Snakes are a bit of a risk in Sub-Saharan Africa. They’re a risk in most countries except sleepy UK. Not a total risk, there are still lots of people alive in Africa so I think our chances are good, but about 1.5 million people a year are bitten by snakes in the region, and that’s enough for me to consider and investigate what to do, as we won’t normally be near a hospital.
I’ve come across snakes a few times in my life. I wouldn’t want to be placed in a pit of them but, in my experience, they are harmless. Back many years ago, walking in the Kenyan bush, the person in front of me stepped off the path and almost onto a snake. Startled, the black spitting cobra fled in my direction, its head reared up ready to attack. To be fair to the cobra, it was fleeing from a fat foot landing on it during its afternoon nap. Luckily, as I was dawdling a few metres back, I had time to leap out the way and the cobra carried on gliding past and dived into the undergrowth as swiftly as possible. This is my understanding of snakes, leave them alone when they are sleeping, get out their way when they’re scared, make lots of noise so they hear you coming and they’ll not bother you.
However, Emma almost sat on a puff adder in South Africa. Puff adders are well camouflaged, apparently like to lie on roads and paths for warmth and, unlike most snakes, don’t move when they hear you coming. This ‘can’t be arsed to move but don’t step on me or you die’ attitude, makes them a hazard for Emma and whoever is cycling with her at the time. I realise I am anthropomorphising and that adders possibly stay still because it would ruin their camouflage. But then, I suggest, if you’re really good at blending into the background you shouldn’t get angry when someone steps on you. Take it as a compliment. They and black mambas have a bad reputation. I consider anti-venom for each of them.
Searching for information on anti-venom on the Internet, I discover that humans can have a fatal reaction to it. I guess it has to be powerful stuff to counteract the snake’s poison. I also learn that snakes often bite without adding poison. It’d be tragic, if the snake didn’t put enough poison in, only for the anti-venom to cause anaphylactic shock. It seems anti-venom is not stuff for a first aider to administer.
Happily, I also read that most people survive snake bites as long as you stay calm and keep your pulse rate slow, http://www.thesafariguide.net/safari-guide/snakes. Keeping your pulse rate slow will give you longer to get to the hospital. If you’re scared of snakes practice keeping calm. Which means rock or indoor climbing is not only a source of fun, it’s training for controlling our fear. I might learn to meditate too.
In the unlikely event of being snacked on by a python, we should keep a bottle of alcohol with us. Apparently, they don’t like it in their eyes or up their nose. I think a nice strong spirit, like, say, tequila (gold).
And finally, here are a couple of cute photos of snakes, I don’t know if they’re deadly, but they are pretty: