by Ken McAlpine
Welcome to our weekly blog about the joys of travel and life. For the two are one. Travel, like life, is about making the most of our moments, for we only have so many. With that in mind, another moment together. Thank you for coming along for the ride…
Snakes and Crocs and Lifelong Lessons
There are places in this world that will change you. Wild places where beauty, scope, and harsh reality alter your sensibilities and forever reshuffle your thinking. Certain people can affect a similar change. Perfect travel is a combination of both.
Once I explored Australia’s Cape York Peninsula with a gentleman named Geoff Reid. Imagine Crocodile Dundee, but with more yarns and spindly legs poking from dust-scrimmed khaki shorts. As for the Cape York Peninsula, well it is beyond imaginings; 54,000 square miles of rainforest and scrub and bony-white eucalyptus and mirror-clear rivers and monolithic termite mounds and dust and mud and fire and flood and multicolored flocks of lorikeets that erupt from trees like fall leaves tossed to the wind and fish that glump down frogs beneath a glittering night sky.
A bottomless recipe for story, and sometimes lesson, and Geoff relayed gads of them. Tales of two-step snakes (the number of steps you have left after being bitten), ravenous saltwater crocs and wild bushmen who turned their backs on civilization because the wilds were safer and more civilized. Not one story disappointed, for Geoff possessed the born storyteller’s gifts. It’s true, there might have been an embellishment or three, but that’s what born storytellers do.
Most often these stories came in a burst, accompanied by a madcap hand waving, for it is not easy to tell the story of a wallaby cleaved in half by a saltwater croc without some level of electricity (lesson: be very, very alert when standing beside any river on the Cape York Peninsula).
But my favorite story, Geoff bestowed quietly.
One night we walked (not too close) beside a river, looking for crocs. We didn’t see any, and so Geoff and I stretched out on our backs on a smooth rise of rock (away from the river).
Overhead, the Milky Way traced a phantasmagoric river. The rest of the world was black velvet.
After a time, Geoff spoke.
“What’s that sound?”
There was a long silence before Geoff answered his own question.
Ken McAlpine has traveled the world as a writer, from the depths of Palau to the heights of the Andes, but no matter where he goes, he can’t wait to come home to Ventura. We hope his stories remind you of why you love the place you call home, and this gift called life. For more info, please go to www.kenmcalpine.com.
Top image by Sienna Streamfellow provided by Channel Islands Adventure Company.