When I agreed to go on an ‘adventure holiday’ with some fortysomething girlfriends there was a raising of spousal eyebrows.
“Kayaking the Pacific?” My husband said. “Snorkelling coral reefs? Do they know you don’t like getting your hair wet?”
“I don’t like this implication that I’m not adventurous!” I said. “I’ve let you tie me up in the past, or maybe you’ve forgotten?”
“Too long ago!”
“I’ve presented live TV. That’s bloody terrifying. I never have autocue and I have to make it up as I go along.”
“Doesn’t count. Part of your natural skill set.”
“There was that time I had to do the ‘Leap of Faith’; climbing up that massive ladder thing and throwing myself at a giant sausage. That was scary.”
“Again, throwing yourself at giant sausages is part of your make-up. You’ve been doing that as long as I’ve known you.”
“Ok, ok!” I cried. “So I’ve been minimally adventurous since I became a mother! But now that I’ve realised I’ll never be this young again, I’m going to have an adventure! And I will get my bloody hair wet!”
With that I signed the release form which included accepting that I ‘might be killed’ in the course of the trip.
Things that might kill me included the sea – big waves, strong currents, deadly sea-dwelling creatures – and the Komodo dragons on whose trail we’d be in hot pursuit.
I secretly added diseases (various, tropical) and the monkeys which inhabited some of the islands on which we would be camping.
I hadn’t managed to get a shot for Rabies before we left.
“Stay away from monkeys,” advised the nurse at the travel clinic.
“That’s pretty much my life strategy,” I nodded.
Our journey to the island of Flores involved three flights and two days of travel.
Upon arrival we were offered tamarind juice. Delicious, but it wasn’t going to cut it for five days on the high seas.
Forty-eight cans of Bintang and two bottles of Bombay Sapphire were swiftly stowed on the support boat.
But the truth is, I didn’t need Dutch courage to enjoy kayaking the open sea with the sun twinkling on it, flying fish leaping across the bow and dolphins breaking the surface here and there.
And I didn’t need it when I put my my head under water and was transported to downtown Fish Central.
The kids had a tank of exotic fish years ago but I’d never been able to see the point of them.
(Honestly? You can’t make a relationship with a bottom feeder.)
The point is hanging out with them where they live. Amazing.
Spotting every type of fish in the Observer Book of Sea Fishes.
Gulping with excitement when your actual turtle appears even if he does look rather morose.
Laughing in your mask when an Angel fish hurries by.
Thankfully not realising that sea snakes can swim up as well as along.
I loved it.
Then there were the fruit bats. Around fifteen thousand of them, flying over our heads on their way to dinner as the sun went down and the moon rose. Not scary. Simply extraordinary.
As for the Komodo dragons themselves, well, yes, some of them are big. And a trifle dinosaur-ish.
But we had a guide who was always going to throw himself into the gaping maw of the monster, should the need arise.
And we survived the trek to the waterfalls.
As brave as I’d become however, nothing, not even a Bintang, was going to prompt me to jump off the 8 metre high rocks into the water, for here my two great fears – heights and getting my hair wet – met in a Jurassic dive pool and though I’d been doing a passable impression of Pocahontas, I drew the line at Tom Daley.
I lurked instead, lizard-like on a hot stone and bathed in what sunshine could reach through the green canopy.
I decided that I can do adventure. I have good friends, I have gin and, thanks to the kayaking, I have biceps like Popeye.
That seems to be all it takes.