Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: TOURIST TRAP (08/20/15)
- TITLE: Barra Bug
By Jennifer Woodley
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His one brown weather worn hand hovered over the brightly colored lures. He selected a flashy hot pink one and waved it slowly in Dan’s face. ‘Whatever happens,’ he said mysteriously, ‘when you get to Kakadu, mind you don’t catch the barra bug.’ He placed the lure gently back in the case and stared hard at Dan. ‘It’s mighty impossible to avoid.’
‘That’s ridiculous.’ I thought. But the man’s ominous tone caused a wave of anxiety to wash over me. I turned to my husband who seemed to be mesmerized by the alluring colors and shapes of the lures. ‘Come on.’ I took Dan’s arm and urged him away from the colorful enticements and fanciful dreams of catching the biggest barramundi in Australia.
‘Mind the salties!’ the one-armed man called with a sharp warning. We retreated back to our caravan, wondering about his armless predicament. That evening I dreamt of ignorant male tourists, all named Dan, tossing iridescent spinning lures anxious to catch the ‘big one’ – before having their arm mauled by monstrous saltwater crocodiles. Pleasant dreams indeed!
At dusk the following day we drove into Kakadu National Park, the tropical oasis amidst the rugged wilds of the Northern Territory. We had designated five days to leisurely explore the smorgasbord of attractions this lush paradise had to offer. Talking with Dan during dinner that evening, I was hopeful that the faraway look in his eye was anticipation of the sunrise boat cruise in the morning - and nothing more.
As day two dawned however, my hopes were smashed, tiny fragments of disappointment splintered over the early morning vista. ‘Goin’ fishin’ today.’ Dan announced. This was not on our agenda. ‘Really?’ I said nonplussed. ‘Why the change of plans so suddenly?’ We had a day session booked with a group of local aboriginal woman. I was keen to learn their traditional crafts: basket weaving, tye dying and rock painting.
And so that morning, I found myself husbandless. Yet, sitting on the ground, in the dirt, surrounded by the comforting smells of billy tea and spicy fire-baked biscuits, then listening contentedly to the laughter and chatter of almost naked, nut brown babies and their loving mammas, my sorrows faded. It was God-given therapy for a heavy heart.
It came as no surprise that day 3, 4 and 5 where spent the same way. The barra bug had stolen my husband: snatched him off to a notoriously dangerous bend on the South Alligator River. A place where there were new friends to yarn with: to boast of the ones they caught and the ones that got away. A place where the barramundi were prolific, the waters were deep and murky and the salties waited in the shadows to drag under an unsuspecting tourist. I prayed hard as he left in the mornings, and shut my mind to the dangers of this mad tourist obsession that had taken him captive.
Yet what was this? Forming inside was a yearning for this tourist to go back day after day to the newly found circle of friends. There was a growing hunger to share life, laughter and learning together, on the ground, beside the fire, amidst the energy of high spirited children and surrounded by the beauty of Kakadu’s natural wonderland. This was exhilarating, this was life giving, this was deeply fulfilling. Was this what took Dan off each morning? I understood.
So we had both fallen into a tourist trap: a place that held us captive! However, it was a good place, a much needed place: a place that enriched our sense of self and sense of community; a place that expanded our learning and understanding of others; a place that brought husband and wife together with new interests to share; and a place that gave us a deeper love for the Father who uses all circumstances to show His loving kindness towards us.
Twilight on day five found us overlooking starry skies reflected in a pink lily-laden lagoon. Purple headed swamp hens honked, heralding the closure of another beautiful day in paradise. Freshly caught barramundi fillets sizzled on the BBQ. Served together with a lemon drenched salad on hand woven plates, our amazing tour of Kakadu was complete.
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