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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Africa: Snakes

Sorry, folks. Grades are due tomorrow, and so I've been a little bad about writing this week. And if you saw the sad sack of papers in front of me (still yet to be graded), you'd wonder why I even opened my blog today. Here's why:
You may be asking yourself, "What's so great about this kid, Heather?" Well, this kid happened to save my life last summer. It's true.

Meet Jimmy.

There we were, our group traipsing along in the darkness back to camp one night. It was dark. I mean, DARK dark. There was no street lamp saying, "Hey, Heather, look. There's the ground." There was no light from the city creating, oh, I don't know, silhouettes. There was just Brooke's hand holding mine, reminding me she was there, and a flashlight. Now Brooke had been screaming when a leaf would brush up against her, so maybe she wasn't the best choice for a companion through the dark, but she also happened to be a NINJA, which I discovered as she suddenly leapt onto me screaming, "Snake! Snake!"

I was like, "Really, Brooke?" expecting to see a twig on the ground. But as I shined my flashlight down where Brooke's foot SHOULD HAVE stepped, there was a little teeny snake wriggling across our dirt path. We recoiled, and out of the darkness, Jimmy appeared, asking, "Where?" Brooke screamed and pointed and screamed some more. Jimmy ran after it, I kid you not. He charged at it and started stomping madly, kicking up dust and jumping down on that thing like he wanted to create an African Grand Canyon.

He stopped, and then gave one more stomp for good measure. Then he took the flashlight out of Brooke's hand and shone it down on the limp snake. He said, calmly and quietly with his thick accent, "Ohh. Baby Cobra. Very deadly."

I was like, "OMG, Jimmy! You just killed a COBRAAAAAA! We need a pic!"
Brooke was giggling and screaming, "WHAT? What did you say, Jimmy? What do you MEAN, very deadly! What do you MEAN, cobra! You said that we didn't have to worry if we stayed on the dirt paths! You said the snakes don't like the dirt roads because it scrapes their bellies. What was it doing there? What was it DOING there?"

Jimmy shrugged his shoulders and responded, "It wanted to get to the other side."
Amazing that that little critter packs so much in his punch. They are dangerous as babies because they don't control their venom. Some of the venom attacks the nervous system, which causes paralysis. Then the other part of the venom, the cardiotoxins, shut down your heart. Awesome. And knowing all that, if we're bit, we're supposed to remain calm. Riiiiight.

There is a lot of debate about what is the deadliest snake in the world. Some people think the Cobra; others say The Black Mamba; and still others, "The Fierce Snake" of Australia. Okay, so The Fierce Snake wins when it comes to venom.
This little guy is 50 times as toxic as a cobra, and a cobra's pretty darn toxic! It's 400 times as toxic as a rattlesnake. But the good news about this one is he's shy. He says, "Hey guys, leave me alone and I won't kill you. In fact, if I see you, I will wriggle in the other direction. I can't help it if I'm deadly. It came with my teeth."

The cobra is also deadly, but we have plenty of antivenom out there for a person who is bit. Notice our little baby cobra above -- he wasn't out to get us. He was wriggling along. The Black Cobras aren't aggressive by nature. Tick them off, though, and they can stand up tall and get face-to-face before attacking you.

And then there is the Black Mamba. There is also the Green Mamba, which disappears into the trees, but the Black Mamba is much more aggressive. They've been known to chase their victims and bite them repeatedly.
Notice how he's gray, not black. He's named after his mouth. If you were to peer inside, you'd see it was black. And then you'd be dead. Don't peer into his mouth. That's dumb.

So to recap, here's what we've learned:

COBRA: longest
FIERCE SNAKE: most venomous
BLACK MAMBA: most aggressive
GREEN MAMBA: ha ha, you can't see me. I'm a tree, I'm a leaf.

I will never forget that night in Africa when Brooke actually wasn't crying wolf! It sounds dramatic. Maybe it is. But come on! The guy stomped a Cobra to death not five feet from me.

It IS dramatic!

I made Jimmy reenact it all the following morning.


  1. Oh that is some story. I hate snakes-You are quite lucky!

    I am intrigued by your blog-am going to have to go back and read some of your previous posts to catch up on everything...

    Thanks so much for visiting me today. I just wanted to tell that ANZAC day is so important here that the nation has a gazetted holiday on Monday...yep we get a nice long weekend!

    Well, hope you get those papers graded (I am so happy I don't have to do that any more!) and that you have a lovely weekend.

    Best wishes,

  2. Scary, scary stuff - Happy in the knowledge that I now know more about scary snakes than I did before... Now, where do I get myself a Jimmy to be the head snake-stomper?? ;0)

  3. I can't imagine walking along in the dark having to look out for snakes! I think in your shoes, I'd be looking for Jimmy to be my bodyguard for the rest of the trip.
    Thanks for your visit to the jets, we had about a week of "no-fly" zone due to volcanic ash from Iceland! So seeing a contrail was an event!

  4. I hear ya, E.D.! We all need a "Jimmy" in our lives!

  5. I'm glad Jimmy was around for you. Quite a story and a very interesting one, thank you.