Previous experience of camping on busy sites gives rise to a dilemma. One can set up your tent close to the ablutions, which makes it very easy to pop out during the small hours for a quick toilet break (very important after a beer session) but puts you in the line of fire for every other beer swilling individual on the site as well. There is nothing more annoying than the continual bang, bang, bang of a sh#t-house door slamming all night long, or drunken morons tripping over your guy ropes and cursing loudly every 2 minutes, when all you want to do is drift off into a deep slumber. Of course the alternative is to set up shop as far away from them as possible, the problem then being you have a long way to stagger in the darkness. Of course you can always reserve the option to take a trek into the trees. Now this is precisely what I did on that fateful night in Walpole. As I staggered off into the inky blackness, I distinctly remember feeling the twang of a spiders web breaking which was strung between the densely packed tree trunks. Without a second thought I simply brushed the sticky membrane away from my thigh and carried on with my original master plan of the blissful relief from my full bladder. As I began to stumble back I felt the tell tale pin prick of what I assumed was yet another mosquito bite on my right leg. Having been bitten numerous times during my previous 6 weeks I didn't really give it too much thought. Until...as I clambered back into the tent I felt a burning sensation seeping up my thigh which was totally unlike any mossy bite I'd previously encountered. Taking a cursory look in the limited light available to me from the feeble glow off my pathetic torch, I couldn't help but notice how quickly the bite was swelling up. Being the sort of person who's body unfortunately tends to react rather violently to any form of insect bite, I still never paid it too much attention. However, the early dawn revealed my upper thigh had now swelled up like a football, with a huge red weal nearly 3 inches across where the bite had occurred. Still ignoring the fact that this was not normal and shutting my mind to the possibilities, I tried to carry on as if nothing had happened. By midday, the weal had grown into an extremely painful blister approximately 20 mm across. This subsequently burst, immediately followed by a series of smaller blisters which behaved in a similar fashion. At this point I thought it prudent to point out to my friend that something was not quite right with my appendage. When she saw the wound, she immediately identified it as a poisonous spider bite. She urgently enquired if I had any burning sensation within my groin, or under my arms. I wasn't experiencing those symptoms, but I did feel quite feverish which continued for another 24 hours. Luckily for me, it wasn't one of the more deadly variety. For there are native spiders to Western Australia whose bite is nearly always fatal within a very short time frame if an antidote is not administered almost immediately. This is all very well if you've identified the beastie that has savaged you. Not having that luxury I was in a no win situation and just had to wait and see what happened, since being given the wrong anti toxin is almost as bad as the bite itself. More than 2 weeks on, the wound has only just started to show signs of healing. Spider venom tends to do something very unpleasant to bodily tissues and will most probably leave a scar for life. Not an experience I would like to repeat.
While we are on the topic of spiders, I’d like to focus a little
on the totally different approach one has to adopt when doing anything externally
in Western Australia.
A classic example of this was when I was asked to help remove some debris and clean out the gutters around my friends’ garage.
Without even thinking, I simply scurried up a ladder with a trowel and started shovelling away. Suddenly I recoiled in horror as I noticed a colony of Red Back spiders swarming all over the guttering. I was down that ladder pretty damn quick, I can tell you.
O.k. Revert to Plan B.
I foraged in the garden shed for a thick pair of Garden Gloves, pulled them on, and shimmied back up the ladder for a renewed attack.
Hang on, what have I just forgot?
I hadn’t checked inside the gloves before pulling them on, that’s what!
Feverishly tearing them off, I discovered yet another spider inside the left glove.
Having to adopt this self defence attitude to everything one does I personally found to be rather tiresome, but it’s amazing how quickly you learn survival tactics when the consequences of ignorance can be life threatening.
This is one of the main reasons why I tell people that Western Australia is a nice place to visit, BUT…and it’s a big BUT, I couldn’t live there.
Call me paranoid if you like, I don’t care. For I never felt that I could completely relax,
There always seemed to be something out there waiting to get me if I once dropped my guard.