I had my first big ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’ moment this weekend. The move to sunny California from London really sunk in as I came face to face with a 7ft RATTLESNAKE!
Can you see the rattle at the end? Can you see!
I knew it was only a matter of time before I saw my first snake or spider over here, but you think California could’ve started me off small… you know, showing me a couple of little harmless slithery guys, but NO. She laid all her cards on the table at once. She brought out the big guns straight away. A f&%king deadly rattlesnake!
My husband had a lovely romantic idea planned for my birthday. We were going to hike up one of his favorite rocky trails that led to a high ocean view, and then crack open a bottle of birthday bubbles on top. Sounds perfect right? (Side note: this is where he was supposed to propose to me, but don’t even get me started on that story...).
We made it half way up the hill trail before we came face to face with Mr Rattles! Cue full blown city girl panic. Lots of hopping on one leg, squealing whilst plotting my quickest route back to LAX and then on to soggy snake free London town. I mean the nearest thing to a snake I’ve faced on a London walk is a damn trouser snake courtesy of some dodgy flasher on Hampstead Heath. I’ll take Mr Macintosh any day over this rattler.
To make matters worse, as I turned around to run for my life, this other little bugger was blocking my path.
“It’s just a garter snake” my husband said.
JUST! At this point, a snake is a snake in my book.
I’m a Londoner, GET ME OUT OF HERE!
My husband remained pretty calm, having seen his fair share of snakes before, plus knowing how to handle a rattlesnake situation. “It’s not rattling” he told these two nervous girls trying to pass,”so we’re fine.” FINE he said.
He even dared to suggest that we just find another route up the hill…. WHAT!? “Why would I even think about staying on this hill?” I screamed. I became convinced that we were surrounded. That they were everywhere waiting to pounce. In between kicking myself for not yet sorting out my life insurance and hyperventilating, I ran back to the car at a pace that would’ve put Usain Bolt to shame.
I am never going back to that hill ever again. EVER.
I’ve never been snake brave. But I’ve been backpacker-stupid plenty of times. I’ve done silly tourist things like sleeping outside in the Australian outback (aka Snakeville) and even anaconda hunting in the Amazon. But as a backpacker I was a) always pretty drunk and foolish b) always with a professional (ish) guide and c) always aware that this was a one off experience that would soon be over.
This time around the fear was different IT’S NOT A ONE OFF EXPERIENCE. I live here now. So do my little ones. And so do these damn snakes. It hit home today that I’ll be seeing more of these guys. And others. Maybe in my own yard. So not as some kind of organised tourist experience. And don’t even start me on the spiders.
I need to man up. I’m doing my best not to share this fear with the kids. I’ve told them nothing of our hill adventures today. I hope they grow up like their Dad, having a very level headed, practical, and respectful perspective re: the natural Californian habitat. And I hope that rubs off on me. We actually saw families still going up the hill today, despite being told about the snake. It didn’t stop their outdoor adventure. They didn’t run off. They just slowed their pace, sourced an alternative route and became more vigilant.
Once the panic passed, I really wanted to feel a little bit more Californian post rattlesnake encounter. But the truth is, I have never felt MORE London in my life.
You can take the girl out of London….