We came to a place called The Grotto.

We drove up a red dirt road and rolled into a bare dirt patch in our blue Toyota Corona station wagon. We went because T-roy wanted to go. There were a few other cars parked and a few people standing on the edge of The Grotto.

The Grotto was just a steep stony sink with a green pool at the bottom. A high stone wall, taller than a house, contained three sides of the grotto. A stand of scrub closed the fourth side.

We crept down a steep path. Some girls were climbing out; their dad waited at the top of the wall and watched us. T-roy changed into a tiny swimsuit like European men wear on the beach. E-thang and I stripped to our boxers.

J37 / Scène de vie : The Grotto, un jardin d'Eden

We swam. It felt so good after driving in the desert. We were all tired, sunburnt, dehydrated, hung over. It had been days of driving, months for some of us. We jumped in and splashed. It felt great.

After some time just swimming and laughing, we saw a giant snake coiling at the surface of the water, swimming like a sea serpent, disappearing and reappearing.

Australia is not safe. It is surrounded by great white sharks; its rivers and coasts are home to giant, toothy amphibian lizards that eat more than a few people each year; it crawls with spiders that kill; signs on the beaches warn of jellyfish that kill; and in the grottoes swim snakes that kill.

We climbed onto the rocky shore and then up the path with our bare feet, clothes hung over our shoulders and shoes in hand. Ours was the last car. The sun was way out over the Indian Ocean and a baked plain separated us from the coast. Small trees cast long shadows on the land. We wiped the sand off and drove on toward Darwin.

We came to a place called The Grotto.