During my eight full days housesitting thus far, I've met the biggest spider I've ever encountered EVER (and we ran across the path of some doosies on the Annapurna, I'll tell you what). He's a Huntsman spider the size of my fully outstretched hand, but is generally harmless and keeps to himself. Twice I've found two different geckos in odd places; a big one plastered near the ceiling corner of the second floor bathroom, the other, smaller guy scurrying down the kitchen window two nights later. Then the bitty, multi-colored frog. He was easy enough to remove from the premises, it just took a little patience, some coaxing and a couple ew-ew-ew dances to place him back safely and unharmed to his home in the great outdoors. And I've walked underneath the trees in Cairns that host thousands of fruit bats (or flying foxes to Aussies), that happen to make the most curious noise - it sounds like a cross between cackling birds, squeak toys and mewling kittens.
I'm hesitant to touch any of the rainforest creatures, not only because they gross me out, but also because I assume they're all poisionous in some way, shape or form. The animals I'm encountering here are so unlike the mountain animals that I know and love - bear, deer, fox, goats, moose and the like. They're furry and adorable, and have Disney movies created featuring their brethren. Why? Because, despite their obvious fearsomeness, they look all cute and cuddly. Maybe it has something to do with the fur. But mountain animals? I get them. Understand them. We're on the same page. Unfortunately, I don't find arachnids or reptiles or amphibians quite as endearing. Their moves are abrupt, erratic even. Unpredictable. One minute a frog is stone still, the next it's launched onto your face, shoulder or halfway across the room. That kind of sporadic movement is just too much for me to handle.
When I stepped onto the beach, I noticed right away that the tide was up; about 15 feet of soft, almost white sand separated the ocean from the little bit of jungle that bordered backyards of nearby homes. I turned left off the narrow path that lead me from my parking spot on the street to the beach, made a mental note of the oddity of being the only person present, and immediately thereafter encountered a snake. Long, thin, with it's nose in the air, the greenish-grayish fella was swaying his head back and forth ever so slightly.
Now here's the thing: maybe it was my Christian upbringing and the story they tell of "the fall of Eve" that instills a healthy fear of and disdain for serpanty creatures, or maybe it's my general lack of familiarity with them, but I've always always always been squeamish about snakes. I used to be downright terrified, have even thrown my bike down to run the other way when I was just a kid, clipping along at a decent pace, headed straight toward one laid out on my path. I'd like to think that I have since reigned that fear in to a more manageable uck factor that merely causes grossed out facial expressions rather than the inevitable squeal fest the sight of snake would cause in days of my youth. I can't quite put my finger on it, and fully recognize the irrationality of it all, but I still just don't want anything to do with snakes, or frogs, or anything that looks slippery or slimy or that moves in weird ways. They just give me the heebie-geebies. And kind of make me want to throw up. *shrug* In my regular life, I never had to deal with this fear. Critters like that don't live at 9000 feet. But now that I'm chasing summer and Natural Wonders, I'd better get used to such encounters.
So back to my beach buddy. I cocked my head to the side, pressed my lips together between my teeth, and one word repeated itself over and over and over in my brain: gross. And then I felt bad because here I was, on his beach, calling him gross in my head! He was just trying to do his, whatever it is that snakes do, and I abruptly interrupt him at his business. Fair enough, snake. I raised my hands in mock surrender and asked him to kindly move closer toward the trees (yes, I asked him to move. Out loud. He was in my way, okay??? And I refused to do what my 12 year old self would have done: turn right around, head back to the street, and walk promptly over to the next, hopefully critter-less path to the beach.). He was already going that direction anyway; I preferred not to step over him as he was stretched across the smallish path between the waves and a knee-height tree branch reaching toward the water.
And guess what? He obliged! What luck! I tried to mask the disgust I felt as he slithered slowly toward the jungle. And maybe that's my thing about snakes; I just don't understand how they move. I feel like they should have arms and legs and feet and hands, and simply cannot accept that they manage forward motion by moving side to side. It doesn't make sense in my head, and, quite frankly, creeps me out. I keep trying to be all stoic and open-minded, try to find these various scaled critters beautiful even. I'm finding I have a long way to go.
As the snake made his way to the edge of the sand, he stopped abruptly. I watched, equal parts curiosity, skepticism and alarm. And then he did something that I did not even know snakes were capable of. He lifted his head and neck(?) higher off the ground, looking around. I bit my lip and blinked, waiting him out. Then, THEN, he rose up, higher, higher and higher still, reaching his head nearly two whole feet off the ground, and in so doing, was performing a move I didn't know, but very gravely feared snakes could do. There he was, standing on his tail. Standing on what should be, in my mind anyway, his hind legs. And not all curled up, like I know Cobras can do, but just sort of balancing there. I. was. horrified. I NEVER KNEW A SNAKE COULD LIFT PRACTICALLY IT'S ENTIRE BODY OFF OF THE GROUND! DEAR GOD IT WAS SO GROSS!!! To add to my trauma, his head and upper body started swaying back and forth as if surveying his options. I was momentarily frozen with a million thoughts thundering in my head: oh-my-god-I-can't-belive-they-can-stand-up/ this-changes-everything-about-my-how-to-escape-from-a-snake-that's-after-me-plan/ why-is-there-no one-here-to-witness-this-with-me?/ and the like.
Yup, I'm that girl, and I'm so not ashamed of it. I can handle a great many things in this world, but snakes standing up on tails like that? And big 'ole frogs puffing up, threatening to lunge at me if I make a wrong move? I'm not into it. The snake ended up clearing out of the way enough to let me pass; in an effort to feel less wimpy, I took some deep breaths and walked calmly by as he slid onto the branch. In reality, he probably wasn't making as dramatic a posture as my slightly terrified and panicked mind made it out to be. I would have appreciated a second set of eyes to see what actually happened; alas, the moment is forever ingrained in my mind as the single grossest thing I have ever seen an animal do. And the frog? He's moved from his pantry corner since I've started writing and made his way to the opposite corner of the kitchen. I tracked him as far as a notch under the oven, but his current whereabouts are unknown. Nugget (left) tried to sniff at him a couple times, but he and Eddie (right) have significantly less interest than I do regarding his movements or location. I'm afraid I'm on my own with this one.
The jungle has cute creatures too! Especially butterflies and birds! I haven't seen too many of them around yet, particularly since my attention has been commanded by the ones in the house, but fully trust that I will once I hit the trails in later afternoons rather than mid-day. I'll find wallabies and cassowaries, and have even seen quite a few little pademelons around! Even better? I get to see fish and coral and my second Wonder, the Great Barrier Reef, on Tuesday! More on that later, friends, it's time for me to get to bed. I'm going to head up the the Tablelands tomorrow, to check out some trails and lakes, so I'll catch you on the next post! Happy trails!!!