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Memories of my life in the bush – An evening with Mfezi, the snake.

Memories of my life in the bush.

I am starting a new category in which I will write up stories which have happened in the past which I would like to remember.

The first story that I would like to tell you is my evening indoors with a venomous snake.

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 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 him 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 company for an hour. As he was talking to me to get directions, the snakes 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 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 snakes 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.

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