Monday, April 21, 2008

The Snakes

Every book about Australia talks about the large numbers of highly venomous and deadly snakes to be found in that country. The Lonely Planet refers to snakes as being “abundant”. A bit more balanced, a sign at the start of a cliff walk in Yallingup (WA) said that “snakes are common, but rarely seen”. That's certainly the way it felt!

Well, I’m sure we walked within a metre of dozens of venomous snakes during our trip, but we didn’t see a single one, much to Brendan’s disappointment, apart from a tiny little wriggly one at the foot of Uluru, and even that one disappeared from the path in a few seconds and it may have been a legless lizard anyway.

We asked a taxi driver in Perth about snakes in the city. He told us that most people would have said that there are none to be found in the city centre, but the whole town was shocked when an old building was pulled down to make way for a new skyscraper, and 2 or 3 tiger snakes were found.

I did get used to the idea, and I did relax my guard a bit - i.e. I didn't wear heavy boots the whole time - I wore flip flops, like most women in the city. But I did watch my step all the same, particularly in wilder areas.

If you want a simple listing of snakes in Australia, check out this website (and don't forget to read the horror story of an elderly lady who was pruning the ivy on her fence in a suburb of Melbourne and was bitten by a tiger snake!).

On the other hand, you should read this article if you are planning to travel to Australia and want some reassurance about snakes. I wish I had read it before travelling! Apparently, it's mostly men who get bitten by snakes. Clearly, women react sensibly when they see a snake - i.e. they retreat calmly rather than try to catch or kill the snake. I would add that women are more likely to ask their husband to deal with the thing, and the poor husbands get bitten! There is also sensible advice on what to do is you see a snake, and what to do if you get bitten. Definitely on my list of recommended reading! (and check out the section about saltwater crocodiles - really scary stuff there!)

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