Sunday, July 27

Hunting Vipers

I am in the jungles of Costa Rica, the only thing visible a pale swath of endless green foliage that I illuminate with my headlamp as I hack my way through the thick forest, ducking under branches, pushing aside leaves as big as my body, stepping over roots crawling with insects and spiders. Inky blackness fills the space between the wet palm fronds. It all looks the same in this deluge. Big fat tropical rain drops crack loudly all around as they hit branches, leaves, and fronds on their plunge to the forest floor. My wet socks sloshing around in the trapped puddle of water that have become my boots. All my senses on high alert. I have become the jungle, everything is the same as we are both soaked in this warm and steamy rain.

I am wandering, dreamlike, looking for the yellow eye-lash viper. A tiny and impossibly colored snake with a venom known to kill its victims, intended prey and accidental human alike. I’ve never seen this snake, but our guide tells us they sit in branches at night, just about head height, and to watch where we put our hands as we push aside the foliage.

I am part of a film crew, shooting a nature show. We’ve been in Costa Rica for a week and have already filmed wild sloths, pulled baby crocodiles from the rivers, handled bats and creepy centipedes. But this night is different. I wander through this prehistoric jungle and am snapped awake to the awareness that I am living my boyhood dream. I’ve spent hours in my room as a kid, imagining this very moment; the primordial fog, the heavy and all encompassing wet heat, the jungle night sounds of hundreds of tree frogs, the looming prehistoric trees rising upward, far beyond my darkened tunnel view. 

I push deeper into the jungle, what I can’t see my imagination fills in for me, the unknown creatures waiting here, watching me among this mysteriously familiar place. My bedtime stories would whisk me away to this very moment, preparing me for sometime in the future, where I am now, in this wild jungle, in a tropical downpour, hunting for vipers.

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