“No one’s scared of snakes, are they?” our Malay guide inquired before we set out in the jungle on our trek through the nature reserve at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria.
A Scottish woman’s hand shot in the air, as she exclaimed in a heavy brogue, “who isn’t?!” then realized she was the only one who ‘fessed up.
Now, not raising my hand was not a lie of omission. Snakes have never particularly worried me. When I used to work in the Arizona desert, we would have to constantly be on the look out for rattlers, as 150 or so kids lived on that ranch in summer months. A couple times, we (being the boys I worked with) would skin the rattlers we found and fry them up for dinner. Humane? Probably not. But we couldn’t have the threat of such a dangerous reptile prowling the premises with five year olds in close proximity, and I always think if you’re going to kill a living thing, the least you can do is make use of it.
The day SVV and I got engaged in Sierraville, just inches away from where we sat, we witnessed two four footers doing, in their case, the vertical tango, and instead of running off in fear, we were both riveted. I don’t do sharks. But snakes? I find them a bit fascinating.
Of course, all of that changes when you come eye-to-eye with one.
Our guide calmly went on to explain that the jungle was full of green vipers, black spitting cobras and a number of other dangerous slitherers. “But don’t worry. We very rarely, if ever, seen them on the cut path.” Truth be told, the threat of snakes didn’t make me squirm; I was more concerned with the spiders and scorpions we might encounter instead.
I’m a bit of an eager trekker. I like to be at the front of the pack, so throughout our hour hike, I hovered just behind our guide and ahead of the other 20 or so vacationers in our group. Perhaps this zeal doesn’t always serve me well. In this case, it almost didn’t.
I was going along my merry way, keeping my eyes peeled for bugs not reptiles, when I saw something move just a few inches to the right of my foot. I paused. “Oooh look, guys, it’s a snake!” I bent down and started to get closer. The guide turned around and went bug-eyed when he saw what I’d spotted.
(In retrospect, aren’t guides trained to notice every last subtle movement in the jungle? The fact that he didn’t see a large snake lingering just off the path worries me ever so slightly.)
SVV whipped out the camera, but our guide was screaming at us to quickly move away with such vigor that we figured we probably better do what he said instead of pausing to take a photo, as both of us were inclined to do. It’s probably a good thing we listened, too, as we found out later that the black spitting cobra is lethal and blinds its prey by spitting venom into their eyes. Now, my parents paid good money for these set of eyes—get Lasik, it will change your life—and I didn’t want to upset them. So we removed ourselves from the potential crime scene, as the cobra disappeared into the brush. A near miss, and it was only the third day of our honeymoon in Borneo. Luckily, a future encounter with an angry fish would promise I didn’t leave the island unscathed.
Still, all I could think of was the end scene in Rikki Tikki Tavi. At least things worked out better for me than they did the mongoose.