Angus, Terry & Me

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Thursday, October 20, 2011

After the previous day's exertions, I had a bit of a lie-in this morning, so I decided to have a lazy day. The only thing of note that I did was to visit the Reptile House. Since Adelaide I've been reading Bill Bryson’s Down Under and I’ve found that some of our experiences are quite similar. Anyway, the point is that his visit to a similar place in Sydney to see all the things that could kill him here, inspired me to do much the same thing.

I really don’t like snakes or lizards, but I just happened to arrive at the Reptile House when there was a daily talk about the lizards and snakes followed by a handling session. I really did not want to do that but it’s a small place, so there was no escaping it. I was cool with looking at Geckos and the like behind glass, but to have them up close and personal? No way!

The people who work at the reptile house were all very friendly (like most Australians – how can a people be so friendly all the time?) and swore that by the end of the talk I’d love reptiles. I was almost sorry to disappoint them. Olga, the snake charmer, gave us the spiel about the lizards and how to handle them (I’d stopped listening; I was staring at her warily as she walked around the room demonstrating what she was talking about – one careless move from her and I was ready to bolt out of there!).

After the lizards, Olga gave a short talk about snakes in Australia. I knew there were a lot of lethal snakes in Australia, but I wasn’t prepared for this statistic. With a hint of pride (after all everything is bigger and better in Oz, isn’t it?), she declared that 18 of the top 20 most venomous snakes in the world are in Australia. Then she went on to say that Australian snakes occupy the entire top 10. Thanks for that. Not to worry, she also told us what to do in the event of a snake bite (apparently, sit down and do nothing, though how that helps I’m not exactly sure). And then out came Angus.

Angus is an olive python. Obviously, because he’s a python, he’s not poisonous, but he was huge and yet still only 7 years old, so still a child in snake terms – he’s expected to celebrate his 40th birthday. If I wasn’t going to go anywhere near the lizards, you could forget about Angus, but Olga had a way of making me feel really small, because I wasn’t going to try to hold him just once. I’m sure it’s not in their remit to cajole the public, however, putting it down to a 'bucket list’ experience I finally agreed to hold Angus.

I went up like a scared schoolchild about to receive his punishment. She put the snake on me and I almost wailed like a baby, he wouldn’t stop moving; I couldn’t control where he went and he seemed to keep going for my throat. A couple were taking a photograph for me and they couldn’t quite get it right. "Smile," they kept saying. Smile? Smile??? I was ready to scream at them, “Just take the damned photo, you twats!” Well, I would have if Angus didn’t seem to find my neck so attractive. In the end, I had to beg Olga to get him off me. It didn’t take me long to calm down afterwards, and on reflection touching the snake was quite pleasant, but I don’t want to touch another snake again unless it’s a belt.

Having collected myself sufficiently, I had a look around the rest of the collection of reptiles, all safely behind glass. I saw the Frilled Lizard, which was the prototype for the first dinosaur encountered in Jurassic Park. But one of the ‘highlights’ came when I saw the inland taipan. What’s that? Oh, only the world’s deadliest snake; numero uno in the world of death dealing serpents. Needless to say, it was a mean looking mutha – oddly enough, it reminded me of Lee Van Cleef in any of his roles in spaghetti westerns; pure evil. Kill you as soon as look at you and think nothing of it.

The other ‘highlight’ was seeing my first saltie (that would be a salt water crocodile to the uninitiated  - and let’s be clear about this, it’s a crocodile that lives in the sea) Terry, for that was his name, was 3,3 metres long with awfully big teeth. It was possible to view him underwater and he was scary, not Lee Van Cleef scary, but Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast scary. If you haven’t seen it, trust me that’s scary. With my morbid fascination for the some of the animals that were trying to kill me satisfied, I took my leave and went for a walk through Alice.

Not to keep banging the drum, but again the number of Aboriginals in the streets doing nothing was depressing. Keeping to the main drag, you won’t see them so much, but once you take a different turn, they seem to congregate,  just hanging around on street corners. Don’t get me wrong I like Alice Springs, but it’s a sobering sight for a simple tourist.

Anyway, this has gone on far longer than intended, so let me finish by saying that I’ve just witnessed a rare event here in Alice Springs: rain. Who would have believed that?
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Helen on

Kudos to you Georgeous - If someone had put that around my neck, it would take years of therapy, copious amounts of wine and quite possibly a lobotomy to erase the terror from my mind.

Terry, on the other hand, is a baby - wait till Darwin!

Paul BB on

Big it up for you, George.
I wouldn't go near those things !
BTW, there are many reptiles that are not poisonous, but brush up against you when gardening or when unexpected in which case, it is brown trouser time.
I meant to say, be careful of the doublegee weed which has bastard thorns on it and is carefully adapted to extract the maximum amount of pain from your foot. Wear flip flops (thongs) at a bare minimum. This is not a joke.

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