The Serpent Welcomes us to the Kalahari

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Howling Moon – at Kalahari Trail Restcamp

For the past 2 months, we have enjoyed first world comforts and luxuries that accompany travelling the well-beaten tourist trail from the Drakensberg to Cape Town. Upon reaching the ‘city’ of Upington, it is time we say good-bye to those comforts as we transition from developed South Africa into the wild and desolate Kalahari Desert and Namibia.

Our campsites North of Upington have gotten progressively more wild and remote.

At the Kalahari Monate Lodge, just 13km north of Upington, our campsite was visited by tortoises mating and packs of springboks.

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Discovery Channel . . . LIVE

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Night time image of our campsite at the Kalahari Monate Lodge

At Kalahari Trails Restcamp, there was only salty running water. We had to back track 50km to Askham to find clean drinking water.

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Sunset at the Kalahari Trail Restcamp 

At Twee Rivieren Restcamp inside the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, we came face to face with a deadly predator meters away from our campsite.

After our sunset safari drive, we were relaxing at our campsite over a cold beer and a game of monopoly. All of the sudden Christine’s face turned pale, she pointed over our shoulders and jumped out of her seat. Eugene and I looked back, and saw a long yellow snake slithering towards us. Startled by our gaze, the snake took a sharp turn and took shelter under my tent. We were all speechless.

Eugene’s first instinct was to tip over my tent to get rid of the snake. At this point I recalled seeing a picture of a yellow snake called the Cape Cobra in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park guide. I ran to retrieve my copy of the park guide, found the picture of a yellow snake swallowing another snake and it read:

Cape Cobra: This is probably the most striking snake in the Kalahari. The colouration of individuals can vary from a deep yellow to a dark brown, even black. Although the cobra is relatively docile, it is extremely venomous. It produces a neurotoxic venom which attacks the nervous system. This results in paralysis and death (note: there is no if). The cobra displays its characteristic hood when threatened. A puff adder sees the Cape cobra as its fiercest enemy and will try to quickly get away the moment it becomes aware of one. Apparently puff adders form a big part in the cobra’s diet.”

“Bro, I think this is a Cape Cobra,” I said.

“It surely can’t be, what are the odds,” Eugene said wearily.

Awoken by our commotion, a South African man walked over in his underwear with a cigarette in his mouth and asked what was going on.

“There is a snake underneath my tent.”

“What colour is it?”

“Yellow.”

Suddenly excited, he said, “Damn, it’s a Cape Cobra!”

We had no choice but to call the animal emergency hotline, which we took down at a stroke of genius.

As we anxiously waited for the park ranger, the snake peaked its head out from the bottom of the tent to check out the commotion. Unexpectedly, the snake slithered out of the tent towards our table, settled behind a bag for a brief moment then bolted for the nearest bush as if he knew the ranger was coming.

Although I was relieved the snake left my tent, I am now worried the snake might escape before the ranger gets his hands on it. A Cape Cobra lurking in the shadows of our campground is even more disturbing then knowing it is under my tent – as least I know it will be caught in the latter case.

We collectively breathed out a sigh of relief when we saw the yellow headlights of the Ranger’s truck finally pulled into the parking lot.

The snake guy, with a snake clamp in his hands, a cigarette in his mouth, and his butt crack exposed while surveying the nearby bushes, were quickly joined by old couples stumbling over drunk for the excitement, a French tour guide claiming he would grab the snake with his bare hands if only his head was not next to his tail, and more men in their underwear. It was an odd sight.

You can see the dread and fear in the ranger’s eyes when he was told the loose snake he was summoned to capture was a Cape Cobra. The locals were wise enough to be afraid.

At first, the Cobra was elusive. It hid in the middle of a dense bush where the ranger could not reach. Then the cobra got angry at the ranger’s repeated jabs at him with the snake clamp and displayed its characteristic hood. After 20 minutes of struggle, the Cobra made a crucial mistake. It slithered up the tree where the ranger had an open shot at it, and he made no mistake.

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The ranger in action

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Snake getting angry

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Ranger (left). French tour guide (right), “I’ll catch it with my bare hands!”

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With nowhere to go, the snake decide to climb the tree

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Big mistake

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The guy in charged of the snake bin was not thrilled

That was quite the surreal welcome to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Follow my Odyssey on Twitter @AlpheusChan

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3 thoughts on “The Serpent Welcomes us to the Kalahari

  1. Great story telling, Alpheus! It seems adventure is guaranteed if you go where the cobras roam free. Adventure: a wild experience, awful at the time but that makes a good tale later.

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