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July 28, 2005

Island of Serpents

Day: 45
Miles Yesterday: 4
Latitiude: S 8 degs, 21.82'
Longitude: E 121 degs, 00.24'

This or the next update may be the last for a while owing to serious problems recharging the laptop batteries. I'm writing this on the backup machine, and I don't think the battery will last for more than 2 or 3 updates' worth. Hopefully the problem can be rectified in 2 weeks time when we fly to Bali for our first visa renewal. I'm counting on there being a vaguely competent electonics outfit that has transformers for the blown power adapaters.

First off - for family reading this - all is well. Lourdes and Chris are actually traveling together separately from April and I to Labuan Bajo (a week away) in order to give Lourdes and I some breathing space following a disagreement a couple of nights ago. They have charts, an EPIRB, first aid kit etc - basically all the same safety equipment that April and I have, so they will be fine. We have also set up a search and rescue protocol in the event we don't hook up in LB in a week's time at our rendezvous point of the 'Gardena Hotel'.

They leave the town of Riung this morning (28th). April and I actually left yesterday afternoon and spent what we thought was going to be a magical evening and night on a tiny coral island (one of 24 surrounding the area of Riung). At just 100x200ft and with an idyllic coral sand beach for pitching tents we thouht we'd really hit the jackpot for camping sites.

How wrong we were!

In the week leading up to arriving in Riung we found ourselves dealing with some pretty unpleasant pests at some of the beaches we camped on. If it wasn't hordes of ants threatening to carry everyone and their gear off into the woods one night or clouds of malaria-bearing mosquitos descending on us another, is was spiny vegetation that we had to clear with our bare hands (which then turned out to be highly flammable due to it's resin - a near disaster with the campfire) or thousands of crabs that would emerge from holes in the beach to pick at our food. But nothing prepared us for last night.

I was about to send off our lat/long position to my father as I do every evening by texting via the satphone, when I noticed a huge black and white snake at my feet. Snakes aren't my favourite creature - they rank up there with spiders. Especially this one which turned out to be highly venemous. But it seemed fairly lethargic and didn't seem aggressive. HOWEVER, we are in a very remote part of the world. If one of us was to be bitten, it would probably be several days to the nearest hospital - too far I fear for an antivenom to be accessed in a reasonanble timeframe. Basically we're on our own.

A minute later another appeared, and a third, and a fourth, and before we knew it we were surrounded (or so it seemed) by poisonous snakes. A bad Lariam dream come true! Our idyllic island paradise had turned into an island nightmare, from which we had no escape until the daylight hours of the morning.

Not too much of a problem we thought, as long as the snakes keep their distance. And that's then the fun really started...

It turns out now that what we were seeing was the same two snakes working in a team. They kept on reappearing from the surrounding brush, gradually coming closer, until we were backed into the sea with our equipment and they started to come, as a pair and quite fast now, directly for us.

We'd reached the 'them or us' point, and while not keen on killing animals, we just couldn't risk the alternative. So the two were duly despatched with large stick from the fire.

The remainder of the night was a fairly sleepness one. We imagined hundreds of snakes on the island, burrowing under our tent and hiding in our kayak ready for a nice surprise out at sea the next morning. But daylight broke with no more dramas, begging in both of our minds, why these two snakes (from the sea) and what interest did they have with us on this tiny island?

Neither of us are superstitious, but there's something quite odd about the whole thing, enough to give both April and goosebumps. We've heard of some forms of blackmagic on these islands being used for revengeful purposes. Did we offend someone in Riung, enough for revenge to be exacted?

One more thing that I haven't told April, as I know it will feak her out, but when I looked for the carcasses this morning - where I'd thrown them on the beach above the high water mark - they'd both disappeared. More witchcraft? Or perhaps there's something ELSE on this island bigger than snakes? We've been told to be careful of camping on beaches from now until Komodo Island because of the risk of large monitor lizards (related to the Komodo Dragon). A tourist saw one not far from here on the mainland that was supposedly 3 metres (10ft) long.

The safety of the sea beckons us for a change ....

Posted on July 28, 2005 1:28 AM


Checked in to see how you both are doing and read the story about the seasnakes. Where did they go indeed!? Will post something about your trip on my personal blog in the next day or 2 and link it over. Glad to hear you're ok.

Posted by: Tracy Swedlow at August 3, 2005 4:47 AM

Hi guys,

Sent you email earlier, but guess it didn't get forwarded. I'm now working in Douglas County as an Education Technology Specialist who helps teachers in 13 schools use technology in the classroom. Just giving you a heads-up that I'm sharing the link for this website, so you may get some participation from some year round schools here in Colorado that are in session already.

This one looks like a good entry for creating curriculum. Want me to develop it April?


Posted by: Barb Schulz at July 31, 2005 3:54 PM

Mmm...seasnakes. I came face to face with one once when travelling. Well, I was camping and asleep and woke up to find it lying underneath my legs. I discovered quickly that they are naturally both curious and 'nervy'. Not a particularly good combination. Glad you are both ok. I agree - there is something rather eerie about them.

Take great care now.


Posted by: astrid at July 29, 2005 11:48 PM