Life certainly has a way of keeping us all grounded. When you are enjoying too much of the up, it’s like a large swooping hand comes along and knocks you down and you land up with dirt in the eyes, sweat on the forehead and flattened to the ground.

I think having children is possibly the first adult encounter of the “being-properly-grounded”. I became a teacher and somehow this allows one to believe that one has all the answers on raising children. Did I come down to ground very swiftly when our first bundle was born? So fast! I came face-to-face with every “I will not…” judgey, judgey comment I ever made. The baby slept on me, she called most of the shots, and life revolved around our colicky screamer. When baby two arrived we were certain he had a problem. Hardly cried. And then baby three was in the room furthest from the mother so she slept through so very quickly… But, they have all had their turns in keeping us real.

So, this week we have had one of those moments. We have loved bringing nature to you. But, nature has her dark side too and no matter how careful we are, there will always be risks.

Lockdown day 18 was more eventful than we let on. We decided to do an afternoon walk. Just the folks, Murray and I. Of course, 5 dogs were in tow and we headed out on a wonderfully warm afternoon past Cowslip Falls Dam and along the MTB track which meanders above the Grotto. I was ahead but then we switched because I wanted to get a photo of them descending the ridge with the Cavern buildings in the background. Mother was striding ahead and suddenly she screamed and stumbled; “I’ve been bitten. A puff-adder”. My heart just sank. Our poor Gogo! No! Not in this bloody lockdown!

Lesson 1 in trying to run a hotel is to always keep a calm head. And, actually, this also comes from having a very resilient mother who remains super calm in every chaotic and stressful situation. I immediately called Stephen, our local paramedic. I know too how important it is for someone else to make calls when someone close is at risk. Stephen said he’d organise how and where and we were to get her off the mountain very slowly. He did not want her walking at all.

It was a large adder. Fangs went through her jeans and into her leg. The intrusions were a few centimetres apart – certainly not a small snake!! It bled a bit but she said she wasn’t in pain. I called our lockdown team and everyone came to help. We carried her to Cowslip on the metal stretcher and then moved her from there, by car, to the solar field. Stephen had arrived and had arranged for her to be airlifted to Bethlehem. Covid-19 meant that the Free State would be better and to avoid road blocks and delays the chopper was best.

It was exciting to see the chopper come in – lucky the lovely lady pilot grew up in Ladysmith so knew our area. Gogo was placed on a drip and given oxygen. She remained insanely calm. Seeing her depart was horrible. She would be all alone, two hours from us, and would not be allowed visitors.
In times of great joy, we celebrate and drink tea. In times of worry, we gather and drink tea. As she headed off we all descended to the home and made a tea party. Our cups were hardly cold when she messaged to say she’d landed.

Antivenin had been arranged but she seemed to be in little pain and the swelling was not drastic so the doctors wondered if it had been a dry-bite? But, overnight the swelling began. She’d definitely been affected. Now she has a bit more swelling and some discolouration but we do believe she has been quite fortunate.

We are grateful for the incredible support from Stephen, the medics, the chopper pilot, our lockdown team and our greater valley community who have shown such support and compassion. The teens have kept Khulu busy and although he’s not sure about folding sheets, doing washing or ironing, he too will be okay.

2020 has certainly sent us a few levellers. We just hope we can continue to rise up and meet these challenges!

Head up. Forward march!

24 thoughts on “Ups and Downs

  1. I can’t believe she’s been bitten by a snake, about to go off in a helicopter and she’s smiling – what a lady – so glad she’s made a full recovery. The Cavern is often the backdrop of my dreams these days, hopefully a dream that will soon be able to become a reality.

    Keep well and stay safe,
    Much love
    Andrea Snaddon

    1. Many thanks, Andrea. She was quite remarkable. As calm as can be and maybe that also helped! We do hope we will see you back here! Take special care, Megan

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