Memories of my life in the bush.
A write up of a memorable evening with a venomous snake in the house.
In the year 2011 I moved to Hoedspruit to be closer to my then-boyfriend, now husband, Gustav. In 2012 March we got married and were planning to move to the Free State together to start a new job as a lodge and game ranch management couple. Shortly after our marriage, I have started moving my things to his house on a private nature reserve just outside town and had a lot of packing to do before the big move. He had to do some work in the Timbavati private nature reserve, so I was on my own for a few days.
On the first evening alone, around 20h00, I was busy moving stuff around and cleaning and there were boxes everywhere. I moved a box and heard a loud “shhhhhhhh!!!”. I realized it must be a snake. I slowly moved the box again and out slithered a snake. I only saw the strong muscled body, not the head and assumed it was a Mamba. Like a flash, I was out of the door of the house.
Now I had a problem. First of all, my phone was inside and I was outside and I was parading around the house in skimpy pyjamas. There was no way I could go look for help from the staff on the farm, dressed as I was. Besides that, I knew that if I went to call the staff they would try and kill the snake. I prefer to keep snakes alive if I can, but I also imagined the snake biting one of the staff members and then I would have had more on my hands than just a snake. There was no other choice. I had to go back in, get dressed and call for help.
I knew the snake was just to the left of the door, so I figured if I go in really fast I can run, jump on the bed where my clothes were lying and get dressed. I made a run for it. Like a flash, I was on the bed and dressed while carefully eyeing the snake. It was lying still because it obviously got a fright with me running past it. I then phoned the owner of Khamai reptile park (Now called Kinyonga Reptile Park), Donald. A guy I knew would be able to come and remove the snake and relocate it, as he or his staff members often also helped at the guesthouse where I was working. He answered my phone call as I was eyeballing the snake which had now slowly started to move again. “Yes, no problem” he could come and help me, he was just finishing a talk at Mariepskop Primary school, he will be done in 10 minutes then he will leave. I quickly made calculations in my head. 40 Minutes drive from Mariepskop, 10 minutes talk… Oh dear, I am going to sit with this snake as my company for an hour. As he was talking to me to get directions, the snake’s head came in sight and I could see that it wasn’t a Mamba, maybe a Cobra of some sort. I knew that I would have to keep an eye on the snake at all times because if I lose it, I might have to make peace with sleeping in the same room as the snake. We ended the call and I tried to call my husband several times, angry with him for not having cellphone signal like he could help it. I imagined him sitting next to a bushveld fire, laughing and having a great time with clients. It did not help. Then I phoned my mother, in Pretoria. Note to self: ‘Do not phone your mother 500 km from you when you are alone in the house with a snake, she will not know what to do.’
After that, I made peace with my aloneness with the snake and watched it moving through the room. I was now heading in my direction. No… this wasn’t working for me. I picked up a small broom and chucked it in the snake’s direction. It spread a hood, agitated… so it was definitely a cobra, I thought. I then let it be. As the snake moved to one side, I moved to the other slowly watching it. Later, about 5 minutes before Donald arrived, the snake moved into a cupboard that had a large opening underneath the door. This was my chance, I jumped up and got a broom. When the snake tried to come out I gently pushed it back with the broom… Finally, Donald, the snake handler and owner of the reptile park, arrived. “Are you scared of snakes?” he joked. “No, I just prefer not having them in my house,” I said.
He captured the snake, identified as a Mozambican Spitting Cobra and also known as Mfezi, effortlessly and took it away. I was able to go to bed and sleep without fear of a danger-noodle in my bed. The snake was safely relocated in the bush the week after that.