A Wild Bali Python
Snakes have been responsible for some of the most wild and dramatic deaths in Indonesia. Recently, a missing 25 year-old man was reportedly found in the belly of a massive Python, a local King Cobra chaser died from a lethal bite, a security guard at the Bali Hyatt squeezed to death by another python. Just less than a kilometre away from the Hyatt, I met one of the island's wild pythons, and the experience was more than I anticipated.
I attended a talk about the latest in discoveries and conservation of the island's creepy crawlies. I was going as a wingwoman as favour to a friend on a tinder date. Honesty, it sounded like a snooze-fest, but I'm a team player.
The talk turned out to be enthralling, and of the 30ish attendies at the quiet beach cafe in Sanur, most were local Balinese University students, some expat reptile people, and a dozen of Bali's most interesting and dangerous snakes and lizards - most caught in the bush in the previous 48 hours.
When an only "mildly venomous" snake was passed around, I jumped out of my seat and grabbed my gopro to "document." Haha. I don't have many fears, and I guess I never realised I was afraid of snakes. Yep. I am.
After the talk, I approached the goofy and brilliant British ex-pat known locally as "the Snake Man." He’s into snake conservation, volunteers at local schools, spends evenings at this favourite waterfall in the jungle, looking for snakes to befriend, and comes to anyone’s home on the island if they have a snake that needs wrangling. I had to meet him. When I introduced myself, he was handling a young female wild python he rescued.
I’m majorly into thrills and I rarely run from trouble or danger… But, the unpredictable movements of her scales slithering around the Snake Man’s neck made me wanna bolt.
Which made me want to confront my fear and get over it.
I took a breath and asked if I could hold her.
I felt fear like a full body nervous suit, I had to shut my eyes when her head and darting tongue hovered in front of my face. She twisted and moved around my neck, and then she settled, and, to my surprise, she felt like something so familiar. She felt like love.
Smooth, heavy, warm, enchanting love.
I ended up with her looped around my neck, shoulders, weaving through my hair, and dancing up my face, for almost half an hour. I melted! It was magical. It was the first time I held a snake and it felt so different from situations where I've seen captive-bred mega-pythons paraded for tourists to pet, or even when I've shyed away from offers to hold small snake pets of friends. She was magic.
She was wild, born in the bush of this mythical island. And, she had a tangible soul.
It was weird, I could feel it... her presence, personality, and playfulness, it was powerful. I could tell she was into me! Seriously! As she relaxed, and quite literally snuggled into me, hung around my neck, and rested her head just under my ear, against my neck, I was overwhelmed with an amazing feeling.
That good love.
That love that I'm into.
I was vulnerable. She could kill me. I got that "I feel loved" hit that also happens when a baby or puppy falls asleep in your arms, but there was an extra level of vivid freedom. She didn't have to be there, or chill on me, or even let me live.
But there she was... cold-blooded, but warm and tender.
She wasn't dependent on me for survival, she wasn't the result of thousands of years of domestication to be my companion. I still love babies and puppies, don't get me wrong, but this was a different feeling. And opened up a cascade of questions.
What is this strange and somehow settling and unsettling feeling unleashed when a wild snake wraps around you, not to kill you, but maybe just to connect or love on you?! It’s crazy cool!
Why is it so intoxicating?
Is the "cuddle hormone” cocktail of dopamine and oxytocin are even more potent when laced with adrenaline?
Why do I fall for, curl up and get cozy with wild pythons when there are so many sweet puppies who love me?
Should I outgrow this hunt for an equally dangerous and settling love or just lean into it?
Has my heart been broken enough, have I fallen hard enough, have I hurt deep enough?
Should I learn to love to play in shallow water with sweet puppies?
Or should I keep searching by starlight for glistening scales near waterfalls?