Australia tends to be known for its dangerous creatures. What I had not realized before arriving in Cairns is that most of them are concentrated in that tropical corner of the country: saltwater crocs, sharks, spiders, snakes, box jellyfish, the cassowary, and even the local bats dwelling in downtown trees have been messing people up (this is by no means a complete list either).
My hosts, Al & Kev, dropped me off at a trailhead on their way to work and we coordinated that I should be back down by the end of their shift. But what we failed to calculate was my irrational, paralyzing fear of snakes. For days, Al had been showing me pictures he’d taken of snakes near their place, on the road or on a trail. For days, Kev had been sharing stories of their snake encounters, including the one where Al was bit on the foot.
By the time I started up the trail that weekday morning, I’d worked myself into a complete fear spiral. The trail was empty. Since when do I hike alone, not to mention without a first aid kit?! No one would hear me scream. My mind filled with visions of me crawling down the trail to civilization and help. Virtually every tree had vines wrapped around the trunk, which to me looked like snakes. The air was stagnant and thick with moisture. Sweat poured off me, but I couldn’t stop. Not for a drink of water; not for a photograph. The only sound was my boots contacting the earth…until there was a russling of leaves, at which point adrenaline dumped into my system and I jumped several feet in the air. Only when I forced myself to look in the direction of the noise, out walked two harmless wild turkey-like birds. Mama mia.
I made it to the top in a third of the time it should have taken. I felt safer on this rock outcrop and took my time rehydrating, snacking and snapping some photos. Or maybe I was just procrastinating the return trip.
Before heading back, I convinced myself that with a long stick in hand I’d be much safer. Surely I could swat away a snake before it could get me….or the extra vibration of whacking the ground would coax them off the trail. I even managed a photo or two on the way down.
It was only at the bottom with hours to spare that I realized just how high my anxiety level was and how much adrenaline had been coursing through me on this hike. Perhaps it was slightly foolish to let such fear overcome my senses, but I was simply relieved to of made it back safely and without any reptile sightings.