Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Northcote Redbacks

Deadly: Aboriginal English,
Adjective:  fantastic, great, terrific

A couple days after shifting house, we’re unloading some boxes that had been in storage.  While my back is turned, Tamara says “Is that a Redback?”  I shot my eyes at her.  She’s joking of course, taking the piss out of my fear of Aussie spiders.  The way she approaches the box says differently.

We found a couple spiders in & among the contents of that move.  All the identities were unconfirmed post-mortem.

When I tell my Aussie mates about this, they shrug it off & say “Redbacks aren’t so bad.  At least they don’t jump.”

My reaction of course is:  There are ones that jump?!?

General consensus has it that Redbacks (Black Widows) aren’t very deadly at all, except if you are very young, sick or elderly.  They don’t stray very far from their nest, & will only bite if you touch them, which is fairly easy because they tend to be in places tucked away, under countertops & the lot.  Don’t play with the woodpile without gloves.  But even then, they will probably just make you sick.

Here’s a list of things I’ve learned about how to live in Australia, despite all the deadly things:

    - Stepping on a snake is BAD.  If you make lots of noise in the brush, & stomp your feet, they will feel your vibrations through the ground & get out of the way.

Of my time in the bush, I haven’t come across a snake yet.  I’ve never been known as Quiet.

    - Australian snakes don’t have long teeth, unlike the fangs you might imagine.  Wearing heavy pants & shoes can be enough to protect your ankles, & ultimately, your life.

Typical procedure is to keep on the way we do – barefoot.  Have you ever seen an Australian wear anything other than thongs & boardies?  (Flipflops & shorts.)  Our compromise is to stomp through the bush barefoot.

    - Treat every snake like it will kill you.

Somehow we still end up chasing down tiger snakes if there’s a sighting down the trail, & approaching mysterious striped snakes even when they rear up at us – albeit with a wide berth.

Classic crazy Australian

I still treat spiders like they will kill me.  There’s something unsettling about intelligent insects.  Snake stories don’t shock me as much as when I hear of spiders rearing on their hind legs & hissing, or fighting a cat.

Snakes mind their own business.  A spider with a face on it screams BACK OFF.

Golden Orb Spider - harmless

Huntsman - harmless

After setting up our tents in an open grassy area, we seemed to be surrounded by sparkles in the grass.  I realized each sparkle the light reflected off the eyes of a spider.  There were SO MANY!  It took 20 seconds to get over it.  My demise starts the moment I become desensitized to Aussie spiders.

    - Always ALWAYS close your tent.  NEVER LEAVE YOUR TENT OPEN.  NEVER.

The caretaker who told me this added that they had found a 3m brown snake the year before at the site. 

    - More people die from drowning than from shark attacks.  An average of one person a year gets chomped & they have a high survival rate.

They have technology that warns lifeguards when a shark that’s been tagged approaches a swimming beach.  They get evacuated pretty regularly.

    - Most sharks read impulses.  If you’re nervous & agitated, a shark will read your heartbeat as prey.

....I don’t think I’ve swam in the ocean since I’ve been in Australia, for awareness of the white-pointers (Great Whites) in the South, & the jellyfish & crocs up North.  If I have to pick my battles in this country, I’ll stick to the inland.

Crocodile tears:  Stories about the North

Crocodiles were almost wiped out of Australia, so they put a hunting ban on them.  They are still protected, but now there are more crocodiles in the Northern Territory than people.  It’s a conservation issue.

They are scary creatures.  Real dinosaurs with that have evolved perfectly.  They don’t chase; they ambush.  They do not move unless going for a feed.

    - In the north, people carry hefty walking sticks because when a croc attacks, it latches on to the first thing, & doing this could save you a leg or your life.

Sounds logical, but nobody does this.  They’re not popping out of bushes while you’re walking down the street.  ...well, they sometimes might, but that would be irregular.

    - Everybody has dogs in the north because if they go missing, it’s a warning that there’s a croc in the area.

This is true.  Better a dog than a kid.

    - Freshies (freshwater crocodiles) are found in most waterholes, but they are generally shy & non-confrontational.  They can grow up to 3m.
    - Salties (saltwater crocodiles) only move inland during Wet Season when the roads are 2m underwater & they can access new territory.  They are BIG & will EAT YOU.  The signs show the difference in severity of the change in tone.

Ways to tell if there’s a saltie in a swimming hole:

    - Walk around it looking for slip marks on the banks
    - Wait until dark & shine a light on the water.  They come to the surface & hang out on the rocks at night when it’s cooler & the light reflects off their eyes.

If you know what to look for there are always signs; they are too big to be covert.

    - Never be the last one in the water.  Apparently they’ll always pick off the last one in the herd.

Unconfirmed, but this sounds like reasonable hunting instincts.  Last or not, I never swim alone just to improve my odds.  (This is a lie.  I have swam alone, but not for long.  Paranoia is infectious.)

In some risky areas there are big cage traps in place, presumably baited with something fleshy.  When the cage remains open, the rangers say ‘We are safe – see?  The cage is empty.’  I hope I am not the only one who sees the flaw in this.

Taken from in the water.....

Bears are my game.  In terms of people in Australia, I have ‘Bear Experience’.  My stories are true, which doesn’t mean they are not embellished with gestures & indifference.  ‘Yep, gotta hang your camp food in a tree or bears will attack & eat you.  Yep.’  *shrugs*

Every wild animal has potential to be dangerous, whether it’s a deer, a bear, a koala, a whale or an elephant.

Bad things happen because people are idiots.  Take care, & Darwin will smile upon you.

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