Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reflections #2: Snakes galore

On the first afternoon I was moving pretty fast with the full pack (not trail running fast but hiking fast). I startled a brown snake and he scurried off. He was a good 4ft and I came upon him suddenly so it gave me a bit of a fright. My radar was switched on now, just as well as it turned out.

Not long after I came around a corner and right in front of me a huge black shiny snake was crossing the path. I stopped suddenly and he turned and came towards me. His body was as thick as my wrist. He was glossy black and his head was big and slightly flattened like a cobra. His tail was stunted and not the usual taper. The afternoon sun shone on his shiny scales and glinted in his menacing eyes. I took a step back as he started towards me. And then another. He stopped and I swear he was eyeballing me. His forked tongue flickered and his unblinking gaze gave the appearance of trying to mesmerize me. I fumbled for my camera. It wouldn't work. I dug out my phone, not taking my eyes off him. Likewise he was unflinching and not taking his eyes off me. I turned my phone on and still the standoff continued. I held it up and took a pic. The electronic shutter noise startled him and he arced up towards me hissing and I backpedaled rapidly. (I seem to have lost the shot in the process!) He settled but still did not move away. I picked up a branch as big as him and threw it between us. It landed in front of him with a thud and he still didn't flinch. Such bluff and bravado was clearly being backed up by intent. There was no way around. And then as I stood wondering what to do he slowly turned, happy that he had made the point that this was his turf, and slid off the track.

Not half an hour later I came around a corner and nearly stepped on a tiger snake slithering in the same direction. He stopped as suddenly as me. He was stretched out and probably as long as the last one but not nearly as thick. And again I was stuck but at least this one wasn't threatening. Again I threw a stick nearby but no movement. Then he decided to move but continued along the track at his own pace. I followed at a distance until finally he too turned and slid off.

Later that day as I was jogging to make camp in daylight I came very close to putting my foot down on a small grass snake. And the next afternoon as I trotted down the track to the Jamieson-Licola Rd once again I came very close to putting my foot down on a yellow-belly black snake. I was carrying 2x10cm compression bandages but out there a bite from anyone of them (except the grass snake) could have been fatal. Apparently the big black one was a blue-bellied black snake and I still get a chill when I think of the encounter.

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