously protects a 50-75 metre stretch of the river, while the males troll up and down the river mating indiscriminately. But life is not easy for the crocodiles, with only one in each thousand hatchlings surviving to maturity, many victims of their cannibalistic siblings.

A large pork chop is dangled from the side of the boat and Bogart is coaxed into the water from his riverbank slumber. Eerily, he moves towards us, with only his eyes and nostrils visible in the murky water. Barely a ripple marks his progress. He pulls alongside the boat and eyes the chop for a few seconds. Slowly he moves into position and then, with a flick of his powerful tail, he lunges out of the water and grabs the chops in his gaping jaws. As quickly as he came, Bogart returns to the riverbank to digest his snack.

We continue our journey up river and Briony reminds us not to venture on to the outside deck whilst the boat is stationary. Needless to say, we don't need any second reminders.

We get a repeat of the crocodile leaping show from a smaller female crocodile called 'Arnie' and then an unexpected bonus as a magnificent white-bellied sea-eagle swoops down to snatch a pork chop dangling from the bamboo pole. Moments later, another giant sea-eagle swoops in to give us a second show of aerial acrobatics.

As we turn around and head back to base, Briony informs us that 40 years ago, the Adelaide River was used for water-skiing. In those days, the crocodiles had been hunted to the point of extinction and sightings were relatively rare. Today, the species is protected and over 3,000 crocodiles now inhabit this 150-kilometre stretch of river.

After an hour on board, we return to the jetty. As we cross the walkway, nearby two eyes pierce the surface of the river... and watch with interest as we hurry ashore.

We return to Darwin in the early evening. There is a team meeting where thoughts and tactics for tomorrow's match are discussed. Skipper Ilyas Gull announces that there will be some changes to the team, but that the final playing eleven will be announced in the morning. The players adjourn to their rooms for the evening.