June 15, 2015

Mum versus Wild

By the time the moray eel treed me, our walk had already proved a bit wilder than expected. The eel had been chasing a crab when it slithered out of the water up onto the coral beach and struck the fast moving crab with a stunning ferocity. Then it saw my toe and must have decided it looked meatier than a crunchy arthropod and came after me. I scrambled off the beach and onto a palm tree trunk. Losing sight of my tasty toe, the eel decided the crab would be an okay meal after all. We watched it dine and then went back to contemplating our way forward: through thigh deep water over slippery coral, or back inland through dense bush.

Behan and I had set out on a gentle morning beach walk checking to check out a fishing boat wreck at one end of Ile Takamaka. Along the way we hoped to catch site of some of the feral roosters we hear each morning. The poultry is a bit of a mystery on an island with rats—we have no idea how they've survived (and seemingly thrived) in the nearly 50-years since the islanders were expelled. The clue may be in the fact that while it often sounded like there was a herd of chickens in the island's bush, we never saw any sign of them.

As we rounded the far point of the island we became enthralled with a pair of long-tailed white tropic birds. Both of us were snapping madly with our cameras and as we filled our memory cards (and memories) the tide must have started to rise. We wandered on, scrabbling over logs and wading through the ocean, casually deciding to circumnavigate the little island without ever voicing the goal.

It would have been too unsatisfying to turn back. Each tidal pool had a treasure: a shark nursery full of tiny black tip reef sharks, a lagoon with a half dozen turtles and dazzling turquoise parrot fish that dart in and out of the shallows. While each tree held dozens of seabird nests: there were boobie babies, terns and noddies.

As we continued, we were both certain that a distant point of land was the other end of the island and the end of our walk. But when we reached the point (now wading through thigh deep water) we realized we still had a long way to go. The wave height began to grow as it crashed in over the reef, so we headed inland. Even with sturdy shoes and a machete it's hard to traverse the islands—the foliage is dense and often impenetrable. And there were spiders.

But there were also gorgeous old banyan trees and mysterious open groves that must have once been part of the workings of the island. In one place we found the broken globe of an old glass fishing float. Several times we came back out to the beach with its bright red and navy blue coral under foot. In the distance we could see our boats. But then the beach would recede into deeper, current churned waters and we'd need to plunge back into the jungle.

Long after we started, but maybe much too soon, we scrambled back into the dinghy: home to laundry, and bread baking, and everyday things. As a mother I relish the adventures our life gives to Maia. The other day when she and the boys headed off to explore overnight and forage for their meals I celebrated their courage while staying home to wash dishes. Today it was mum vs wild.
Even mums need adventures.

This post was delivered via satellite phone using Iridium Mail & Web software.


judith said...

What fun, to roam with a friend as if the two of you were teens again. Did Behan happen to film your run in with the eel?

Larmstrong said...

Enjoying your blog. Was reading back issues of your stay in Oz and your take on my country's idiosyncrasies. You might find this amusing when you have some free bandwidth.
Matt Caine
SV Cygnet