There are 20 types of poisonous snakes in Belize. Venomous if you prefer and about 9 of these will do you harm. Some will kill you. Fairly quickly.
Paula and I were holding about 4 snakes between us when our snake wrangler/expert pulled a fairly small snake from its hiding place. It had the familiar wedge shaped viper type head and it was coiled back at the neck in the classic striking position.
“This is da Fer de Lance,” he said in his creole rapid fire dialog. “It is one of very few snakes that will chase you down to bite you.”
He rattled off the names of the others and I recognized them all. I had seen them on television shows with titles like “Worlds Most Dangerous Snakes” and that sort of thing.
The snakes in my hands seemed a wee bit agitated by the latest snake out of the box so I backed off a step and fired a question.
“So, you have been bitten a few times and have built up anti toxins in your body, I guess”?
“No” , he replied. “I have never been bitten by a venomous snake.” He went on to enlighten us about his theories on the vibes we put out around the snakes and how they can sense whether we mean them harm or not. Uhuh, did you just tell us that this snake will attack and chase you down to bite you ? My flight for life vibe would be pegged as I ran screaming through the jungle to get away. Would it really help that I was obviously intending no harm by running for my life?
“A small Fer De Lance like the one you are holding way too close to my arm there…?”
He finished my thought. “Would kill you”
I gave him my most convincing ‘put the snake back in the box look’. It worked, eventually.
Our snake encounter had been one of those quirky happenstances that we most enjoy about random travel. This Sunday morning had started out as a planned trip to the Mayan city of Lamanai. My boss had called about 07:30 and changed the itinerary. I would fly that afternoon and we would need to be back earlier. Plan “B”then. We would drive to the town of Orange Walk with our friend and neighbor Ali. Rather than dropping Ali at Orange Walk and catching a boat to Lamanai, the three of us would tour the town together.
Part way to Orange Walk, Ali mentions the turn off to the Mayan site of Altun Ha just ahead. Orange Walk can wait, we are off to Altun Ha!
Ali has been living on and off in Belize for about five years and knows most everyone of interest. On the road to Altun Ha, Ali points out a typical Belizean two story shack. The gentlemen from the second floor porch waves at me and Ali explained that Baldy has the only snake exhibit with poisonous snakes in Belize. I wonder how much competition you would have in that type of business? First Altun Ha and then we can maybe check out the snakes, or not.
After a few very enjoyable hours wandering the grounds at Altun Ha we were heading back from whence we came. I was not really thinking much about the snake guy as we passed slowly by his place until we saw him waving and smiling with the Anteater on his arm. Braking and parking, Paula starts to make the same noise she reserves for little puppies and such.
Introductions and some catch up dialog between Ali and Baldy and then the question.
“Would you like to hold him,” Baldy asks me?
You bet. Watch the claws and let him hold you. Not the other way around. Solid muscle with front legs proportional to that of a gorilla and claws like a Badger. I am thinking just how strong that prehensile tail is wrapped around my wrist when Baldy mentions that he has only had him for five days.
“And before that?” I ask
“Walking around da jungle,” Baldy replies. Baldy goes onto tell us just how much work it is getting an anteater domesticated.
“Dey will tear right through wood walls and floors with those claws. When it time to eat dey are relentless. You either get dem some termites or dey spend da next 6 hours trying. Da first anteater I ‘ad about tore my floor out”
Time to get those claws off my pilot soft, fleshy little arms. Baldy slashed open a termite nest with his machete. He’d removed it from the jungle and it was laying on the ground. The anteater began licking up termites like a kitten in a bowl of milk. A few weeks earlier Paula and I had gobbled a few termites ourselves while on a guided jungle walk. They taste just like fresh carrots. I am sure that eating a few termites is a much less daunting task than trying to tame a termite-eating anteater.
We slipped Baldy a few bucks for his time and tour and cruised on down the road. Baldy was going to use the money to build a bigger snake enclosure. Whether he does, or just does the Belizean thing and gets a big sound system for the shack is his business. Some snake mellowing tunes might be a good thing. “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys maybe.
Just as long as it doesn’t upset the Anteater.