Crocodile Dumdee


‘What you don’t know can hurt you.’

A couple of years after The Dude and I got married, we took a trip to Australia. This was a very long time ago. So long ago that when I googled ‘Crocodile Dundee’ after coming up with that groaner of a title, I found out the movie came out after we took our trip. So we weren’t familiar with lines like That’s not a knife…this is a knife’, much less with the fact that practically everything in Australia can pretty much kill you.

Speaking of my punsterific headline, let me say right off the bat that I don’t mean to pick on The Dudeman. It’s just that the photo of him in his Crocodile hat looks, well, more ‘DundeeLike’ than mine.

Me, sporting my Crocodile Dundee (er, ‘Dumdee’) hat. And not much else. I’m perched by the pool that had all the snakes in it, soon to be described in horrifyingly hissy detail

Because, let’s face it. We were both pretty dumb on this trip. Granted, this was long before TripAdvisor or (probably) even the internet itself. (Not sure; I’ll have to ask Al Gore.)

At any rate, we were young, we were naive, and we were game for pretty much anything. We were also pretty poor, but I had oodles of frequent flier miles from all my work-related plane-hopping for Ogilvy. (See ‘Around the World in 80 Shoots’) So we cashed ’em in and flew Qantas to Cairns. Where, before we could even grab a rental car, we were ourselves grabbed — right there in the terminal — by a couple of guys who said “Hey, wanna go diving on the Great Barrier Reef? Come with us!” (Use your imagination for the Australian accents.)

No, we didn’t buy the Brooklyn Bridge. But yes, we did hop right on this dive boat

Nope, we were not certified divers. In fact, I had never even tried diving before. But we strapped on that gear and dove right in. There are still marks from my fingernails etched into that boat’s wooden sides.

Yup. We stuck our hands into the shells of giant clams. And wait — that’s not all! Dude Man actually followed our leader into an underwater tunnel, not realizing that Mr. Leader’s flippers would stir up the sand in said tunnel, thus rendering Dude effectively blind. “I just stayed calm until the sand settled,” he said when later queried by Worried Me. I would have had a watery seizure.

I could write a whole post about that diving boat. But I have to save room for dangerous tales of the dry-land variety.

Having survived the diving boat, we started our Road Trip. Our Plan was to drive to Sydney, then ditch the rental car and fly home. The Very First Day was turning into The Very First Night — and we were remarking on how easy it was to drive in Australia because the roads were so empty — when we had to turn on the wipers. Clouds and clouds of bugs were dive-bombing our windshield. So many that we absolutely could not see. Our measly wipers not up to the task, we pulled into a gas station. Where the attendant said, “What are you doing driving at night? Nobody drives at night. That’s when the bugs come out!”

We had no choice but to stop at the first motel we came across. Exhausted from steering into an insect-strewn sunset, The Dude threw his suitcase onto the bed — only to see what he thought was a kitschy decoration scamper off the pillow. It was the biggest tarantula he’d ever seen. He was wise not to tell me about it till we were back in our squashed-bug-coated car and on our way to the next motel.

Outside (maybe) the next motel. It, too, had a Big Resident Creature. But at least it was a mammal

But enough about bugs. And spiders. Let’s talk snakes. Which, as you may know, are my least favorite of God’s creations. (See ‘The Year of the Snake’ for how The Child almost did not come to exist.)

We knew, somewhat vaguely, that there were poisonous snakes in Australia. What we didn’t know was that we’d get up close and personal with any. We had stopped one day for a picnic at a roadside park with a nice refreshing-looking pool.

There was absolutely no one else there. Australia, at least off the Beaten Track, is remarkably free of people. Or it was then. We would stop at beaches where there were showers and changing rooms — but no people. We found out only later — after frolicking in the water at said beaches — that this was not only because of the sharks, but because of the jellyfish.

