A dad drove the breadth of Australia without spotting a python inches away from the steering wheel.
Andrew Hill took six-year-old Ivy along for the ride when he drove a work vehicle 4,600km (2,860 miles) from Perth, Western Australia, to Brisbane, Queensland.
After passing through four states, Andrew drove the Toyota Hilux solo hundreds of miles more to a mine in Bowen Basin, central Queensland.
It was only then that one of his employees discovered the “hungry” desert python was lurking in the vent the entire time.
Andrew 39, said: “My employee, Peter Gillespie, was finishing work for the day at a mine site and was driving down the access road on his way back to camp.
“He looked towards the vent and saw this snake head coming out of the vent.
“He immediately hit the hand brake and jumped out, quite shocked at what he was looking at.
“He was shaken; he went white apparently.”
In a bid to identify the reptile, Andrew’s brother, Stuart, consulted a specialist snake page on Facebook.
They narrowed it down to a python in the Antaresia genus – and it wasn’t a local.
Andrew said: “They believe it would have come from the Western Australia desert in the Pilbara, because it’s a Western Australia desert snake.”
In total, Mr Hill estimates he drove a stonking 5,800km (3,600m) – roughly the distance from London to Istanbul and back again – with the python just inches from the wheel.
He said: “We feel better now, but to think we drove so far with it inside that vent is hard to believe.
“Even my wife drove that vehicle, so you can imagine how she felt when she found out.
“The chances of this ever happening again is almost impossible.”
That the snake remained hidden for so long is all the more remarkable, given that the car was being tinkered with between the two legs of the trip.
Andrew said: “The vehicle would have been at home for a week to get work done to it, I even pulled the dash out not knowing that snake would have been in there.”
After discovering the serpent, Mr Gillespie called for help and was able to get the snake taken away by a professional snake catcher.
As for how it ended up in the car in the first place, Andrew has some idea.
He said: “It would have been extremely hot and the window would have been left down.
“The snake would have crawled into the vent looking for somewhere cool and went into hibernation.
“They reckon it was time for it to wake up and it would have been hungry.”
Of the four species in the Antaresia genus, three are native to the north and/or west of Australia.
But there is one species that inhabits the north and east of the country, the Antaresia maculosa or spotted python.
Three of the species – childreni, perthensis and maculosa – can cause death from constriction, albeit rarely, according to their profiles on the International Society on Toxinology website.
But all four are non-venomous, and their bite – though potentially painful – is not deadly.
One of the species, the Antaresia childreni or children’s python, is often kept as a pet by reptile enthusiasts.
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