23 March 2020

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Once upon a Python

It started out as just another day on the mountain-overcast, cool, family cluttering the kitchen in the most loving way. The anticipation of my sister’s arrival from Johannesburg for Christmas was getting too much for me and it was decided that Jolandi (Danie’s sister) and I would head into town early to do some shopping and fetch my sister and her family in the afternoon. We departed from our residence fairly early and began the long drive down the mountain in high spirits.


While still driving through the Mistbelt forest, I noted a stunning young python stretched out across the road. This was a photographic opportunity I did not want to miss (even though I only had my old iPhone with me). Jolandi and I jumped out of my bakkie and walked over to the snake that was calmly lying across the road. Now, I think it important to notify the readers that Jolandi is not a fan of snakes, thus the mere act of getting close to wild snake to take some pictures was quite a big deal…




After a couple of photographs were taken, I told Jolandi that I was going to gently touch the snake in order to encourage it to move out of the road. Knowing the aggressive attitude of wild pythons as I have had to rescue a few individuals in rather precarious positions, I was a bit weary as to how it would react. I also thought that since it was a cool morning, perhaps the snake would not be so tempestuous. Boy was I wrong and shortly after touching the snake, Jolandi nofitied me that something was happening because the snake started to twitch its tail! It suddenly launched at us like it had nothing to lose!


I asked Jolandi to retreat in haste to the back of the bakkie while I kept the snake’s attention as it continued to lunge and gape at me with a huge pink mouth. Jolandi had not needed any such instruction as in a blink of an eye, she was already at the rear of my bakkie before I had completed my sentence, quite possibly even before I had begun to articulate it. After a short while, the python had calmed down and made a mad dash under my bakie. I crouched down to observe where it was heading and just a few centimetres short of exiting from under the rear of my bakkie, the snake paused, raised its head and sensed the wonderful warmth that was liberating from my bakkie.


“Oh NO!” I shouted to Jolandi as she continued to retreat further down the road, “It is slithering up into my bakkie’s undercarriage!!” We watched in disbelief as it made a silent determined beeline for the front of my bakkie, inevitably coming to rest wedged between the warm engine, radiator fan and radiator. I popped the bonnet and stared onto the engine compartment, formulating a plan. How to extract an aggravated snake from a confined space in ones bakkie without getting hands burnt on the hot engine components and or bitten by the python…hmmm…




Challenge number one: secure the toothy bitey end. This in itself was the greatest challenge because a python can deliver a nasty bite. Pythons have a mouth full of incredibly sharp backward pointing teeth, designed for anchoring into a meal and assisting in the swallowing procedure of large prey items. I must admit, I was flittering around the front of my bakkie like a butterfly at a flower, trying to find the safest and best angle to wedge my hand into the tight space and somehow grab the pythons’ head.


After a bit of trial and poking, the head was successfully acquired. At this point, the python was stressing out as expected and in true python fashion, it defecated in an attempt to deter us from handling it. It is a most vile smelling substance that I cannot really put into words and for the entire day, Jolandi and I stank like digested, rotten meat…urgh! No amount of waterless sanitiser could mask the smell.


For the next 30min, Jolandi and I gently prodded and pulled the snake, finally coaxing it out of the narrow space between the radiator and engine. A selfie could not be avoided! It was a great bonding experience for the two of us and the poor snake was not quite sure what to make of the situation, but eventually it co-operated.




After another photograph with the now very calm python, I placed it far from the bakkie so that it did not make another mad dash for the much desired heat of the engine. Instead the snake lay on the ground, keeping a beady eye on me before slowly making its way into the undergrowth.





What a start to our and the pythons’ day!


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