by Duchess Dame Yolande
One of the gloats from Eastern Lochac, oft known as the Crescent Isles, is that their major camping event contains no mudde no duste, and no venymous fauna. This is not strictly true, as I have attended it in years of drought and rain, and smelled some of the single lads on the final day. However, these are three of the concerns people traditionally have about Rowany Festival.
Glenworth Valley has been gloriously free of dust since Festival moved there, though there have been some issues with mud due to Sydney’s unusual weather of late. But it is the venymous fauna that most cite as their reasons for being nervous of the Glenworth site. While it is only sensible for Australians and visitors to these fair lands to have concerns regarding dangerous fauna (and flora), since the entire country is an exercise in fast-tracked Darwinism, things are not so dire as some would have you believe!
What follows is a quick overview of creepy creatures you may encounter, how to avoid them, and what to do if you come across any. The entries are listed in order of risk.
Mosquitoes: Statistically, these are the most insidious pests you are likely to encounter. Mosquito-borne diseases are increasingly problematic in New South Wales. Always wear insect repellent, and sleep with a net or inside a netted modern tent. If you are bitten, treat with antiseptic and do not scratch, as the lower hygiene standards of Festival make infection more likely.
Bees: These are the most acutely dangerous of all the fauna risks to be found at Glenworth. Due to the many flowering grasses of the area, they are often at ground level. If you have a known allergy, please wear shoes and keep your epi-pen close to hand. Otherwise, should you be stung, go to the St John’s station where they can remove the stinger without emptying its toxin sack into you.
Leeches: There are leeches at site, they are harmless. While they look manky, they cannot take enough blood from a human to cause any issues, even though the bites can ooze for some time after the leech has gone. To minimise your risk, wear socks and shoes and stay away from the creek. If you get a leech on you, you can remove it easily by stroking the leech lightly and quickly in a tickling motion from the tail towards the head until it curls up and disengages, at which point flick it from your body. The harsher among us can use salt or lemon juice, which will kill the leech. Because leeches, like all living things, carry bacteria, pop a bit of antiseptic on to any bites, and pop a band-aid on the wound to keep flies away from it.
Snakes: The vast majority of snakes in the Sydney region are completely harmless. Do not attempt to kill any snake you see, as not only is this almost always pointless bastardry, on the rare occasion you are dealing with a poisonous snake, it is a good way to be bitten. Several completely harmless snakes in the region bear a very loose resemblance to poisonous species, which can lead to misidentification.
Very few of the poisonous snakes of the Sydney region enjoy the environment at Glenworth Valley, and all snakes prefer areas that are not routinely stomped over by Rowany Festival AS 46 people and quad bikes. Nonetheless, it is possible that there may be a snake in the area. Despite the overwhelming likelihood of it being harmless, should you see one, observe it to make sure that it moves away from the camping areas. Some sturdy stomping a little distance away will dissuade most snakes from coming closer (do not do this beside a snake, it is an immediate threat and the snake may react aggressively – who could blame it?). Have someone fetch a constable if you are concerned.
Any risk of snakebite can be almost entirely avoided by simple common sense, including wearing sensible shoes and socks. Should anyone suspect a snakebite has occurred, treat the possibility seriously and sit the victim down quietly in a safe place while someone else runs for a chirurgeon. Do not feed a suspected victim caffeine or alcohol, and keep them calm until medical attention arrives. If you are alone and bitten, put firm pressure on the wound and the area above it and slowly and calmly make your way towards someone who can assist you. Take note of the details of the snake if possible, do not attempt to catch it.
Funnel webs: While Sydney is a prime site for these spiders, the Glenworth site is not particularly attractive to them. They prefer nesting in rockeries and woodland, rather than lawn or pasture, and while they like a moist environment, the soil at Glenworth can be too wet, or, in drought years, too dry for them. Funnel webs nest in little silk-edged tunnels, with distinct trip-lines of silk radiating out from them, so train kids in particular to be able to recognise these webs and avoid them. The spiders are more active at night, after floods and on high-humidity days, so wearing shoes on these occasions is recommended if you are concerned.
If you are bitten by a spider of any sort, sit down calmly in a safe place close to where you were bitten and send someone to fetch the Chirurgeon. Pressure bandages are recommended for funnel web bites, and if it is possible to safely catch the spider for identification purposes, have someone do so. The antivenene is 100% effective in saving lives.
Redback spiders: These spiders are very unusual at the Glenworth Valley site as they prefer dry environments. Any that appear are liable to have been brought in on camping gear, it’s worth giving pavilions and so on a spray of long-lasting insecticide before storing it, and wearing gloves while setting up camp. Should you be bitten by a spider you can identify as a redback, stay calm, send someone to fetch a chirurgeon, and apply iced water if you have any; do not use pressure bandages.
Other spiders: If you think you may have been bitten by a spider, calmly take yourself to the nearest chirurgeon, with a description of, or jar containing, the spider if possible.
Predatory drunkards in the tavern: Fleeing is recommended, however, a charming smile and a cheery cry of ‘You remind me of my granddad!’ can often be just as effective.