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Friday, 1 March 2013

Snakes and sandals.

My boyfriend seems to attract snakes, which makes trekking in sandals through Chitwain National Park very unwise. The park is reached by crossing a wide shallow river, which at cold dewy dawn and pink pearly dusk is frequented by the Nepalese one-horned rhino and the occasional Bengal tiger, quenching their thirst. 

Five hours into the jungle we approached an eight foot wall of elephant grass; our young but intuitive guide, Dinesh whispered that he’d spotted a rhino and her baby bathing in a partially concealed lake. Keen to get a glimpse Dinesh agreed to lead us through the elephant grass along the path ploughed by rhinos. Taking our shoes and socks off we gingerly tested the thick murky water, easing our feet along the slimy lake bed and sinking every so often into a rhino footprint. We reached the opening into the lake with trepidation, breath held lest we disturb the peace. All of a sudden Dinesh’s small frame quivered with excitement “pass me your camera” he exhaled. 

Dinesh made frantic gestures towards the water near my boyfriend’s bare leg, “Indian Rock Python”! Sten splashed away hastily. I glanced at Mother Rhino. She stared back. Apparently we had not expressed enough excitement at the latest discovery; “that can swallow a deer whole!” Dinesh exclaimed. It transpired we were sharing our water space with Kaa from The Jungle Books. Back on dry land, with twigs and miscellaneous jungle paraphernalia between our toes, we continued our journey along a wide path fringed with Rosewood and Rhino Apple trees whose trunks were twisted out of shape by winding creepers. 

“Stop” We froze. I glanced around in anticipation: Tiger!? A Sloth bear? Once again Dinesh was pointing down at Sten’s feet where a lime green snake perhaps eight inches long just happened to be. “That snake can kill you in ten seconds” he explained calmly, as Sten leapt out of the way. We admired the smooth graceful body from a distance before continuing our tiger quest. Post jungle drinks with another jungle guide brought forth the exclamation of “Ten seconds? More like two seconds!” but later Google research showed that this poor hyped viper has been the victim of an urban legend, perhaps one based on the occasional allergic reaction. Still, sandals in the jungle? Lesson learned (one hopes)!

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