Snake island honored his name in first post-pandemic outing
After months of confinement, the gates of national and state parks are opening in Australia's state of Victoria, and the desperation to stretch one's legs and breathe fresh air is intense.
The first destination to start a new cycle of excursions (this is spring in Australia), is Snake Island, just two hours from the city of Melbourne.
This 35 square kilometer island is located in the Gippsland area, just minutes from one of my favorite destinations: Wilsons Promontory.
I have never felt so close to understanding the sensation that the soldiers could have experienced when landing in Normandy, of course without artillery fire, since we had to get on a somewhat rustic landing boat.
The sea breeze enters from all sides with brackish water from the waves hitting the hull. There is nowhere to hold on.
After about 15 minutes of crossing the captain tries to find an area with waves and without reefs to go down the ramp and help us go down to shore.
Our hiking group has many retired seniors, people I recognize on the mainland have an incredible walking pace. However, the agility to get off the boat was not his strong suit.
As the boat moved, more than one fell into the water in a not very funny way. Seeing this scene I decide to simply jump into the water without boots and with the backpack over my head so as not to get my food or clothes wet.
After reorganizing ourselves on the shore, the leader of the excursion tries to orient himself towards the settlement where we are going to stay, which takes a long time, as the rains have modified the coast somewhat, and the fallen trees do not help to cross easily by certain parts.
Home sweet home.
Snake Island is a desert island. There are no inhabitants in it permanently. However, due to its proximity to the coast, and thanks to the effect of the tides; the ranchers of the area cross the cattle to graze for days in the pastures created for them.
Thus, they have a settlement next to the Ranger or Park Ranger's cabin, which they lend to hikers.
This will be our base camp for the next three days.
One of the first sensations that I allow myself to enjoy is not using masks for the first time in months. What a difference! I feel free.
The group has decided to take it easy. This afternoon is for fun conversation, organizing the tents and just relaxing. We have all been stressed for months before the confinement
We have put options based on the age of some of the participants. And we have divided the group in two. Some of us will do a 30KM circuit, others a short 10km circuit.
The sun rises very early in spring in Australia, and when I leave the tent at just 6.30am, the first things I see in the distance are wild deer and a large number of kangaroos feeding in the grass. A very bucolic and typical Australian scene.
After a well-deserved breakfast we have started walking with a sufficient supply of fresh water, since there are no rivers or sources of drinking water anywhere. The water we drink is from the shelter's tanks that collect rainwater.
One of the things that I have always loved since I moved to Australia is the number of multicolored birds with very peculiar songs.
In the first few minutes of walking, I see black-yellow cockatoos for the first time. An impressive spectacle of color when this bird spreads its wings and shows the intense yellow color of the chest and underside of the wings that contrasts with the rest of its jet black body.
Another bird that is heard, apart from the cockatoo scandal, is the Kookaburra. This bird has the most peculiar song I have ever heard, because it is not only strong, but also loud; the typical sound you expect from a movie from the deepest part of Africa, but in Australia.
Along the way there are several natural lagoons that serve as a refuge for birds, and a source of water for kangaroos and their Joey 's (as we affectionately call their young).
However, recent rains have erased a couple of trails, and we have found ourselves in the curious situation of having to clear where the path connects after having to cross a swamp with waist-deep water.
Although my hiking bootsThey are GoreTex, and I wear knee length gators. The water floods the boots and wet the stockings. On the one hand it is refreshing after a couple of hours of walking, but on the other hand, nothing worse than having to walk for hours with wet feet and socks wet.
After finding the way, we come to another reservoir of water where we see from swans to hawks. Bird lovers would certainly feast on a visual feast with such diversity.
At last we reached the shore on the other side of the island. Already the sound warned us that we were close.
The tide is still high, and we made the decision to rest, put our shoes and stockings to dry and have a well-deserved lunch.
As always, I carry my supply of dried mangoes and walnuts, apart from a few oranges to rehydrate.
Near the access to the beach we see a sign warning that there are traps for foxes. And it is so easy for cows to cross when the tide is low, as it is for foxes to cross from the mainland to feed on birds.
The appetite of foxes is voracious, and in just hours, they can destroy the nests of many birds and affect the food chain natural of this island.
After a well-deserved break, we walked to the other side of the island, which, thanks to the low tide, finally let us pass.
The rest of this path, we do it barefoot along the shore while the boots finish drying.
