It was bound to happen eventually. It was bound to happen because I’m the girl who runs after snakes and not away from them. The one who decides to pick one up and remove it gently from the road as soon as I’m “Oooh, about reasonably, sort of 80% confident that it’s nothing too venomous…”. I’m the one who likes to snap snake photos at eye level by getting down on the ground with one. And I’m also the girl who jumps at the opportunity to remove snakes from safari lodge rooms, because I’m terrified they’ll be ‘removed’ in ‘other ways.’ I can’t bear the thought. I can’t even type the thought.
So this morning during breakfast, a guest casually mentioned they had a brown snake curled around their headboard. I knew I had to be the first ‘on the scene,’ so instead of thinking sensible thoughts beforehand, I ploughed right into the situation. It didn’t take long to see a shiny rope of scales wedged between the wall and the headboard. I knew right away it wasn’t what I had suspected given the description (Brown House Snake, because wouldn’t that be lovely?) When it suddenly popped its head out, just inches from mine, the ambiguity vanished. Fast. Mozambican Spitting Cobra. “We’ve got a cobra!” I excitedly announced to my inquisitive guests.
Foreigners never believe you when you tell them that something is a cobra. It’s like ‘cobra’ has become such an mythical entity in our culture that people don’t realize that a cobra can exist outside of cartoons or the remotest Indian jungles.
“Really?” They asked? “A cobra?”
“Yep! And they spit their venom and…” At that point I became very aware of the fact that I wasn’t wearing anything over my eyes, and I instinctively raised my hand to my forehead, as if I was blocking out the sun or something. Real smart. And real effective. Not really.
With my hand held above my eyes and doing some kind of ridiculous salute to the wall, I continued, “I’ll definitely need to go and grab some sunglasses before we try and…”
And the cobra, reputed for perfectly aiming venom at its victim’s eyes, chooses this moment, when my mouth is open particularly wide as I pronounce the word ‘and,’ to shoot two streams of delicious cytotoxic venom directly into my open mouth. Some landed on my lips and cheek too.
I may have screamed. It got me. I may have screamed “It got me!”
But with the words, came the taste. It didn’t taste good. Oh, and the realization that my mouth was full of spit. But not my spit. Cobra spit. I rushed to the bathroom and started to shovel water into my mouth and rinse as quickly as possible. Over the course of a minute I must have passed hundreds of liters through my mouth. Like a whale. Feeding on plankton.
I kind of love that my guests awkwardly asked if I would be okay and I said yes and then they said, “Uh, we’ll go to breakfast now…” And they left. I was left with the snake. And a mouth full of its still awful tasting venom. And with the most dangerous factor of all, Google.
It’s amazing how there are about 9,472 websites solely dedicated to how and why the spitting cobra is so accurate and always hits the eyes (from super-far away, apparently), and yet there are no answers anywhere to the question:
“What happens when an incompetent young spitting cobra misses your eyes and gets you in the mouth instead?”
I have a snake bite app on my phone, which tells me that ‘If venom lands on the hair, face, arms or elsewhere on the body, it poses no great threat.’ No great threat? Like, there’s some kind of ‘lesser threat?’ And it wasn’t in my hair, it was IN MY MOUTH. What happens when it’s in your mouth?
I have this thing I like to tell guests all the time on game drives. When I’m explaining the difference between poison and venom, I tell people that you should be able to drink snake or scorpion venom, because quite unlike poison, it needs to be injected directly into the bloodstream to really do anything. On those game drives, I sound a little like this:
“Haha, so really, I could just swallow cobra venom and it should be fine, haha. But, I don’t think I’ll be testing that theory anytime soon! Haha! Haha haha.”
Not so funny now.
Test the theory, I did. I’m still doing. Because this only happened about an hour ago. And I love that I can feel literally EVERYTHING that’s happening in my mouth. Mouth mindfulness. All of my attention is right there. Every tingle of the tongue, every bad taste detected by every little tastebud. The smallest little ache screams in my face. I keep reassuring myself that most of what I feel is probably down to the erupting wisdom teeth I’m too chicken to remove. Probably. But I can also rest easy knowing that if anything wild was going to happen, it would have happened by now, even though this horrid taste has persisted through about 14 intensive toothbrushings. So all is good. All is cool. I think.
But I’m definitely going to make sure that this page comes up the next time another innocent victim googles, “what happens when an incompetent young spitting cobra misses your eyes and gets you in the mouth instead?” Here’s the answer. Nothing. Okay, a bit of panic, and a taste not unlike paint thinner (which I’ve sampled in the past), but the theory is true, a little venom in the mouth probably isn’t the end of world. Unless you’ve just had dental surgery. Or have throat ulcers. Or stomach ulcers. Or like a huge tear in your esophagus. Or your lip’s just been split open in a freak accident with a soup can. But let’s not think about that.
Anyway, welcome to Safariosophy! I’m a wildly passionate safari guide, and this is a place to share with you my Safariosophy; my love for the little things, my delight in nature and all the wonderful, transformative and mindful moments you can only experience on African safari.
But not today. Today a cobra spat in my face.
Until next time. Maybe…