Friday, August 17, 2007


The reason why I wanted to walk up Castle Hill yesterday afternoon was to test my theory that from the top, looking west down into the Townsville badlands, it looks just like Springfield (from up on that hill where Lisa took Nelson for a picnic that time she had a crush on him and dressed him up in nerd clothes. Minus the nuclear power station).

After taking that photo, Hayden and I started to walk back down the hill along a different path. Halfway down we came to a crossroads, where we met a large-ish lady in a bright pink top who was hopping from foot to foot like a kid who needs to pee. She looked really anxious, so we slowed down to check that she was all right – it’s not usual for people to stop halfway up or down Castle Hill. It’s one of those hills that people walk (or run if they’re nutcases) straight up then straight back down again. (In times past, people would to go up there in order to wait around and meet up with other people with similarly dodgy interests … but now they’ve got security cameras pointing in every direction so that doesn’t go on so much any more. It’s really just a fitness hill now.)

When the large pink lady saw that we were heading toward the left fork in the path, her expression melted into relief and she blurted: “Oh thank god you’re going that way. I’ll walk with you. There’s a python down the other way.” She took a step down the path before us but then hesitated again, presumably because it comes out at the bottom in a completely different suburb.

Meanwhile, at the mention of the word “python”, Hayden’s eyes had lit up and he had begun springing on the balls of his feet as if to say “Can we? Can we?” because he’s been waiting and waiting for his first chance to see a live Australian snake. I suggested he go on and have a look for it while I waited at the crossroads - I was assuming that by that time the snake would be long gone. Hayden wasn’t deterred by my indifference. He bounded off down the path towards the snake (seriously, hasn't he heard about how snakes respond to vibrations in the ground?). The pink lady continued to hesitate … then finally walked off after Hayden. I suppose she thought that he could offer protection.

After she went, I decided to follow her down that path too. I wanted to see what happened. Also, I thought that the pink lady might be glad of some company, as she still seemed fairly freaked out. When I caught up to her on the path she told me about how she’s used to snakes cos she lives on the edge of town near the bush and she sees them all the time in her yard. She still had a tremor in her voice. She kept repeating that this one was only a python so there was "really no need to worry because they don’t usually strike.” I hate hearing that, like when you don’t want to swim in the river because of crocodiles and someone always says “But they’re only fresh-water crocs.” That is not the point.

Eventually, the pink lady and I caught up to Hayden. He’d found the snake, which had hid itself (mostly) under a big rock and he was taking this photo of the its tail peeking out.
The pink lady’s anxiety regrouped. She halted about five metres from where Hayden was standing near the snake, and I pulled up behind her. She called to Hayden in a high, tight voice: “Is it safe??” and Hayden called back, and remember this is the first time he’s seen a real live snake, “Yeah, it’s fine.” (Hayden is incapable of answering in the negative. My dad took him sailing two Christmases ago, and before they left the shore he asked Hayden “Can you sail?” Hayden answered yes and by the end of the day the boat was upside down and they were both in the drink.) Anyway, the question was irrelevant because there was no way the big pink lady was ready to actually walk past Hayden within striking range of the snake.
While we were all standing around, another guy came up behind us. He must have been a local cos he was unsurprised to hear about the snake. He wasn’t scared at all, either. As he said, “it’s only a python. They don’t tend to strike.” He made to walk past us all on the track when the pink lady said “Uh-uh-uh, you’re not going ahead of me!” and she shot past us and the snake and sped off down the path without looking back. Here’s a blurred picture of her taking off:
She didn’t reply to our farewells. The other guy just shrugged and walked on, and that was that. Hayden and I took a few more photos and then walked home cos it was starting to get dark.

We’ve seen roos on the golf course, whales off the starboard bow when we were in the Whitsundays and now Hayden’s finally seen a snake (when I was at Century Mine I saw a hawk fly down and pick up a snake off the road in front of me, so I already had snake on my list). But we still haven’t seen a crocodile in the wild, either fresh or saltwater one, or a big sea-going turtle or a cassowary. There are many things left for us to do in Townsville.
Update: We've now seen some sea-turtles as well! We were down at the beach yesterday, the day after a rainy day and the water was really clear and we saw a whole batch of turtles swimming around the headland.

1 comment:

Mr E said...

If only Hayden had remembered his 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' and responded:

"Is it safe?"
"Yes, it's perfectly safe. It's us who are in trouble."