Your holiday disaster: Bird-watching in Bulgaria, Peter Clarke fell victim to a snake in the grass

When I was 63 I went on a two-week package holiday to Bulgaria. It was my very first flight and I was making a solo bird-watching trip, as my wife would not go on a plane. I wanted to see some of the eastern European birds in their native breeding grounds.

One morning I stood on a roadside verge drinking in the beauty of Bee- eaters perched on overhead wires when I felt a tickling on my left leg (I was wearing shorts) so slight that I thought it was a grass stem waving in the breeze. I casually glanced down and was horrified to see a three- foot snake gliding away from my feet into the undergrowth. There was a smear of blood just below my knee.

I did not at panic, as I was only a short distance outside the town where I knew I could get help. The tourist representative for my trip had told me where to find the Polyclinic.

There were taxis passing, but none would stop in spite of my gesticulations. A Red Cross truck which also passed non-stop, was seemingly the final rejection and panic hit me. I was going to die in a foreign land and my family and friends would never see me again.

I decided to walk on another half mile to where I could see traffic stopping at a road junction. My mouth was now dry with fear. At the junction I was able to stop an old van with three Bulgarian workmen inside who could not understand a word of English. I tried desperately by signs to indicate my predicament. They at last understood, hauled me into their van, did a U-turn; and sped off to the Polyclinic.

I burst into the reception room and announced that I had been bitten by a snake. There were gasps all round from the other waiting patients. But the receptionist's reaction was simply to plonk a form in front of me. An English woman who was there at the time kindly helped me to fill it in. It was duly completed with the ever necessary stamp, and I was sent to the doctor's room.

Looking at my small wound he said in excellent English that the snake had not injected any venom, as there was no swelling. Was I sure that it was a snake, he asked.

I collapsed with enormous relief into a chair while three young nurses took charge. One wiped the blood away from my knee, another sprayed it; while the third nurse gave me an injection. What that was for I did not know. I was past caring.

I was told to go back to my hotel and rest. As I made my way there, ominous black clouds were gathering in the sultry air and claps of distance thunder rolled ever nearer. Were the Gods displeased at my escape?

When I got back to England my friend met me. He only wanted to know one thing: had I managed to take a photograph of the snake?

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific