Kalahari and the Cape Cobra

As we left Aus and started the long drive (+\- 5 hrs) back north toward the center of the country, i couldn't help but feel a little glum knowing that our trip was in the 11th hour and we'd soon be headed back to the States and back to monotony. I hadn't done much research on the last location we were headed to…I just knew it was a game ranch 'on the way back to Windhoek'. Sounded to me like a stopover for the long journey and not really a destination in itself. And also we were back to camping for these two nights. I've thoroughly enjoyed camping in Africa but they've been having exceptionally warm weather and that's just not really fabulous camping. But we're excited to see the new area as we would now be in the Kalahari region. Yep, two deserts in Namibia, the Namib and the Kalahari. We were in the Kalahari in Botswana too … it's a pretty big desert. Anyway, we arrive at Bagatelle Kalahari game ranch and are greeted by one of the owners. She used her obvious sales skills and upsold us from a campsite to a chalet. We were pretty easy since I was already tempted to ask about any vacancies so we were thrilled to get a room … and it has AC! Also, there is a fairly tame oryx in the shade near the lodge, and just outside our chalet is a very tame springbok. She has what looks like lengths of garden hose on her horns so that she doesn't skewer anyone accidentally. As we unpacked she was sniffing around in the truck and following us around – though with a few feet of buffer zone… curiosity only goes so far! We hurried to catch the evening game drive and while on the drive we mainly saw antelope, it was just nice being on a game drive and taking in the scenic landscape. They recently had rain so there was a fine carpet of light green grass on all the plains, the trees looked lush and animals well fed and watered. Nice to see in the desert! After the drive, we came back to feed the cheetah – more on that later – and then drove to a picturesque overlook where we had sundowners – gin and tonic for me, thanks – and mingled before dinner. Dinner was another event, outside in the boma with a fire crackling nearby. The food and company were wonderful. We ate near a couple from London, a family from Zimbabwe and a couple from Germany. You'll find that not many Americans – at all – come to Namibia. We hadn't met any others until today when we found out that the astronomer they have on staff is from the US – Portland Oregon in fact. After dinner he explained where the Southern Hemisphere stars began in the sky that we obviously wouldn't see in the US. We clearly saw the Milky Way, the Southern Cross and two things that would appear like almost transparent clouds in me night sky…turns out – not clouds but huge and super far away galaxies. Unreal.

Bedtime for bonzo… so we start walking the 150 yards or so to our room which is a standalone chalet. As we approach, Cameron is leading and scanning with the flashlight when I see him freeze and call me over – with obvious alarm in his tone. And there it is… A snake. A big one. Greenish yellow and long. Have I mentioned that Cameron is reeeeeeeeally afraid of snakes? He nearly vomited in Botswana 2 years ago when we just DROVE BY a black mamba at about 40mph. So here he is, eyes locked with this 4-5 foot long snake. He tells me to go run to tell someone and he stays with it with a flashlight so we know where it is. I jogged (as best as possible in flip flops) back to the boma where the owners and staff were just sitting down to their dinner. Politely interrupting I tell them of our snake dilemma and the owner, the astronomer and the owners' 14 year old son accompany me back to the scene, quizzing me along the way as to color, size, etc. I hadn't gotten but a quick glimpse before being dispatched for help so I wasn't much use. Cameron had thought maybe green mamba because of the color but when we arrived Cameron said he'd seen it flare it's hood at some other passers by headed to bed. So there you have it – a cobra. Viper. Whatever you prefer. Technically I think a Cape Cobra but I'm going to make sure when I can get google to confirm. And yep, highly venomous. Not aggressive but not great to have in an area people live. Apparently they've rarely if ever seen a snake in the camp before… And only even rarely out in the bush on game drives. These cape cobras are known for entering the sociable weavers nest – a nest that can span an entire camel thorn tree – and eat the birds and their eggs. But this one was in the wrong place at the wrong time. So the heavy artillery showed up… Unfortunately for the snake, he had to be killed. And this was, of course, the only acceptable option for Cameron. Had that not been the eventuality, we'd have packed up at 10:00pm and headed on down the road. Not for any reason other than Cameron not being sure where the snake now was and of course when it would next jump out of the bushes and attack him. The owner made quick work of it and then we all gathered a little closer around to get a better look. Man was he big. Not fat but long…. And yellow. Cameron did his best to stay calm, even getting a closer look – once it was dead, duh – and just as he was leaning in to take an iPhone photo of the deadly beast, the owner used the tong thingys to fling the snake in Cameron's direction. I've never see him move so fast or scream so loudly. Once he composed himself, the laughing ensued. It was pretty fantastic. The owner apologized profusely the next day but even Cameron thought it was funny and all was well.

Next we go on a horseback safari…can't wait! That's been on my wish list since we first went to Africa 3 years ago.