I haven’t seen a lot of snakes in the wild since we moved to Australia six years ago, so when I flung my bike around the corner and found a snake in the middle of the track, I froze.
My first encounter with a snake was while I was out for a jog around North Lakes with my brother-in-law. One minute we were chatting away, the next he had dropped back behind me, as a deadly brown retreated off the path ahead. It’s still up for debate whether Mike also made a shrill little squeal, and pulled me in front of him as a human shield!
My second encounter was on a ride up Springbrook. As I descended at 50+ kph, I noticed a large branch that had fallen across the road, blocking the whole of my lane. I contemplated a bunny hop but it looked too big, so I crossed the centre line. As I passed within a few inches of it, the end of the branch moved and flicked it’s tongue out! A giant carpet python! By the time I’d recovered I was too far down the hill to consider riding back up for a photo!
My third and only other encounter, was just two weeks ago. I saw a tail disappear into the rocks ahead as I slowly ground my way up one of Nerang’s firetrails on my mountain bike. I’ve seen plenty of goannas in Nerang Forst Park, fleeing up trees as I approach – “Oh look, a goanna – that’s exciting!”, and I’ve spotted an echidna. But this was my first snake.
Snakes have a special reputation. You should not approach them. You should not threaten them. You should stay back and wait for them to move on. Under no circumstances should you ride onto them and stop!
It was a beautiful day and I was on a beautiful section of singletrack that threaded it’s way downhill through trees and grass before climbing back onto the main firetrail. It was a gentle downhill left hander. I’d been practising sighting further ahead down the trail, to improve my balance and lines through corners. I was in a flow and really flying.
And suddenly, there was the snake. Four metres away. On the track. In my path. Heading towards me. It was thrashing left and right, big S-loops stirring up a cloud of dust as it tried to get out of my way.
In that split second, time froze. The snake screamed… I screamed… But all was silent in the forest.
It was frantically trying to escape the trail, bearing right, towards the longish grass. In that frozen moment, I could count at least four S-bends in its long, thin dark brown body. Shiny, dusty scales. Instinctively, I had already started braking hard and veering left.
But it was too late. His S-bends were too wide. I couldn’t sop, and I couldn’t avoid it. I was on it – literally ON IT!
Oh, and now my bike was coming to a stop. “Oh FECK!” This was not the time to be putting my feet down!
My eyes were still focused on the track ahead, but beneath me I could see the snake moving; I imagined those angry fangs shooting towards my exposed right calf. The bike was still rolling – I released the brakes and quickly unclipped my shoes, shooting both legs forwards and up, away from the snake, until they were almost touching the handlebars! I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get into that position again if I tried!
Thanks to the gentle downhill slope on the trail, the bike gathered speed and rolled around the next corner. I listened out for the “ching” of fangs on the bike frame. There was a rustle in the grass beside me – “Was it chasing me?!?” I clipped back in and powered away – only composed enough to look back several bends later.
I’ve ridden that same trail several times since, and each time I look for my special friend. Apparently it holds no grudges…
But there does seem to be a lot more rustling alongside the trails now!