How can I resist sharing another view of the Snake Pool? This is (obviously) before The Dude jumped in. Or I absolutely would NOT be sitting there

But about that pool. There was no one around to ask “Hey, are there snakes in there?” So The Dude just jumped right in. And the minute he did, swarms of snakes came out from behind some rocks and surrounded him. “I just stayed calm and slowly climbed out,” he said as I tried to refrain from shrieking.

The Dude and I at a winery in the Hunter Valley. No doubt toasting our good luck at being alive (till that point, at least)

This story is getting about as long as our Road Trip itself. So I’ll skip the bits about the shells that poke you with a poisonous spike when you pick them up and you die in thirty seconds and about the man and lady whose boat capsized and the lady got eaten by a crocodile (not named ‘Dundee’). Things we found out only after we had been on that beach and beside that river.

Not sure if that was one of the trees filled with bats as big as cats. If it was, I obviously didn’t realize it at the time

But did all of this danger scare us away from Australia? Hardly. Both of us loved it so much we wanted to move there. But, as you may know, the Aussies have their standards — and their ‘Occupational Ceilings’. They could have used a few more Ad Girls, but were full up with ophthalmologists. So here we stayed. In nice safe New York City.

New York City. April 2018

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16 thoughts on “Crocodile Dumdee

  1. Australia is still pretty much just about the only foreign locale I have on my bucket list, which is very short. Based on this post, could be the place I’d want to be when I’m ready to kick the bucket, since it seems there are (or were) so many exotic tropical methods from which to choose. Actually, one of my favorite bloggers that I regularly follow is a Swiss expat who moved there with her growing family. So, also based on this post, I think if I ever make it there I’ll have to recruit her as my tour guide.

    • Oh yes. Despite my hair-raising experience there, The Dude and I adored Australia. We still mean to go back. We’ll make sure to leave our bucket at home, tho. Wouldn’t want to kick it

  2. A few days ago, I left this comment on my blog in reply to an Aussie who invited me to visit the Northern Territories.

    I have never been to N.T. Australia but I have been to Queensland. I remember Palm Cove, just north of Cairns. My wife and I took a short-cut through a green strip from our hotel to the beach. Half hidden by the bush was a sign that read:

    Here is a short list of all the things that will kill you.

    The boxy that will kill you in fifteen minutes (jelly fish)
    The boxy that will let you live fifteen minutes longer.
    Moray eels (really big ones)
    Snakes, more poisonous and numerous to mention.
    Killer frogs
    Killer toads
    Killer tourists



    (Okay, I paraphrased a bit but I did not exaggerate)

    I also would love to go back. Fabulous place. Australia is the BEST!

    • This comment is Aussie Awesomesauce! Thank you SO much. Like I said in my story, all the dangerous stuff scared the whatnot out of us, but we still love love loved our visit, Killer Stuff and all. Best, and happy travels to Australia and Beyond xoxo

  3. I’m literally having a nervous breakdown reading this. I HATE snakes. They creep me out so much I can’t even look at them on TV. I’d have died right on the spot had I been your hubby. Nope. Nope. NOPE.

  4. I don’t think I could cope with any of that, I am shuddering so much. I would be a nervous wreck! I remember that youthful naivety though, it got me through a lot of stuff that proper-adult me wouldn’t have survived ? enjoyed this very much x

  5. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Living in the woods I have a wonderful wooden mallet for snake eradication! Especially since the first one was on my brand new kitchen floor. I was not about to attack with a knife. You’re a brave girl, Alice❣

    • Oh, I don’t know how brave I am, Ruth. (Though it’s flatterng of you to think so!) I have a terrible and totally irrational fear of snakes — no mallet for me. Running shoes!

  6. Oh, my god. It looks so harmless and bucolic. At least we don’t have crocodiles here, just mountain lions but relatively few. It’s a miracle we survive our vacations, Alice. BTW, did you see the little review of Tucson in this weekend’s NYT? Did you see the mention about birdwatching? Just sayin’. xxoo

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