Taking on dragons in the southern seas

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Once on the island, we set out, 15 people from two groups, with one ranger up front and one in the rear. They carried long wooden sticks, each cut into a prong at the end. They said they would stick it in the dragon’s eyes if one became nasty. Yeah, right. The “rangers” looked about 16 years old. Their sticks were big twigs.

They said we would trek for two hours to a water hole. It was about 95 degrees and 100 percent humidity. So we started out, all flat ground, bushes and jungle all around, with the rangers whispering, “Stay together.” It was like a scene out of a bad Tarzan movie (were there any good ones?). We were all making jokes because we were so nervous.

I wondered at this world — a few days ago I was home, walking my dog around the block. This morning I was walking through a jungle on an island in Indonesia to see Komodo dragons. Tonight I’m writing about it on my laptop.

About a half hour out, it started to rain. No, it wasn’t really rain; it was as if all the water on Earth was being dumped on our heads. Massive, unrelenting sheets of water soaked us through and turned the trail to a mudslide. The guide was whispering, “Stay together,” but we struggled just to stay on our feet in the mud. After 10 minutes we gave up on avoiding the deep puddles and just splashed through.

My husband was up ahead when I saw him go down. He slipped in the mud and fell on his back. But he had a backpack on, so he was like a turtle, moving his arms and legs; he couldn’t get up. A few men helped him to his feet, but his leg was bleeding. Really bleeding. The guide started to run away from him in a very unsubtle way. I used some Purell to wash his leg but it kept oozing because of the aspirin he takes. He said he was OK to walk, so we moved on through the rain into a clearing.

There we saw five Komodo dragons, 12 to 15 feet long, at a water hole. They were all moving around in different directions. I noticed no one wanted to stand near my husband and his bleeding leg.

Then, and I swear this is true, our ranger said to me, “I am very afraid.” What could I say? I told him we were fine. He said, “It’s OK if I die, but I don’t want you to die.”
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