There is nothing better than a barefoot walk on the beach, but after a few kilometers, the feet get tired, so putting on your boots is necessary.
By the hour we see thousands of crabs moving from the shore inland. It would seem that the shoreline of the beach is completely moving, but no, they are large groups of small crabs that move en masse almost in perfect military order.
The camp is far away, it has been almost 7 hours of walking, and the sun is beginning to make a little dent in the spirit. But the adventure has been worth it.
Arriving at the base camp, tonight we have put together one, and some colleagues share a good Australian Shiraz wine<> in front of the bonfire.
Second day. 15 kilometers.
This second day we are a little softer. This time with the whole group.
We take another direction to continue exploring the secrets of Snake Island. And as always, I like to take the lead so I can take photos in peace without scaring the animals.
Today, I find the reason for the name of the island. Its most recognized inhabitant has gone out in the middle of the path to sunbathe, the Red Belly Black (Red-bellied Black Snake).
When noticing my presence at less than about two meters, the snake moves quickly to one side, not without letting see the intense red color that characterizes it.
For those who are afraid of snakes, I must emphasize: Snakes are more afraid of you! Do not attack them, just stomp so that they feel you coming, and perhaps some branch you can pull close to prevent them from passing, and politely ask them to get off.
Unfortunately in our Latin American countries there is very little culture of respect for animals, and snakes are one of the species that are more easily attacked. Perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of ignorance.
It is recommended that if you go for a walk to a snake area, you prepare with knowledge of the local species, and if you can use gators against snakes, it is an extra.
Red Belly black is extremely poisonous, and while not as deadly as copperhead or Australian Tiger Snakes, they are no less troublesome. Most of the bites are from accidental encounters, like the one that after half an hour a couple of people in our group almost clashed.
And the thing is that after starting back on the road, we stopped in another area with an idyllic lagoon, ideal for taking photos. And some of the women in the group went into a scrubby area so they could get to an edge where they could see and take photos of the area at a better angle.
In those bushes, another huge Red Belly Black.
They didn't realize they were sitting less than a meter from her!
Luckily, the snake was more sleepy than awake, sunbathing and probably with a full belly from eating some reptile from the lagoon.
Along the way we have a couple of close encounters with groups of kangaroos who look down on us for invading their area. However, they give way in hasty leaps to simply avoid us.
The jump of this animal is extremely graceful and agile, even though they still carry some of their young in their bag.
After the previous scare, and a while of walking. We return to the camp.
Tonight the weather has changed drastically for us, as we have winds of more than 50 km / h. so those of us who had the tents near the trees had to move to avoid an accident in the middle of the night.
Today there is no fire, but there are chimneys in the shelter. And while we dine as a group, the night becomes lively with some spontaneous trivia games.
At the time of going to sleep, as always, I look at the sky; but this time his jaw dropped. I can see even the milky way! This is how dark and cloudless the night has touched us. A starry sky in fullness.
What more can you ask for from a night of camping, than to be able to open the tent and let yourself be lulled by the stars?
This is what many people do not understand, but those of us who love hiking and nature value so much. Peace and harmony ... without electronic devices and disconnected from the network, but connected to the planet!
Third day. The return.
The wind has not stopped, so it has forced to change the plan. We are going to have to cross the island to an area where the captain can disembark protected from the waves on the same island. This time, it's 8 kilometers, but with full backpacks at a cost.
This time it is a mix of walking, but with backpacks at the same time.
Luckily the topography of the island is quite flat, so there is not much pain either. However, helping the rest of the group who are not so prepared due to their age is a factor. That is why I have decided to speed up my pace to get to the dock on the other side of the island together with two more brisk people, leave my backpacks and go back for the others and help them with theirs.
In the middle of all this journey, more and more birds. The elusive black cockatoo doesn't get caught by my camera lens. Every time I get close, they flock out screaming alarm to the rest of the nearby animals. Unfortunately my zoom of my lens does not give to capture neither this bird, nor some red parrots that I have been chasing with the camera for two days.
The wind has been so intense that when we got to the dock, we found a nice group of people camping, who arrived in their kayaks days ago and have been forced to spend the night more than necessary.
As good hikers, we have chosen to share the food that we are no longer going to use, as we are on our way out.
I feel renewed, 3 days of hiking, fresh air, without a mask and without hearing the word Trump. What a relief!
Back to civilization. Nothing has changed. But we have recharged batteries!