Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Fistful Of Slithers

My buddy, Stretch Moonman, gave me some images of pythons which hatched in the Reptile Park where he's the curator:

One of the Pythons in Stretch's care.

The Southern African Python is the largest snake in Southern Africa, averaging 3-4 m long. Previously known as the African Rock Python, it's called 'Ombome' by the Owambo people of Namibia.

Pythons are extremely valuable in controlling rodent populations but are indiscriminately killed by fearful, ignorant humans.

Pythons have been reported to kill people but this is very rare. Pythons can however, inflict painful and dangerous bite-wounds which may require medical attention.

I once kept a small python, Monty, for a while but released 'him' into the bush after he slithered into my shirt and left a row of bloody teeth marks on my back.

A clutch of eggs laid by one of the large females in the Reptile Park early this year.

Pythons usually lay between 30-60 eggs and are the only snake I know of which incubate their eggs and remain with the babies for two weeks or more after hatching.

The eggs, each slightly smaller than a tennis ball, hatched after 91 days.

Mama raises her head in a defensive posture, her body coiled around the 21 newly-hatched babes.

Awwwww ...

I visited Stretch earlier this year and photographed two of the babes which he had in his living quarters.

Stretch doesn't have to worry about break-ins and thefts - no would-be thief has the courage to enter his house because of his reputation for keeping all kinds of dangerous snakes.

One of the two babes in Stretch's house was the 'runt' of the litter (with the spot, or scar on it's forehead).

When I last spoke to him, he said that the poor creature had all sorts of health problems and that he thought it will not survive.

Stretch displays some of his 'babies' before taking them out into the bush and releasing them.

The harsh reality is that very few of them will survive to adulthood, most will be eaten by birds of prey and other predators.

I wonder what the collective noun is for a bunch of baby pythons ... a Medusa?

Johan Marais - Snakes Of Southern Africa.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Thorn Among Roses

When I returned home in July I had a unique experience: for the first time I met 'Someone from the Internet'.

Leslie, (left in pic), is a dynamic American lady who, through an Aid Organization, volunteered her time and money to do a stint teaching Computer Literacy in a rural school in Northern Namibia.

She was thrown in at the deep-end when, upon arrival, she was asked to teach English instead - seemingly because the previous teacher had suddenly bailed-out, unable to handle the challenge and tough living conditions.

Undaunted by the sorry state of our education system and the cultural obstacles facing the pupils, she has bravely set about her task, determined to make a difference in the lives of the kids.

We started communicating through our Tumblr accounts before she arrived in Namibia and our paths crossed when she attended a workshop in the town close to my home. Together with her colleague Elise, she was able to visit for a few hours.

I was pretty nervous about the meeting - I recalled how, as a teenager, I had met-up with a Pen Pal from a wealthy family and had felt uncomfortable in my ordinary clothes and ways. I needn't have worried with Leslie and Elise; I dunked my cookies in my coffee and all was cool ... they were just people like me.

Also, being aware of the dangers of meeting strangers from Cyberspace, I appreciated the risk that they were taking and felt a certain angst to somehow demonstrate that I'm not a creepy old perv.

Mind you, I probably did come across as a bit of a Dufus because I'm a little hard-of-hearing and sometimes had trouble processing their Southern accents - heavens knows what I sounded like to them in my flat Effrican Inglish.

Sadly, our time together was too short to get into any serious conversations.

I have two vivid memories of our meeting. The first is that Leslie listens to Bob Dylan - I would have loved to explore her interest in his music further because Dylan had a defining influence on my thinking when I was about her age.

My second memory is that she had on the coolest pair of shoes I've ever seen - they looked like a snug slipper but they had toes, like a foot-glove. I couldn't believe my eyes but have since heard that these shoes are not uncommon - maybe I've been in the bush too long.

Anyway, if she had a quiver of arrows slung across her shoulder and a bow in hand, the picture would have been complete - now, whenever I think of her, I have this recurring image of a fleet-footed Huntress or Warrior popping into my head ... yeah, I know, ... that's just the way my mind works.

