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 A Walk on the Wild Side

Rowhan Marshall

144 pages $24.40 (USD) Buy Now

A collection of true stories in an adventurous life, including treks through jungles and ice-clad mountains, sailing in a cyclone, searching for treasure, rescuing mariners in distress, learning to survive in desert climates and fighting wild bushfires, are just some of the exploits experienced by this author.

A Walk on the Wild Side is about the wilderness and taking risks. All versions include a number of maps and the multimedia-cd version includes photographs and video clips to complement the respective stories.

Rowhan relates his stories in a factual no punches pulled style that wonderfully reflects what happened, and sometimes with a dry wit that will leave you well entertained. Above all - it's a highly interesting and inspirational read.


Barney, Banteng, Boars and Crocodiles


     The still air hung heavy with the sickly sweet aroma of flowering paperbarks. It was the “Build-Up” time in northwest Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, and my cotton shirt clung tenaciously to my sweat soaked body.
     The dog Barney loped on ahead contouring the dried up wetland, his lolling tongue keeping rhythm with his gait. Another dog Eric could be heard up ahead pushing through the scrub searching for a fresh scent. These dogs had been bred for pigging so there was little that could be called graceful about them. They had big, lean frames with large heads out of proportion to their body size. They were bred for the chase and to latch on to once they had cornered their prey.
     Despite their awkward appearance they both portrayed knightly attitudes in their protective body armour made from heavy-duty leather, rivets, and buckles.
     Yesterday we’d been after sows to collar. These tend to be herd animals so we could use them as a “Judas pig” by tracking them onto a mob, and then dispatching the pigs around them. The dogs had bailed up a cantankerous black boar after a long chase and were still showing signs of fatigue from the pursuit. By the time we’d arrived with our radio tracking collars they could barely keep a grip on the pig’s tattered ears. Chris the “copper” from the small township of Oenpelli expertly dispatched the boar with a knife into the heart. His dogs collapsed gratefully.
     What the bewildered sows thought about their new fashion accessory around their necks, and their amazingly fortunate escapes from a hail of semi-automatic rifle fire, I would be bemused to know. Earlier in the “Build-Up” we’d retrieved two collars from dried up swamps behind the coastal dunes. Both of these weakly transmitting collars were deeply furrowed from crocodile teeth. The unsuspecting pigs had been taken earlier in the year by those incredible stealthy and patient predators when the swamps had still held water.
     Small muddy pools had accumulated from our first rains in six months, and the dogs gratefully splashed through the pig-wallows in an effort to escape the building heat and humidity. Barney strode into a pool partially shaded by an overhanging wattle tree, thinking it was a great lark. Suddenly there was a surge of water. A large saltwater croc with similar intent laying in the wallow had been caught off guard, and the pool erupted into a frenzy of thrashing water and gaping jaws. Barney had been lucky. He’d trod on its tail and had time to beat a retreat as the croc twisted and lunged for him.
     As the afternoon wore on and still no fresh pig sign, we headed along the coast to a remnant waterhole on Banteng Plain. Banteng cattle crashed their way into the thick vegetation at the sound of the approaching vehicles and the dogs were released. We were soon pushing through dense scrub in pursuit. To my left I could hear them excitedly barking, a good sign that they must have a pig bailed up.
     Adrenaline flowing I followed along on a well-used game trail towards the commotion. Fifteen meters away the dogs had cornered one of the largest Banteng bulls I’d ever seen, the lowered, snorting black head and scimitar shaped horns contrasting against its white stamping legs. I was standing on its only feasible escape route and suddenly the enraged bull burst through the scrub with its head down, coming straight at me.
     I cocked my rifle but it was closing quickly, helped along by Barney and Eric frantically snapping at its heels. I pulled the trigger -- nothing.The safety was still on! It was almost on me, its horns raking the vegetation on either side of the trail. This black charging mass engulfed my vision. Instinctively I flicked the safety off and lifted the rifle so that I could shoot down upon the beast. Two shots rang out. The bull collided with me and I staggered back. Silence. It lay dead at my feet, blood trickling from its nose. The first round had been a killing shot through the top of its skull and the other went into its massive shoulder.
     I checked myself for injuries but there was only some skin off my shins and hands where its head had hit me. Under the circumstances I considered myself fortunate to be still standing. It had happened so quickly there was precious little time for fear. Later when I reflected on my marginal escape I noticed my hands slightly trembling.
      Chris cut off its head and hung it in the fork of a paperbark away from crocs, pigs, and dingoes. He said I should keep it as a trophy, maybe I will.

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