“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places” (Roald Dahl)

 

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viper_pitI remember the first snake I ever saw in Malaysia; I was standing about 5 feet away from it and the guide was pointing it out to me…

“It’s there”, he said.

“Where?” I replied.

“There!  There!” and I could tell my guide was getting increasingly frustrated by apparent blindness to spot the thing that was right in from of me.

The main reason I couldn’t see the snake was not it’s beautiful camouflage but rather that I was looking for the wrong thing.  Having been brought on Hollywood films, my eyes were searching for a large and fearsome snake, rearing up from the undergrowth – not the tiny, slender little thing that hung, utterly motionless, like a piece of discarded string draped over a small branch.

It was a small pit viper and, unlike other more accommodating snakes (cobras and the like) they are stubborn little creatures; ambush hunters who lie in wait and refuse to get out of your way as you blunder through the jungle.

This morning I went out to free the geese and almost immediately spotted the snake that lay coiled in my path and it made me realise that I have become much better at spotting snakes than I used to be.  What had changed?  The first thing that’s changed is the pattern recognition going on in my brain – I know what to look for simply because I’ve seen it before.  The other thing that has changed is that I have become accustomed to looking carefully before stepping forward – I try not to step on anything as I don’t like killing animals unnecessarily – even ants!  But this closet-buddhist sentimentality has the upside that I’ve now become very aware of what’s going on at the jungle floor beneath me…

So here’s an odd tip for jungle trekking – try not to step on insects in your path,  it may save you from a snake bite one day!

….and don’t walk around in flip flops!