I'm a reasonably outdoorsy fellow and spend a lot of my time away from built up areas camping, off-roading, hiking, hunting, kayaking and so on; it energises me and I feel more at home out there. I love the solitude and feeling of peace I find away from people.
I'm fortunate to have a very large scrubland area over the road from my house, some twenty five kilometres of hiking trails full of peace and quiet and some of Australia's most iconic animals: The kangaroo, koala and kookaburra. It's a nice place to be...But there's bastards there too and sometimes I see one and...Well, me no likey snakey.
Living in Australia means one becomes accustomed to things that bite and sting, some which leads to death. In truth they probably don't want to kill it's just what they do naturally; it's not their fault.
Crocodiles, sharks, spiders, cassowary, razorbacks, irukandji, box jellyfish, blue ring octopus, blue bottle, reef stonefish, ticks, ants, scorpions, centipedes, snakes...I think you get the idea; all come with their own set of issues for a human. Having said that, I believe it's safe to say that besides spiders most Australians have rarely seen any of the others. They're there though, and they kill, although it's really only sharks and crocodile deaths that might make the mainstream news anyway.
Snakes give me the creeps; spiders too for that matter.
I've had a lot of snake encounters though and even picked one up once, a crocodile too actually. It was a controlled environment though, in the wild? Hmm, nope I'd not be picking them up. I understand that snakes are incredible creatures and all but, nah, we don't get along so well.
Being in the outback and wilderness one is bound to run into
one some eventually. The one you see in this image is only about five hundred meres from my front door in a residential suburb. The outback and wilderness areas are full of them and one must be careful to avoid getting into trouble.
The one in this image is an Eastern Brown snake, the worlds second-most venomous snake behind Australia's Inland Taipan. Both bastards, trust me. It didn't trouble me too much but I gave it some respect of course. I've had many other encounters, some a little more serious than this one though.
Most of the encounters I've had were through bad timing. Generally a snake will hear a person and slither away unseen but occasionally that doesn't happen and people and snakes meet.
I recall one occasion when I was pig hunting, being stealthy, on an estuary running off a main river and I was hugging close to the waters edge which in hindsight was stupid. I took a step and right at that moment an Eastern Brown exited the water [expert swimmers] right where I was. I stopped dead and so did it. The snake must have seen me as a threat and raised it's head and about fifty or so centimetres of it's body off the ground and sort of coiled it back, mouth slightly open; a warning display.
I stayed still as the snake was only about two or three feet away, but wondered if I should blast it. I had a rifle but figured if I missed it might have made it angry so I just stayed still keeping an eye on it. Eventually it decided that biting the old G-dog wasn't worth the trouble though and moved away along the bank behind me. I watched it go - Never take your eye off a snake, especially the bitey end.
I saw four or five others that day, big ones, but they seemed more intent to get out of my way. I've seen many other varieties over the years; Inland taipan, Red bellied black snake, Tiger snakes, pythons and the like but, by far my worst encounter was at a remote place called Ceduna about 800 kilometres from Adelaide. Not my best moment.
Snakey bastard stepping
I was there for work, investigating a massive parcel of land a client owned with a view to developing it. I'd flown in and met with a local real estate woman and we drove out there. She stayed near the car and I went for a walk around to recce the location.
What I didn't know was that for years the land had been used to dump everything; an unofficial junk yard: Car bodies, machinery, building products and just about everything else. It was graded over and looked ok to walk on so there I was wandering about.
About a hundred metres in my right leg sank to the knee in a hole that caved in beneath m weight and immediately I felt a thrashing and hard repeated banging on my lower leg. I looked down and saw a massive Eastern Brown snake going crazy. Clearly I was in trouble.
Remove leg was my only option of course. If I stayed there the snake would work loose, I think I was stepping on its head, and strike no doubt. But removing my leg could cause the same result. I wasn't in a good place.
I took stock, realised that with my right leg in the hole and left higher up on ground level I'd not have a good purchase to spring away but I had to act so braced on my left and took the most almighty leap into the air pushing off with the left leg and retracting the right at the same time to try and add additional distance between the snake and myself.
As I leapt I looked down into the hole figuring I'd rather see it coming if I was going to get bitten. The snake was released, a big, big snake, bunched itself up, a knot of scales, muscle and deadly venom and buggered off deeper in the hole somewhere. I hit the ground and kept running and didn't look back.
The encounter was all of 15-20 seconds in duration but I had nightmares for a few months and even writing this I can feel that thrashing on my lower leg. I was lucky.
Had I been bitten I would have made my way back to the other person and she'd have taken me to hospital, about 15 minutes away. One gets an hour before death comes from an Eastern Brown snake bite, not a pleasant hour, but time nonetheless. I would have been given antivenom at the hospital and probably would have had to stay for a week or so, but I would have lived. Luckily that didn't occur of course, but it wasn't a nice event.
It was a very unpleasant experience and one I'd like not to be repeated but here in Australia it's always a possibility. Not so much in the cities and larger towns although it's incredible where these Eastern Brown snakes have been found and my city has eight to ten snake catcher-businesses so there's enough work to keep them all active I guess.
I'm not one to hold back from doing something because of the potential danger; life's to short for that, although it's always calculated; the risk and reward. Its the same when I'm in the outback and wilderness.
At the moment the Eastern Brown's are coming out of hibernation to mate; they can be aggressive but usually try to avoid humans. I was safe from the one in this image, it moved across my path and away, unhurried but clearly it had somewhere to be; entangled with a sexy snakey babe making sweet, sweet love I imagine. Had I stepped on it there might have been trouble, but I felt no threat at its passing.
So, calculated risks...I hiked today. Boots on course, but I added my gaiters to help mitigate the potential for snake bites.
Every country has it's deadly creatures, even if they're of the human variety. Living in Australia is safe, it's an amazing country, but some care must be taken. You want to swim in the ocean? Ok, there's sharks there and they can attack. Want to take a dip in a river, billabong, ocean or estuary in the north of the country? Crocodiles. People die. But with care it's possible to co-exist as I did with that snakey bastard in this image.
If you're interested I grabbed this video of some guy messing around with an Eastern Brown. Just a word of warning, I think this dude is bonkers but knows what he is doing. At no time should a person do this without the correct training and understanding.
Design and create your ideal life, don't live it by default - Tomorrow isn't promised so be humble and kind
Image is mine