Snakes Alive!

The road turns the Ute into a rattletrap as I navigate the corrugations which bring me to the start of the Contos circuit.

I remember as a child in Kenya when we drove to the coast for our annual holiday, my father would accelerate along a particular section of road, claiming that it was better to skim quickly over the bumps than to crawl at a snail’s pace for miles on end. We would clench our teeth and hang grimly onto our seats. There were no seat belts in those days. But the Ute belongs to my son, the track is narrow and I might lose control if I speed along to ride the bumps; so I crawl excruciatingly along at 20kph. 

The footpath is narrow and overgrown along the cliff top. Just ten minutes into my walk I round a corner and my eye catches a movement under a rock encroaching on the path. Several large grey coils slither onto the track. I am walking too fast and can’t stop; with a heart-pounding lurch I take a gigantic leap and glance back. I can’t see the snake’s head but I run as fast as the going allows for several yards before pulling up to gather breath. I have no  desire to investigate further although I know I will be quizzed by family on my return home. Thereafter I keep a vigilant eye on the prickly path, missing out on the great views up and down the coast from Redgate to Cape Freycinet.

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I am not looking forward to returning the same way and wonder about alternatives.

Several notices warn against venturing too near the edge of the crumbling limestone cliffs which tumble steeply to the beach below. A stepped path plunges between the cliffs, passing small caves, towards a tinkling spring where small birds flit among the vegetation. I continue along the track, looking north towards Redgate over low bush country.

But I have to turn back eventually. I find a prickly branched stick to ward off snake attacks, and divert to a path meandering among the sandy tufts towards the beach. I sit on a boulder to eat an orange. There are tracks in the sand, not too deep, and the tide is well out. It won’t be too hard going – and much more attractive than facing that snake again, even though I’d had enough of beach walking after last time. With lightened steps I choose the safer option. 

I pass the white-cleaned backbone remnant of an enormous whale, beached three months previously.  500 metres later a calf-sized vertebra complete with hole for spinal cord stands out in the sand. A stop at the point to watch three eager surfers try the breakers, and then I turn for the final kilometre trudge up the winding road to the car.  9 kms in 2.5 hours.

My final Cape to Cape trek from Boranup up to Trig Hill and back to the car, is the most uneventful of my walks.  The view is masked by high bush, though I have a pleasant enough 10 km (2.5 hours) evening walk along a sheltered car track. Birds flit in the tall karri trees, but no vistas distract me from aching feet and my sciatic nerve.

Next stop – the Porongurup range way down in the south of Western Australia.


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2 Responses to Snakes Alive!

  1. Diana Stevan says:

    My, you’re a lovely writer. I enjoyed your walk, felt I was there with you when you encountered the snake and missed the view. Surprised you managed the distance you did, but then I’m happy with an hour at most. I also loved your interview with George Polley. Nicely done.

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