Friday, July 31, 2015

I am a rock - Simon and Garfunkel (1966)

I AM NOT A ROCK !     Sorry !

Susan with customers on the Omo River

It was not easy to live on the banks of a wild river like this. One time can be fine, the second time can be fine too, but eventually something had to happen. Especially when you get too used to a place, the difficulties seem not so difficult any longer, the worries fade away and you seem not to see the risk anymore.
So one day, we were three: Marco, Marcello and I, each on our own rubber boat floating along the Omo River. Like for every trip we took on the river, the boat had to carry all the goods for seven long days: gasoline and oil to be mixed, all camping equipment, food, our water filters, utensils and spare parts in case of damage of a crocodile tearing off one side of the boat, spare parts of the 25hp engine (the river could not carry a faster engine) extra propellers, maximum of 4 to 5 (according to weight) customers and us. We had one ranger given to us by the State because in those years no-one could wonder Ethiopia without an "escort", even if those rangers had no idea of the place we were in, too, too, too far away from their home. Each time asking permits to cross "the line", the State was wondering what was there so interesting to stand all those worries and uncomfortable way of life. But where we were going was so far away from any interest the country had, that permits were given rather easily. Should have we never come back, I do not think somebody would have come to rescue us. This was a feeling we all had, but the risk we were ready to stand.
Marco and Masaai, our ranger from Addis Ababa, as you can see from the object lying in front
In that moment, on the river, I knew we were about to reach the place of small cataract and water would be a bit troubled. There were ways to take the river and in this case a very precise way to take the small falls in order not to send everything splashing in the water. Always near moving waters there are more chances to have crocodiles and the Omo River crocodiles are many and enormous. 
Marco was a bit far in front of us.  Marcello took the current the right way but his boat had some summersault. I thought the ground underneath was shallow. Our main concern are always the propellers so not to break them we had to lift the engine up. Marcello went by safely, I put the boat in the correct position to let the current take me through while I turned myself to the engine to lift it up. As I was bending offshore to grab the black handle, an enormous crocodile jumped up.  
It was big and wide like the boat, its front legs were stretched-open to grab the boat and were just the size of the width of it (2mt wide). Its belly was white, real white and I could count the knuckles on the chest because my head was just beneath it. Marcello had just rubbed the crock’s back by driving the boat on top it and the crock was angry while my boat just pushed it back down again against the rock. Its jump was so strong that pushed the boat further ahead faster than the water drifting us along. This was our luck!

The crock when falling down just caressed the two sides of the back of the boat without being able to jump on it. I threw the engine back in the water, pulled the string to turn it on, sent the engine full speed and drove out of the cataract and away from that site. I was in a tremendous shock, so were the customers on the boat. Marcello had seen the story and was without words. When I stopped again near a safe shore, my dark skin burned by the sun, turned white and my lips pale. A customer on the other boat gave me a shot of brandy that he had taken along, but I was shivering and never wanted to see a crock again…. But that night, there they were again, on our banks where we had to set up camp and as always we had to take ownership of the beach by pushing our boats on the sand and waiting that the noise would send the crocks in the water for the night, hopefully!

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