These shots are from a herping expedition near Fogg Dam on Friday, with a bunch of Couchsurfers and hosts. ‘Herptile’ is the name given to snakes and amphibians, so going out to catch and release wild herps is informally called ‘herping’.
One of Darwin’s most active Couchsurfing hosts and former CS ambassador, Amanda, organised the event and has been catching snakes in this way since she was a kid. The snakes are Arafura File Snakes – very docile aquatic pythons, not inclined to bite and probably not capable of doing so anyway.
Aboriginal people eat these snakes by biting off their heads and cooking them on a fire. Their name comes from their rough skin due to their keeled scales, and they are all-too-easy to catch. We also saw a juvenile green tree frog (common in these parts), a cane toad (meh), and what appears to be a garden orb weaver spider, which we fed by holding torches up to its web to attract bugs. The mosquitos were pretty bad out there. I was covered in Bushman’s 40% DEET repellent and they still bit me - through my jeans no less!
Apparently in the last few weeks there has been a ‘mass migration’ of snakes, fish etc leaving the wetlands for permanent rivers, hence the droppings covering the bridge from hungry, opportunistic birds. Amanda says two weeks ago there were “hundreds” of snakes trying get through the small stream we visited.
Alpacas: bad-arse sheep guardians
I was passing a sheep farm with my grandmother once, and noticed an alpaca in amongst the herd. She said they were used to protect the flock. However, I had no idea that they did it by:
Source: Flock Protection using Alpacas
Last week, a colleague called me to remove an ‘orange snake’ from their building. Apparently they thought I was the most appropriate person to remove it, because I have two pet pythons. I refused as I wasn’t confident I could correctly identify the snake, nor safely remove it (even an angry python can do some damage).
I’d like to point out that the above images are all the same species of snake - a deadly western brown. I hope this illustrates why it’s not a good idea for anyone who is not a licensed snake catcher or at least highly experienced with snakes to handle them.
And then, days later, a local hockey player dies from a snake bite at training. A western brown was believed to have been responsible…
BACKPACKERS illegally camping around Darwin have said they would pay to stay in the residents’ backyards if they were offered.
Um… hi! *waves*
Well, Jay from New York was pretty awesome. Another Airbnb guest who felt more like a Couchsurfer, which was nice. My favourite part was when he asked where he could find some good ‘cawfee’ :) Turns out he has done a fair bit of surfing, but decided to rely on Airbnb while travelling New Zealand and Australia because the CS hosts were taking ages to respond, if at all - which is not an unfamiliar story.
I feel like it stems from a pronounced difference in attitudes towards being online, but our archaic internet infrastructure certainly doesn’t help, either. Many Australians - especially non-youths - are quite the Luddite, or if they are online on a regular basis, they spend most of that time on one or two websites and haven’t yet realised how much easier it can be to do most things online, or why it’s important to maintain the various online accounts they might have.
Americans and Europeans, on the other hand, are usually quite speedy and thorough in communicating their plans with me, and I rarely have to explain how to use features of the Couchsurfing/Airbnb websites because they’re generally pretty good at figuring it out themselves.
That’s just my observations, anyway.
Above: An overly simplified infographic created by the Age which unreasonably puts Australia on the same scale as the US and Japan. Australia is actually well below the US in gun homicide rates when you use all available data. Then there’s this:
I hope the people reading these articles have more sense than the people who wrote them. Firstly, although described as ‘new research’ and a ‘recent study’ by the media, the University of Sydney cites data from a 2007 report on Civilian gun ownership. Secondly, although gun ownership seems to have increased, so has our population. 3.2 million guns for our 1996 population of 18 million is, proportionally, a lot more guns than it is for today’s population. Thirdly (derp), more guns don’t necessarily mean more violence or deaths:
In summary: Australia is probably not failing at gun control and we are not somehow turning in America. Everybody calm down.