I’ve talked about my travel fears before, and how facing them is something I know I just need to get over. Before heading to Malaysian Borneo, I had a distinct feeling I was going to encounter a snake or two. Even though I was shitting myself just a little, I was determined not to let it stop me from travelling.
Despite the fact that I can’t even look at photos or videos of snakes, I was prepared (at least that’s what I told myself). But, you see, I was prepared to see snakes on Mt. Kinabalu. I was not prepared to see them at the Orangutan Sanctuary at Sepilok.
When we encountered the sign below upon our entry to the canopy that led to the orangutans, I started shaking. My friend even offered to turn back and leave. Well, no. We hadn’t come all this way for me to turn back. Thankfully my friend has an abundance of patience and sympathy, and was my snake-spotter while I had a mild freak out on the walkway. Luckily, we made it in and out of the orangutan habitat without a spotting of those horrible, horrible things.
Lindsay – 1, Snakes – 0.
I was becoming increasingly aware that my anxiety wasn’t going disappear until I was out of Borneo. Ugh. Time to get on with it. I’d survived Sepilok, surely I could survive the rest of Borneo, right?
A few days later, on Gaya Island, when we were taking a break from scuba diving, a few of the other divers were crowded around a corner. My gut told me that, yep, it was a snake. Sure enough, I heard happy (seriously, why?!) exclamations from the others, as well as the sound of photos being snapped.
After catching an unwanted glimpse of a tiny green thing, I headed off in the other direction and starting playing episodes of Friends in my head. All good.
Lindsay – 2, Snakes – 0.5
Next up, climbing Mt. Kinabalu. I was becoming increasingly more aware that the majority of the hike was through a rainforest. An encounter of the slithery kind seemed inevitable. As we embarked, into the lush, green canopy of terror, the Danish guys in our group were scoffing at me: “you know you’re in the jungle, right? You’ll see snakes…”. Rude. Of course I knew that. Doesn’t stop me from being scared.
But while the Danes didn’t help, my new Aussie friends did.
“Just tap your walking stick on the rocks, snakes are afraid of that.”
My theme tune for the hike was the tap tap tapping of my walking stick on the rocks. I’m pretty sure my guide thought I was absolutely nuts (or perhaps, dangerously, blind), tapping my way up and down the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, but my Aussie friends were right – we didn’t spot a single snake on the 8.9km hike up or down. Honestly, though, at one point, I was so damn exhausted that I almost didn’t even care if I saw one (I expect that would’ve changed had I actually seen one).
My victory was slightly less triumphant when I heard later on that since the path is so well-trodden, most wildlife has vacated in favour of other parts of the mountain.
I managed to leave Borneo without paralysis due to snake-spotting. I’d like to think that my tapping worked! Tap tap tap.
Lindsay – 3, Snakes – 0.5 (…ish)
… I still have “the fear”, and don’t expect me to visit the anaconda lair of the Amazon any time soon. I know my limits.