It’s 5:30pm and the sun is setting over the thirsty Australian bush. The dying yellow embers of the sun paint the ancient Nourlangie Rock a vibrant orange. There’s a misty glow over the flat red soil plane. Tired gum trees stoop low and the azure billabong is deathly still. Saltwater crocodiles bask on the bank.
The air is dense and consuming. Sweat trickles down my spine and my forehead is wet with perspiration. My heavy shadow reminds me that daylight is escaping, soon everything will be swallowed in darkness.
I quicken my pace; I’ve only got one mile left. I follow the dusty red track around an ancient eucalyptus, but I stop dead. The breath cascades swiftly out of my body and my hands begin to silently shake.
There’s a 300-kilo wild boar with protruding sharp tusks and a vicious open mouth blocking the path.
Before I ventured to outback Australia I was warned of its dangerous inhabitants. The saltwater crocodile suffocates its victims in a death roll. The king brown snakes’ venom can kill you in thirty minutes. Even the emu, a national emblem in Australia, can rip you in half with its razor talons. But boars? Nobody said anything about wild pigs.
His swollen face erupts into an aggressive grin. He grunts loudly as his piglets and mate join him.
A four mile walk lays behind me. An impossible feat in thirty minutes with only twenty minutes left of sunlight. I don’t want to be trapped near a billabong in darkness.
I craved a late afternoon of solitude and thus chose this isolated walking track. Evident by the overgrown gum trees and high straw grass, it had been discarded by the local ranger and enjoyed by the native fauna. I was 40km away from any populated site. If the boar injured me, I had no way of safely getting out. I was trapped in a ravenously hungry and unforgiving shrubbery.
My options: try and maneuver around the beast or run back, fast.
I decided on the first and confidently stepped forward. A mistake.
Noticing my intentions, the boar aggressively points his jaded tusks towards me. He opens his mouth to reveal two lower razor sharp teeth and lets out a loud breathy grunt. His ears slice back.
My fear infiltrates the open space between us. Hot tears ran down my face as I retreat, slowly. Dust recoils under the weight of my boot.
Once behind the eucalyptus tree I start to run, scanning the path for any rogue snakes catching the last of the hot rays. The embers have nearly died and night is beginning to swallow the sunset’s fire. The ghostly gums cast a long, sad shadow over the flat plane.
Out of the corner of my eye I notice a subtle ripple on the surface of the billabong. Two green piercing eyes are watching me.