CLIVE’S CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE SLITHERY KIND (OR: IT TAKES TWO TO MAMBA!)
LAST Saturday morning, while running through the cane fields and as I was cresting an uphill climb about 18 k’s into my run, I saw a gun-steel grey, elongated, shimmering ‘something’ that was out of place on a dusty beige gravel road. It was about one metre to the front and left of my plodding feet. It was moving slowly and going away from me. Black Mamba!
It got as much of a surprise as I did and reacted as only a mamba does. In quicker than a blink it was standing at waist height and did a sort of “cough” at me, its black mouth glaringly obvious and ominous. Nobody was around but if there had been they’d have heard a funny sound coming from me, something like a mixture of a yelping puppy and a guy getting one to the midriff - essentially a man-scream but in reality a squeal of terror.
I was moving pretty slowly at the time, head down and completely absorbed in my own thoughts, but my reaction was instantaneous. I sprang forward with my momentum, quicker than I ever thought I was capable of. That snake watched me the whole way, pivoting on itself as I went past it. It then went back down and slid into the grass a couple of metres away.
I stopped and watched the moving grass to track its progress and to gather myself together at the same time. I also looked about to see if there was anyone around who may have heard my squeal (I couldn't believe that I’d made such a high-pitched sound). The mamba then lifted its head again, this time from about ten metres away. It was now checking on me.
When it saw I was standing still it simply raised itself taller, turned to face me square on and stared me down. It was obvious what it was trying to tell me so I backed up, turned around and started running again - a bit quicker than before of course. I’m glad to say that I was much better composed this time around and did not utter any little girl sounds.
If that sequence of events, and my reaction, was caught on YouTube it would've gone viral. I actually burst out laughing a half minute or so later while playing it over in my mind. The mamba was three metres plus and thick. I ran the remaining section home on top of the middle mannetjie - all the way.
About an hour earlier my wife Antje and the girls had passed the same spot with me on the outward bound leg on their bicycles. I can just imagine the chaos if a snake like that gets stuck amongst a crowd.
CLIVE HOCKLY’s encounter with the black mamba took place on Saturday April 12. On Monday 14th he was back at his Head Office desk where he is administration manager.