In the space of 2 weeks, I have encountered 4 deadly animals that will haunt my nightmares until something worse comes along to replace them. Three snakes and a run in with vespa hornets.
I was taking a hike on a driveway that winds its way through a beetle nut plantation in Taiping. I was enjoying the view, trying to identify the local plant life and unsuccessfully hunting for edible mushrooms. However, not all of the local fauna is plesant. Golden Orb Weaver spiders that are the size of my palm like to make their webs across trails at approximtley head height. For an arachnaphobe like me, spider to the face doesn’t sound like a good time. That’s why I was looking up and not down. That’s why I didn’t notice the greater danger until I had almost stepped on it. Less than a foot away I saw a movement and moments later heard a hiss. I looked down and spoted a black snake that couldn’t be any less than 6 feet long! I shouted something that surely made baby Jesus cry, nearly soiled myself and set a new world record for the long jump… backwards. The serpent slithered off to sell fruit of knowledge or whatever it is that serpents do but I was too busy checking to see if i needed to change my shorts to see where it went. I berated myself for being a pussy and tried to goad myself into continuing my hike, but not knowing where Snakezilla has slithered off to, I couldn’t force myself onward much less enjoy the trip. A stiff drink appealed to me more than a nature walk at that point so I chose to about-face and head back to my scooter. I would later learn from a Google search that the species it most resembled (from my sketchy memory) is the Formosan Odd-Scaled snake. Turns out, these aren’t poisonous. I’ll just go ahead and take their word on that.
The next encounter was on the way to my garden. I had my dog, Hero with me and we were walking along, minding our own business, when I spotted a snake ahead. Not a big one, but some of the deadliest are nowhere near the largest. I noticed the snake and stopped; Hero did not. Oblivious, Hero trotted right past me and towards the snake. I went to snatch at him but missed. Hero was startled by this and, being the spaz that he is, darted ahead to escape me (from his perspective, I had clearly gone suddently crazy and developed a taste for dog meat.) In a sign of submission he sat down… right where I last saw the snake. Lucky for him, the snake didn’t want trouble anymore than we did; it was gone. That is the last time I brought any dogs with me to the garden.
The next was the most painful encounter. I was trampling through the jungle in search of mushrooms. After it rains, there is wild wood ear fungus galore, and many other kinds of mushrooms. I brought my trusty “banana knife” with me and was merrily blazing a trail through the undergrowth like I was on my way to retreive Dr Livingston. After an hour of this, I stumbled upon the wood ear fungus jackpot. Looking back, approaching this fungal treasure was as climactic as Indiana Jones reaching for an ancient idol; I can hear the tense music playing in the background when I recall it. Just like the movies, that’s when the hidden trap got sprung. I heard a sound like a P-51 mustang diving in to dispense freedom and felt a small impact against my chest followed by a red-hot nail stabbed into my right pectorial. Wasps! I dropped the banana knife to impotently swat at myself and charge back the way I came, getting hung up on a bunch of vines. Suspended like a schoolgirl in a hentai flick, it took a few extra, precious moments of time to free myself and by the time I tore myself loose, I realized that while I’d barely run 10 feet, I hadn’t gotten stung again either. I could see my banana knife laying gleaming against the jungle duff where i’d dropped it; a 500 NT tool begging not be left behind. I steeled my resolve and on shaky legs, slowly approached. I took 2 steps and heard nothing. Another step and couldn’t see or hear any wasps. Another half step and was almost there. With agonizingly slow movements, I advanced and bent down to retreive my banana knife… NEEEROOOM! Fuck! Contact! Contact! Empty handed, I hauled ass back the way I came and got tangeld up on the same vines! With no will to go a 3rd round, I cut my losses and headed home. Vespa wasps are deadly and more than a few stings is enough to end my adventures for good. I’d just buy another banana knife. The two stings would later swell up to itchy, 6-inch diameter bruises and persist for 2 weeks.
Next run in with the local wildlife was on the way back from the garden with May, just a tad bit too late for the snakes to still be asleep (apparently). We heard a crash up the trail and saw the form of an enormous snake dropping from a tree branch. Carrying the new banana knife, I went full caveman mode, pulled May behind me and grunted “Man fight snake. Woman stay back”… Then nothing. The snake, rather than coming for us, was long gone by the time we walked past the spot it had landed. and was probably jumpping out of the tree to find a better spot to hide from the larger animals (us) and wanted nothing to do with us either. Locals would later ask me if it was a light green color, thinking it might have been a bamboo viper which are known for striking from trees and are very deadly. This story would be less exciting if I didn’t embellish a little so… It was not only light green. It was a neon, glowing green with red eyes that burned like the fires of Hell. It was the serpent from the garden of Eden, come back to fuck shit up. I invoked Donald Trump, smashed it with all the best banana knives (the Mexicans paid for them) and made Taiwan great again.
I saw a cobra once too. It was only a foot long, swimming in a ditch alongside the road and not a threat to anyone. Still… keeping those excessively curious dogs at home!
Of course, reading this makes the jungles of Taiwan sound like a deathtrap and the locals would agree with you! That being said, I spend quite a bit more time in the woods than Average Wang and a lot of that is far off the beaten path. I’m bound to run into a few beasts once in awhile. Use common sense, mind your surroundings, put your phone away so you can watch where you’re going for fucks sake and you’ll probably be fine.