I went for a hike the other day in the mountains above my apartment in Orebic, Croatia. It was hot and sunny and the snakes were out enjoying the warm weather.
On the hike up, I saw three snakes – two alive and one dead.
They don’t look like any kind of snake I’ve ever seen before – more like salamanders than snakes. But not knowing whether they’re poisonous or not, I treat them as though they are and run like a girl whenever I see one.
I was already a little nervous about being so far out from civilization by myself and in a place swarming with snakes, but then I suddenly heard the large crack of branches on the trail ahead of me as a man dressed in full head-to-toe camouflage stepped out of the bushes carrying an 18 inch machete!
He quickly stepped my way, saying something to me in Croatian or Bosnian or who knows what language.
“Do you speak English?” I ask him, as he stepped within a couple feet of me, his machete high in the air.
“Yes. A little.” he says. “Where you going!?”
Looking more at the blade than at his dark bearded face I tell the man that I’m simply going on a hike and planned to walk to the top of the mountain where the trail eventually dies out. But he doesn’t seem to understand though, as he asks me three more times, “Where you going?”
I point and finally get the message across.
“Okay” he says “But watch out! There is lots of snakes. It is hot today and snakes like it hot.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of them” I say to the man. His eyes bug out and for a moment he looks like a scared little child, nearly on the verge of a whimper. Apparently he’s afraid of snakes.
With such a limited vocabulary, the conversation between the man and I quickly dies out and I start to walk in the direction I was heading (At this point I feel like retreating down the mountain might make me appear scared, inferior, or vulnerable, so I continue up the mountain along my intended path).
But as I go to turn my back to the man he says to me again, “Watch out for snakes” and taps me on the arm with the broad side of the machete before walking off down the trail in the direction I had just come.
Needless to say, the rest of the hike was a desperate attempt to keep one eye peeled on the ground for any snakes that might slither into my path… and one eye peeled in the bushes, watching to make sure no more men carrying machetes and dressed in head-to-toe camouflage were going to pop out and interrogate me.