People will tell you to be careful of snakes in Australia. I mean, they’ll tell you to watch out for spiders, kick-boxing kangaroos, drop bears, and every single animal in Australia, but snakes tend to top the list. And it’s true that the drop bears do serious harm—I mean, it’s true that there are poisonous snakes, but to be honest if you live in an urban area you won’t see too many. You have to go looking for them. Or venture in their territory.

If you go down my street to the main road and then walk to the end of that road, you come to a nature reserve. My brother and I used to hike there every now and again. It’s just about what you’d expect of Australian bush – sandy lanes and eucalyptus trees. If you go there at dusk, you are almost guaranteed to see kangaroos. Go further into the nature reserve and you’ll find a salt lake, a water feature completely bereft of any water.

Oh, and there were snakes there.

The first time we came across snakes we were on one of our first walks together. We were young and naive and not very observant. We didn’t realise the snake was there until it got stepped on. Or rather, I didn’t realise a snake was there until my brother jumped about a foot into the air. My brother’s first realisation came when he felt something against his foot, hence the jump. I turned and there was a snake. It had reared up and looked to me to be about to strike, but after a moment or two it slumped back down on the ground. We left quickly and kept our eyes fixed on the ground after that.

I admit I don’t have an extensive knowledge of snake breeds but googling and guesswork leads me to believe it was probably a mulga snake. (If you actually know what type of snake is pictured above, please let me know! I would really appreciate it.) They are poisonous, but by some miracle my brother didn’t get bit that day. I’m not entirely sure how. It must have been a near miss.

We saw snakes a few times after that, and having learnt our lesson, stepped on none of them. Usually they were laying on the path, motionless. At first we wondered if they were even alive, but then we’d come back along a snake free path and know that yep, that had been a living snake we’d stepped over. I do have a feeling that their instinct is to freeze when us clumsy loud humans were near. Turns out, if you keep your eyes on the ground, you can avoid snakes fairly easily. At least where I’ve been walking.

My brother moved interstate a couple of years ago, and I since then I’ve been to the reserve quite a few times. I haven’t seen a snake for quite a while now—but I’m keeping my eyes peeled.