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The morning before our planned departure from the happy hamlet of Timbuctoo, I received an urgent E-Mail from an old acquaintance, who required my immediate presence in Papeete, on the Beautiful and Enchanting Island of Tahiti.....how could I resist ?
Hurriedly packing my bags and desperately trying to get rid of the fine desert sand which had found its way into every nook and cranny, every pocket and article of footwear, I said a fond farewell and bon voyage to my trekking companions of the last few months. And, jumping on board a tiny Cessna, kindly arranged for by a generous member of our party, the lone pilot and his passenger flew off into the cloudless sky, heading southwest to Bamako, the Capital City of the Republic of Mali, a distance of some 420 miles.
From here I caught a flight to Cairo and then onward to Papeete in the South Pacific, where my acquaintance sat waiting patiently at the airport (the flight having been delayed a number of hours).
After preliminaries we got down to business.......Why was Professor von Borgengruft so urgently required in Tahiti? Incredibly enough, this old acquaintance of mine described a disturbing dream, which had recurred three nights in a row........a dream so real, as to make the person having it, sit up in bed, wide awake after its passing, with full recollection of vivid details.
Impatiently, I prompted my eminent friend and colleague to continue, since by now, my curiosity had been thoroughly awakened.
It seems that in his repetetive nocturnal play, your Professor Friend was starring in the leading role. The curtains of his dream stage opened, with yours truly, being consumed by a GIANT CROCODILE...can you believe that?
He went on to describe in gory detail the alarming event, which he said reminded him of a National Geographic Special he had seen a few nights back, which pictured a rather large frog being consumed whole by a snake. Of course, by reading the Princess Noor Appreciation Society Newsletters, he was well aware that I was planning a voyage down the Niger River, through the African jungle.
Concerned for my safety, he immediately sent an urgent E-Mail to stop me from proceeding onward to what he felt was a horriblly gruesome encounter with Destiny.
After expressing my eternal gratitude for his timely intercession in preventing my becoming 'Crocodile dinner', we proceeded to his humble abode, where his hired cook had prepared a sumptious meal of Island delicacies.
What a lovely place...a veritable Paradise on Earth! Clear, warm colours are everywhere; in the cystalline cool waters, ridges and glens, and bright rivers and waterfalls with their shaded tints of green. The shores are verdant with coconut palms, and feathery casuarinea trees. The mornings are softly, radiantly calm.
Amid this luxuriant tropical splendour we continue to discuss Crocodiles and the mercies of Providence.
Of course, I had to inform him that, however realistic his dream, the rigidly articulated jaws and unelastic throat of the Crocodile does not permit the 'swallowing whole' of anything larger than a rabbit. Their practice being to sink all their large prey and keep it until it is sufficiently macerated to be torn into small pieces.
Incidentally, all the species have a voice, described as a loud short bark or croak, heard at night, or when the reptile is angry. The age to which they live is unknown, but they arrive at reproductive maturity when about ten years old, and seem to continue to grow for a century or more. Captives, and those often alarmed, show an ability to learn from experience.
The largest known Crocodile was probably the genus Rhamphosuchus, from the Pliocene deposits of the Siwalik Hills of India, with a length of over fifty feet.
I feel that the patient readers have heard enough 'Crocodilia' for the moment and would prefer to hear more of TAHITI !
Well, this is the largest and most important of the Society Islands. It is 33 miles long, northwest to southeast, and consists of the deeply dissected cones of two ancient volcanoes joined by a narrow isthmus of low land, the whole fringed by a coral barrier reef lying from one to two miles offshore. The island produces coconuts, bananas, sugar cane and other tropical plants. The total population for the five island groups making up the Territory of French Polynesia is about 195,000.
Sleep comes easily in Tahiti, encouraged by the gentle ocean breezes sweetened by the the aroma of this enchanted isle's foliage. Hoping that my gracious host's reptillian reveries have ceased, we say goodnight and retire to our respective huts for a long anticipated peaceful transport to the 'Land of Nod'.
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NEXT von Borgengruft Adventure - "Samoyed From the Siberian Tundra"