Most of my readers may be aware of my lovely boyfriend’s strange interest but for those of you that have no idea let me tell you the way I tell most people we meet on the road.
“Yeah well we’re travelling but also…well… here it comes again… Ben is obsessed with snakes, so we’re kind of looking for reptiles too,” I confess to the unsuspecting traveller.
They will then pretend they aren’t weirded out and say “oh wow, cool. Have you found any poisonous snakes?”
At this point I will interject while Ben laughs nervously. “Well interestingly,” I begin, “snakes are actually venomous, not poisonous. Well there is one poisonous snake but that’s only because it eats a certain type of frog…” And then I trail off realising I’m starting to sound like Ben. Such is the life of a reptile widow.
We have recently been in West Bengal where Ben has been able to meet up with his friend Vishal. He is the go to guy in North East India for conservation and rescuing snakes. We are having the most amazing time staying with his lovely welcoming family but most of all Ben is in his element because Vishal is always up for snake activities.
This has meant that I am becoming a reptile widow.
What is a reptile widow?
It’s a state where Ben starts to put the need to take pictures of a reptile before my need to get away from all the bothersome mosquitoes in the field where the reptile is, for example. But anyway, here I am going to write my confessions and I’m going to vent my frustrations with my status of reptile widow.
1. I do not enjoy wandering around fields for hours, no matter how many things we find.
We have seen some incredible scenery in India, especially when we’ve been ‘herping’ (snake hunting) with Vishal. But even the most beautiful scenery can only sustain you for so long. When you’ve got up too early to have breakfast, it’s hot and clammy and it’s been 2 hours you should not be surprised when I want to call it a day.
2. Especially not at night.
I’m absolutely terrible at staying awake once I’m tired. I am the person that falls asleep in the car, usually in the day, but always at night. I just cannot keep my eyes open. The last 2 nights I’ve been dragged out to the same area of rice paddies and fields to try and find cobras, kraits and so on. Did we find any snakes? Pah!
At night you can’t even watch the scenery to pass the time. All you have to look at is the circle of light from your headtorch getting slowly dimmer and dimmer because it will never charge properly. Your neck feels crooked from looking down and your eyes are heavy with sleep. But you have to keep going… just in case you find a snake.
3. Do we really have to take 300 photos of the same snake in one go?
Now, I understand that photography is an art and you have to adjust all the settings and take time to get the subject sitting correctly. But of course the problem with snakes is that they rarely want to bloody well sit still. This means that there will be a constant cycle of:
- Arrange snake into position
- Ben gets into position to take photo
- Snake suddenly moves
- Snake is rearranged into a different position
- Ben takes photos
- Snake gets annoyed and moves again
- Ben needs to change camera settings
- Snake is rearranged
- Ben takes photos
- Snake has a hissy fit (literally) and hides under a rock
and so on and so forth. Of course sometimes the snake really doesn’t want to cooperate and will make a break for it. If thats the case there will be a super fun interlude when Ben has to try and catch the bloody thing again and calm it down. After that repeat the above steps 1-10 for another few hours. This is reptile photography my friends.
4. If I have to be ‘flash bitch’ please tell me when I can rest my arm.
Ben warned me well in advance of this trip that my role would be ‘flash bitch’. This means that while he is taking photos I am the lucky person that gets to hold the external flash above the snake. This is especially fun when Ben says “Just get a little closer to the (ridiculously venomous and angry) snake, Sarah.”
Oh yeah sure Ben, no worries.
As confession 3 illustrates this photoshoot can also take hours. Now I won’t lie, I think my arm muscles will be amazing after all the holding I’m doing. But it would be nice if you let me have a break now and again.
5. Sorry but I can’t remember the snake you’re talking about
Ben has so many snakes at home that I can’t possible remember all their scientific complicated names. Either he has to use the names I make up for them or describe them to me to see if I can pick them out of my terrible memory. Sometimes I don’t know whether to nod along and pretend I know what he’s talking about, or to just tell him “I don’t know! They’re all just snakes to me!”
6. I am super smug when I spot a snake before you
Not gonna lie, it is a pretty good feeling when I spot a snake before you. You, the expert of all things reptile, have to accept that I, total reptile amateur, saw the snake before you. He he he. Below is a picture of the first snake we found in India. Well, that I found 😉
7. I still have to draw the line at bugs
You’re lucky enough to have a girlfriend that accepts the reptiles, lets not push it with creepy crawlies now. Granted some are really interesting but ew ew ew. I have already had a cockroach land on my head. I cannot stand the constant mosquito bites and horseflies. Please don’t make me get any closer to them than I have to.
Also, when I ask you to get rid of the massive hornet flying around our room, that doesn’t mean ‘trap it to take photos’.
8. I really hate when you steal all my ziplock bags for artefacts that you find
I carry ziplock bags for many reasons. They are so useful for food, cosmetics, dirty things you need to put in your backpack, literally everything. But now my supply is dwindling, it’s virtually gone. Why? Because every shed skin we find has to be packaged up. Every cool bug you want to photograph later is plopped into one of these bags and left around our rooms waiting for its photoshoot. Half of them are now unusable due to all the animals that have been inside them, and the other half are now holding artefacts.
9. I similarly don’t like when you force me to put shed skins in my pockets for you to take home.
You may not mind having flakes of snake skin hanging round in your pockets but this is where I draw the line. While we’re travelling and we have little opportunity to do any washing I really dislike having to pick out these bits of cobra skin from my fleece pockets for weeks after you beg me to carry it for you.
10. With all the annoyances, I am actually super proud of how passionate you are.
Despite having begrudgingly adopted the status of reptile widow, I am still always so impressed at your knowledge of nature. Even though it can take hours and hours I must admit it is exciting when you finally find something, and lets be honest the photos you take are amazing. You’ve opened up a whole other world of travelling to me and despite the numerous venomous snakes that are now in my life I know you’d never put me in any real danger (I hope).
I guess I’ll always be a reptile widow but that’s fine by me.
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Note: Ben is a very responsible, experienced herpetologist and no animals have been harmed. He is also fully trained to handle venomous reptiles and you should not try this at home or anywhere else if you are not experienced.