As you may imagine, when you live in a house in an African forest, you get some pretty unwelcome guests from time to time.
These visitors usually make their appearance at the beginning of summer, when the warm heat of the Mozambican sun wakes them out of their winter sleep … and they get on the move!
There are the scorpions that give you a fiery dart, causing you to swell up for a couple of days and then there are the mosquitoes that bring you to your bed for a week or so with malaria.
But the most unwelcome of all these visitors are the snakes.
Now, you would think that snakes would stick to the trees and realize their unpopularity when they invade human space but … oh, no … some of them don’t.
We have had Mozambican spitting cobras in our bread oven, inside the vent of our deep freeze on the verandah and even a Mozambican spitting cobra on top of the engine of our red Toyota pickup!
O’D didn’t believe me when I told him that I had seen a Mozambican spitting cobra slide up into the pickup. So, when he opened up the bonnet to have a look … gave a high-pitched scream … and then slammed the bonnet shut again, I must admit I felt a certain satisfaction at his reaction.
This satisfaction didn’t last long, though. Because within a few minutes of trying to extract the cobra (without taking the precaution of wearing the safety goggles I offered him), he got a very painful squirt of venom into his left eye. Of course, pandemonium reigned after that. We poured three cartons of milk into his eye to wash out the poison and then, with a virulently scarlet-coloured and demonic- looking eye, he drove off to the local nurse for attention. Fortunately, the milk was the right thing to do and his eye was undamaged.
Apart from being extremely dangerous, Mozambican spitting cobras can shoot their venom out as far as 3 metres and the venom can cause blindness if not washed off quickly.
And then, not so long ago, we found a python in the house. We were off to bed and about to blow out the paraffin lamps that light us up at night, when Zorro (our dog) started sniffing at the sitting room door. When I looked behind the door, I got quite a shock. There, curled up in the corner, was a snake! Unable to see what kind of snake it was in our dim light, O’D attacked it with a walking stick. In the morning we discovered it was a young python.
There is one snake in our forest, though, that doesn’t frighten us at all. This is the Cape file snake. It’s a docile species that never bites, although it may excrete a foul-smelling fluid. It’s a predator of other snakes, even poisonous ones, as it is immune to their venom. Here in Mozambique, it’s believed that witch doctors can make the Cape file snake steal money for them!