I would have liked to have taken a photo to show you her shoes but that might have seemed weird, ... eh?

Before she arrived, Leslie asked in a mail if I thought it safe for her to travel solo around Africa and I replied "No!", it's too risky ...

Well, I've changed my mind - I think she would breeze a journey through this Continent ... go places where I would fear to tread.

Leslie will be in Nam until December and I hope we get the chance to sit and chat around a fire before she returns home.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Slouching Towards Blogylon

Hello Friends,

Before I left for the North at the end of June I was unable to post because I was feeling uninspired and negative about life in general - probably the Post-60 Blues.

I thought that it didn't matter whether or not I posted my usual "I'll Be Bach" entry when I go off-line for awhile.

... I was wrong and I apologise to those of you who became alarmed by my extended silence.

Even though we may never meet and only communicate through blog comments and the occasional mail, it's finally beginning to sink into my skull that the feelings of affection and goodwill we have for each other here in cyberspace are as valid as those in 'real life' (indeed, even the distinction between real and cyber is rapidly blurring).

When I arrived home I was horrified to find that one night of Black Frost had destroyed many plants ... the whole world seemed bleak and grey. My neighbour lost hundreds of Mango trees.

What upset me most was the loss of the ever-messy but shade-giving Flamboyant Tree in front of the house.

I've seen Black Frost a few times but it's never affected the Flamboyant before - I'm hoping that it's not dead but, when I left a few days ago, there was still no sign of any new life.

Spirit seems none the worse off after his castration in April - I got him to the Vet just in time, because Mutt was starting to recognise Spirit as a potential rival and attacked him viciously every time he saw him, attempting to drive him off.

As for Mutt, I was also going to have him 'done' in April but I had to cancel two hard-to-get Vet appointments because both times wily Mutt outwitted me and escaped from the room in which I'd locked him ... I've decided to just leave him alone now and let him be a Tom - I reckon that after his two incredible escapes he's earned his 'wings'.

At least now, when Mutt returns home every few days to grab a bite to eat, he still gives Spirit the evil-eye but refrains from attacking him.

I wish that Spirit would make himself more useful though - by catching mice instead of birds and lizards.

I spent six weeks building a new Septic Tank and in the process screwed my back up - I was in agony for the whole period and it's frustrating that my body hurts so easily these days.

Perhaps I should take up knitting instead - (don't laugh, I have vivid memories of my Grandfather knitting while puffing on his pipe).

I had to construct the Septic Tank as a matter of urgency because without it I can't progress much further on the house. I chose to build it during winter because it would have been sheer hell down in that hole during summer - also the risk of flooding if it rained.

The tank is very big and probably a case of overkill on my part but, ... hey, now I can die satisfied, knowing that I've provided a service to Mankind which may endure for centuries ... :)

There were dozens of different species of birds around, including my favourites, the Fork-tailed Drongo - I just love the way these birds dive up into the air to catch insects at dusk. Drongos are aggressive birds, fighting amongst themselves and also attacking much larger birds of prey.

The Drongo is known as "Rungada" amongst the Owambo people who also call it the 'Foreman of all Birds' because it is the first to start singing and calling before the sun rises ... it wakes the chickens up.

Also, for the first time in twenty-something years, I saw two Crows fly over the house.

The Fur People are all ok and Stoffel enjoyed our nightly walk-a bouts, chowing bugs and digging up sprouts.

I take Stoffel out as the sun is setting because then she's less likely to wander off and get up to mischief. After she's done her rounds she comes inside quite happily, has a drink of Horlicks and then heads off to bed, snuggling under the covers during winter.

Sunsets were spectacularly red because of all the dust and smoke from bush fires.

I know that winter is the time of death and rebirth and all that but, I much prefer summer, even though I often long for just one moment of coolness during the oppressive heat ...

I hope to have some interesting post in the next few days.

Once again, my apologies for being so thoughtless:

... if I were a Good Man, I'd talk with you more often than I do ...