In search for the World´s rarest crocodile
Northern Sierra Madre National Park Travel Blog› entry 10 of 15 › view all entries
It has come to it at last! I am going to search for crocodiles in the wild. For one week we will go to the mountains, which thus far I have seen only as blue shapes on the horizon. I will join Willem, who will do his research, our Philippino counterpart Edmund and guide/crocodile catcher Jun-jun. (He learned the profession from his father who was a renowned crocodile catcher.)
All more easily said than done. Endangered species have a habit of living in the remotest areas. Our journey consists of many steps, and each will bring me farther from the civilized world.
First we go to the local municipality and ask permission from te mayor behind his big desk, from the police captain (who thought I was a Mormon missionary) and the local militairy division.
Since the jeepney was stocked with children, rice, chickens and pigs, I spent 1.5 hour on the roof. Halfway the road ended and turned into a river. The jeep heaved to and fro along deep crevasses and I was rather busy trying to stay alive. But we weren’t there yet. To reach the crocodile areas we had to hike for 2 hours through the mountains. Uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill, with 15 kilos on your back and the sun on hot. There are barely roads, only rocks and slippery mud. Sometimes I had to cross rivers (naked) holding my bag on my head. Other crocodiles swim in these rivers and big leeches.
I slip on the rocks at every riverbank.
How to catch a crocodile:
You wait for sunset. (Thats right, we enter the jungle at night. There is not much to see at night if you don’t know where to look, except certain trees that attract fireflies. Sometimes hundreds inhabit a tree and make it look like a christmas tree.)
With a flashlight you scan the riverbanks.
Frustrated crocodiles make a really strange noise. Iuw! Iuw! We try to harass the crocodiles as little as possible. We note their code and measure lengths and weight and release them again.
The next day the rest of the crocodile team arrived with some important people. An Australian named Tom and the head of the Philippine crocodile breeding farm in Palawan, Glenn.
The return journey....
The road to home was incredibly hard. In the morning we discovered it had been raining all night and the rest of the day the rain would never stop. Everything was now slippery clay and mud, and your feet slipped away with every step. The rivers were swollen and dangerous. We were completely exhausted from the past days, but we had no choice but to start the hike.
Two hours later we reached a couple of houses.
Another hour passed and there was no more drinking water. To keep on going I licked the drops from banana leaves and sucked the moisture from my shirt, and meanwhile I had to concentrate heavily on the road, for if you fall, you can break all your bones. Thinking back, I remember moments that I just kept standing with my feet in a difficult position, and lost all courage and energy to continue, being close to tears. I felt like Frodo crawling up Mount Doom.
All in all it took about 4 hours for us to reach a village from where a truck would leave for the city.
I learned there is a whole universe between nearly died and death, but I feel very much alive now. I went to Jollibee’s and claimed my right to order their biggest burger, the champ. Only for crocodile catchers. When I entered, I bumped against a sign that warned me for wet floors, and for some reason I though it was extremely hilarious.