We were riding bareback across Los Llanos. I had chased an anteater through piranha-infested pools. We had climbed a tree to see a sleeping tamandua. The little horses knew their way to the river, where some locals beckoned eagerly, ¡ven y mira, anaconda! We dismounted and waded to a wooded bank, where men and boys were pulling the great snake from its hole. We pulled. The snake’s large scales were cold and rough, blue and grey and white, and its cloaca stank. We held the huge reptile across twelve or more arms – it was twenty feet long, a foot thick. Its damp bulk lay across my forearms like meat, or like a beast from a world of quite different desires, laid beneath my gaze. Its big blue head turned slowly, this way and that, its thick tongue seeking solace, but I didn’t catch its eye. Then we let the beast go, or rather stopped holding it back. It slid quickly into the black water and was gone. Yes, I could show you a photograph, but these days I feel ashamed to have flown so many miles to pull a creature out of its home. They all knew where to find it, to show the tourists, the snake an unwilling performer in the play. We rode back to the lodge well-satisfied, but that feeling has mouldered. Let the creatures of earth alone, let us meet them on their terms, not ours.

Posted: Tue 26 Apr, 2022