Sepik Day 9 Through 11 – Croc Hunting

reed whiting

12 December 2010 | sepik river, papua new guinea

We dropped Alex off in Pagwi and with Mr. Mobo gone and back in the hands of the friendly villagers we felt safe. That night was another tough night of Croc hunting in which we wasted a container of gas chasing 3 ft crocs, I had to make a tough decision. Swagup was 7 hours up the river and chock full of Crocs, and I knew that was my best chance to get one killed. The only problem was I only had 2 days to get it done, and the cost of gas would be outrageuos. This was one of those situations in life when you know the right thing to do is stay put and dont try to throw some last chance trip together, but I couldnt help myslef and made the decision to head to Swagup in the morning.

It poured for the first few hours of daylight, which postponed the voyage in our 10 meter wood canoe. As I laid there in the early morning light listening to the rain pound the sailboat I wondered how uncomfortable it would be to be stuck in one of those dugout canoes in rain like this. Little did I know I was soon to find this out.

The drive up went great. We made good time and were nearing Swagup around dark. Well at least the guide thought we were. When we stopped to ask a women on the bank for directions I had a feeling this night was turning for the worst. We had to back track a couple hundred meters to take a different brach up the river and we then continued for what seemed to be an hour, until the guys stopped the boat and said we may need to turn back as they did not know where Swagup is. Ill admit at first I was a bit rattled, with all the expense going into this trip, only to have my first avaialable night of hunting go down the drain.

Worrying about hunting quickly wore off as I realized that we really have no where to go for the night and I was accepting the fact that the bottom of the wood canoe might actually make a decent bed at this point in time. We drove in circles for about an hour, as I listened to my half ass guide and his assitant try and work things out. Finally I had to take control of the situaiton and force them to head back downstrem the way we came and find the first village we can sleep at. At this point I could barely keep my eyes open and once I figured we were headed back I passed out in the boat. The pouring rain woke me up and shortly after we were pulling up on a pitch black bank to join a family in their fishing village at around midnight. I was in a absolute daze and could care less where we were as long as I had some form of roof on my head and a mosquito net. We set up shop under a small thatch hut and I was out cold.

I woke up early the next morning to the smiles of 6 children staring at me through my mosquito net. A white man sleeping in there home would be like us seeing a Alien back in the states. They were in awe of me and watched every move I made. I dipped in my bag and grabbed them all chewing gum and baloons and also gave them a tennis ball to share. It amazes me everytime I give things to these kids how excited they become at such a simple gift. Seeing their never ending smiles that morning made the living nightmare of the night before seem irrelavant. After trying to polish off my plate full of enough yams to feed a high school football team, we were back on the river and hopefully headed to Swagup.

The village of Swagup was tucked back off the main river and it was easy to see how we missed it the night before. Upon entering the small stream running through the village we were greeted by a plethora of smiles and waving hands. We walked the entire village and sat and told stories in the spririt house for an hour or so as I tried to figure out the hunting situation. They were telling me that daylight is the best time to kill a Croc, which was news to me, but I was willing to try anything at this point as I was down to my last chance to get the job done. We made plans for a late afternoon hunt and I then set shop in one of the villagers houses. We did some trading and I entertained a group of kids in the house until I laid down for my pre hunt nap.

We hit the river around 4 and headed upstream to see the crocs float as the locals called it. We set up in the tall weeds on the edge of a large eddy in the river and within minutes we saw a dandy. After all this time it was finally coming together, I felt very confident I could kill this Croc, but then one of my huntoing partners said that one was too big. TOO BIG? Thats not in my huntng >

We still went on a night hunt and lined the same night as the last 3 again, seeing tons of crocs, but never getting close enough to do any good. A few hours into the night I was getting tired of the hunt and told the guys to head back. I guess head back to them meant to turn around and slowly hunt for two more hours and that is when all hell broke loose. The storm I feared came in on us fast and within seconds we were all soaked, cold, and miserable and still 1 hours from the village. It was a rough ride back, and thank god I had a rain coat, because if not I may have gotten Hypothermia on this one. We got in about midnight and I was out in seconds upon crawling into my bed.

We left for Yenchen early in the morning and unfortunately I didnt have the grace of cloud cover on this day and the sun beat down on my pale skin for 7 hours straight as I had no where to hide. I cant say my little side trip was a complete waste of time, as I met so many great people and made it a bit of adventure, but this is one adventure I wouldnt want to do all over again. Once we were back I rounded up Ben and we were off towards Angoram to pick up our long lost friend Alex Rust.

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