Maybe the ebook will raise the roof (so to speak!) And so here is an excerpt from the ebook - one I've been asked to blog here. (It comes with an apology to my daughters. After the tiger I promised I'd never walk in the jungle again. Foolishly, I forgot about crocodiles in the rivers!).
So - here is what happened:
I have to hurry back, for Mahendra is taking me out in a canoe this afternoon.
I find out exactly what this involves when we reach the river bank. First – life jackets. Then a boatman leads us down to the water, where dugout canoes, about three metres long, each with a heap of little wooden seats, are lined up along the shoreline. Wood is unforgiving to sit on. But at least this canoe won’t jolt me like the elephant did. The canoe sitting so low in the river I am tempted to dangle my fingers. The water is dark, mysterious. And some of it is in a hurry after recent rains.
Once settled, we push off into the river. We are heading downstream, and so the boatman has to do little more than steer us towards the clearer water. Scrubland reaches far beyond the river banks, rough grasses and small trees, the arch of vast afternoon skies. It is blissfully quiet, just the shush of the water and regular plash of the paddle. Mahendra points out ibis, and egrets, and tiny plain martins diving in and out of little holes in the mudbanks. He speaks quietly, as if not wanting to disturb the river.
Or the crocodiles. Some are barely visible, just snouts peering above the surface of the water. Others lie in the sun on the banks. None of them move. It is hot, and sluggish; not a time for anyone to be hurrying. How wrong I am.
‘They eat people,’ Mahendra reminds me. Not these crocodiles, I think. They are having too much fun lying in the sun to think of eating anyone.
We pass one, about two metres long, sunning himself about three metres away from the canoe. He is a fine crocodile, eyes barely open, flopped full length on the sandbank. An egret hops beside him.
A sudden splash. A spurt of water.
The biggest croc I’ve even seen. Leaping from the river beside us and launching himself at the neck of the one on the bank. All those teeth. The scaly skin. Terrifying eyes. A terrible snapping of terrible teeth. A thrashing of tails and teeth and the flash of glittering eyes.
Within seconds both crocodiles are in the water. Fighting.
Then, as suddenly as it all began, the splashing is over and they are gone. They could be anywhere. The water is quiet. It is like nothing happened. Except we know it did. Somewhere in these depths are two crocodiles with a score to settle.
It takes a moment or two for me to realise what has just happened. That one huge crocodile materialised from this deceptive river and attacked another. That they can’t simply have disappeared.
Mahendra’s hands are tucked under his legs, well away from the side. He talks to the boatman in Nepali, his voice unusually high, and I suspect he says something along the lines of, ‘oh shit.’ That’s when I know for sure that this isn’t part of the usual itinerary.
I follow his example and keep my hands well away from the sides. I dare not rock the canoe to turn my head and gauge the boatman’s reaction. I only know that he continues with his peaceful rowing, splish splash, as if there could never be a gigantic crocodile swimming somewhere under the boat.
I’m not sure what else we see on our trip down the river. I seem to have lost the capacity to think. I know it’s hot, but my palms are unnecessarily sweaty. We climb out downstream, and I tip the boatman well, for now he has to row back upstream, past the egrets and the ibis. Past the crocodiles.
Mahendra and I sit with a drink to recover. By the time we have finished talking, it has become a funny story and both crocodiles are as big as dinosaurs.