Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rewind (unwind?)

With another birthday (and large quantities of celebratory chocolate mousse) under my belt, I feel it's time for a (slightly queasy) rethink.

I began this blog about a year ago because I wanted to tell someone about the small everyday adventures of living here.
Working and living alone, I've no one to share the tingle of apprehension at a snake encounter, the jump of pleasure as monkeys dangle upside-down to peer in my window or the small frission of excitement at seeing an unexpected beast or weird behaviour (hopefully not my own).

Gradually, as time's passed, I've moved away from this original purpose; my posts have grown twice as long and much less frequent. And now, when I'm beset by feelings of ineptitude (common) and everything I write seems clumsy, disjointed and just plain dull, I lack the motivation to continue.

In an effort to resolve this difficulty, I've decided to revisit my original intention.
So come, gird your loins for boredom!
Day to day happenings it is!

Starting appropriately (considering this blog's inaugural post) with last night's midnight intruder.

I was woken at the witching hour by the dogs barking hysterically in the lounge room. Stumbling out to investigate (I don't remember deciding to do this), I came-to abruptly. My wavering torch beam revealed a large python, sinuously entwined around the burglar-bars of the window and draped, like a Christmas garland, along the curtain rail. This was bad news. Outside, under that particular window, is where my deaf cat (Fatcat) habitually sleeps the night. But a hasty scan of the snake (about 2.5 m/8 ft long) revealed no cat-sized lumps, and a quick head count confirmed that all my pets were alive and kicking (or barking). Actually - in truth - Fatcat was curled up, totally oblivious, under the toilet.

Curtains for my cat? Not this time. Southern African rock pythons (Python natalensis) routinely grow to 5 m (16 ft) during their 30-year lifespan, so this one's only a young'n.

But how to get it out? With great determination it kept trying to nose its way up into the ceiling, and I was equally determined not to let it. Shoving its movable end back out the window with a broom had no effect beyond eliciting much loud and emphatic hissing, which seriously freaked out my cats. OK, I know that a normal person would've just grabbed the thing, but the salutatory effects of immersion-therapy have only reduced, not eliminated, my ophiophobia. Anyway, I couldn't see how I'd be able to unwind all its twists and turns, even if I was brave enough to handle the creature. And African rock pythons are renowned for being antsy.
My reptile field guide says,
 "They lunge and bite readily in defence. The teeth are very large and can inflict painful ripping wounds."
And of course they've got more than 100 of those teeth, backward curving and blade-like...

Or how about this testimony from the ever redoubtable reptile forums:
"I kept an adult (rescue) and it's the most evil and one of the most dangerous species I have ever come across, would never trust it or get complacent. Are they common in the US? Rare in the UK, would love another."

Snake removal, a knotty problem, tale tail.

And let's not forget that large African rock pythons do occasionally eat people. If Wikipedia is to be believed, they show a strange penchant for 13-year-old boys. However, thinking about it, this mightn't be so surprising, if the victims aren't entirely blameless. A recent, non-fatal attack in Kenya occurred after an adult man accidentally stepped on the snake. In this case, the python dragged him, encoiled, up into a tree, but the guy managed to ring for help on his cell phone (I knew they had to be useful for something).

But of course this is mere sensationalism. The specimen dangling off my curtain rail had a heck of lot of growing to do before adding annoying adolescents to its menu.

Going off the rails (me, not the python). Notice the cobwebs festooned on its nose (oh, the shame).

Deciding to play it safe, I dragged, carried or chased all edible fauna into my bedroom and closed the door on them. Then, in the silence and the dark, the snake and I waited... and waited... and waited. Pythons are big on the whole cryptic bit. Eventually, after an hour or so, it finally began seeking a way out, and with some judicious poking (using the broom of course) when it headed the wrong way, it eventually slide back out the window. Once it touched ground, it glided off into the bush as fast as its legs leglessness would carry it.

Despite a fearsome reputation, African rock pythons are caring mums. Within a termite mound or aardvark burrow, they coil around their 30-50 orange-sized eggs, protecting and warming them for the 2- 3 months until they hatch. Even then, they guard and shepherd the little ones until they find their feet (so to speak) at around two weeks of age. Photo by Arno & Louise Meintjes.


  1. Interesting adventure indeed...
    Anyway these snakes are so beautiful...

  2. I'm happy to admit the biggest and nastiest (in temper only) snake I ever met was a five foot garter snake.

    I wonder if a long cane with electrodes at the end, set up as a sort of stun gun might help in directing this sort of traffic?

    Slithering out of here now. ATB!

    ps Loved the the adventure.

  3. Love this blog, I wish I was able to live away from civilisation in the African bush but i'm Welsh (not english) and cant get a visa (yet). Just noticed you were at the kalahari meerkat project for a while. I'm hopefully going to be going there once I finish my degree, i've already applied and all seems good.
    Your adventures are amazing, the most excitement we get in the U.K is a One-eyed fox.
    Keep up the posts, makes me want to revisit South Africa again and stay there

  4. You made me laugh - imagine the person receiving that call - Help, a python's got me up a tree ... Now we only see tabakrolletjies.
    Do blog on, we enjoy your posts so much!

  5. Yours are the kind of adventures I long for. True boredom comes from living in a city and having to tolerate people all day.

  6. Your everyday encounters are wonderful ..... I can't quite imagin having an 8 foot snake hanging about the living room. I hope you keep writing!

  7. I have never found any of your posts to be at all clumsy, disjointed, or dull, but I certainly look forward to reading more frequent posts from you! And while it's fun to thrill vicariously to dangers I don't have to deal with in my home, where the worst annoyances are the midnight High-Heeled Interior Decorator on the floor above--still, I hope you won't have too many more giant-snake-in-home incidents to report.

  8. Belated happy Birthday Lynda! I'm glad you have renewed your original intent for blogging. I agree with Olivia, your writing is never dull, disjointed or clumsy, but always well written and entertaining. And educational, yes, I've learned more than I ever imagined possible about all kinds of obscure critters, and sometimes more than I ever wanted to know... but it's all good.
    Keep on blogging. And congratulations on never succumbing to the deceptive lies of reptile lovers that snakes are nice, can be trusted or handled. Don't ever buy into it!

  9. Andrea,
    I have to admit that - for a snake! - pythons are beautiful. I love their iridescent sheen; it makes them look like they've just escaped from a furniture polish advert.

    Thanks for the practical suggestion, but knowing me I'd probably just end up stunning myself or electrocuting a cat.

    I'm glad you enjoy the blog, and I hope things work out with regard to the Meerkat Project. It's a fantastic experience. Don't underestimate the value of a one-eyed fox!

    Elephants Eye,
    I wonder how long it took the victim to convince his rescuer that he was for real?
    I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I've never seen a tabakrolletjie, although they're supposed to occur around here. They sound endearing. Maybe I need to cultivate a few slugs...

    Boredom is in the eye of the beholder?
    I don't believe a word of it.

    You're only saying that because you're one of those rabid snake enthusiasts (although I have to agree about the people bit).

    Thanks for your encouragement. Snake draperies are something I could happily live without.

    You know a well-packaged giant snake, mailed anonymously, could do wonders for your High-heeled Interior Decorator problems.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes and encouragement. I see your early anti-snake indoctrination has withstood the test of time. What you really need is a little bit of immersion-therapy... Keep reading!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...