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Some time ago I got a message from Tim Warfel and he asked me if I wanted to join him and many other herpers on a trip to Sonora, Mexico and he wanted to visit the Netherlands so he could look for European viper species. After a while we made it a returning favor, I will take him across Europe to find some Vipera's and he will find me many herps in Mexico.
A bit later Chris Macdonald also joined in on the European herping tour.
The Netherlands & Sinterklaas..
On the 8th of april they would both arrive and I would be waiting at a spot where we could find Grass Snakes, the traffic that day was shit because of a lot of work on the roads, so I was a little late, but so was the rest.
Bobby Bok and his lovely wife Laura were already at the spot, when we saw each other Bobby and I ran towards each other and jumped in each others arms...after that Laura did the same.
Yes I know it sounds a bit weird and the people who witnessed it looked a bit strange, but thats what real European herpers do!
Tim was also close by, but his map & compass skills were not perfect yet, so I jumped in my car and found the helper that got lost quickly, but I saw there was only one man in his car.. Chris and Tim flew together to Iceland, Tim arrived on the 8th in the Netherlands and Chris made a tiny mistake when booking the flights and had his flight on the 9th.
This was bad for our schedule, but on the other hand, Tim and I had more chicken wings that night.
Together with Bobby & Laura we searched for Grass Snakes and found around 4 or 5, most of them being fast enough to escape the scene. I saw a male with orange rings and I think that Tim was the only one who made in situ pics of that smelly snake.
After saying goodbye to Bobby & Laura we went to a spot and searched for Vipera berus, it was already late in the afternoon and the whole day was very warm and sunny so we did not find a lot of them, 2 females were enjoying the sun and many Sand Lizards did the same.
Tim was a bit tired from the flights so we went to my home where Cynthia made some good food and we had some wine, beers and rum.
While enjoying some beers Tim gave me a present, it was book of the Amphibians and Reptiles of the state of Coahuila, Mexico! Thanks Tim, thats a great gift!
I also had a present for him and Chris, but I waited till we were all together.
Sunday the 9th of april
The next morning we had breakfast and went back to the Vipera berus spot, we found 3 males this time and some Sand Lizards again, around noon we drove to Schiphol to pick up Chris.
Around 14:00 we were ready to start the drive to Austria, it was a long one, so we talked about snakes, booze and cars...an other thing was Sinterklaas, they really wanted to know what that was so I explained it all and I know that there are people out there that think it is a bad thing because the big white sinterklaas has dark colored helpers, but they are that dark because they climb down the chimney to bring the presents to the children and the story that children that are bad are taken to Spain in a big bag is never proven (it did help a bit to keep my kids sweet when they were younger).
We arrived around 01:30 and we slept almost straight away, only a couple of beers were needed to knock us out.
We woke up around 8 and had a big breakfast, the weather looked good so we drove to a known place to find Nose-horned Viper.
After 3 hours of searching we still found nothing but Wall Lizards and Western Green Lizards.
I have no idea how it was possible, but from 3 hours finding nothing with 3 herpers it went to finding 3 vipers within 15 minutes, so the day was saved!
I got out the present I had for Chris and Tim, it was a bottle of 'Ron de Jeremy reserva' and we all swallowed the fine fluids that came from Ron de Jeremy's rum. Team America as Tim once said had no idea that it could be so good to have Ron Jeremy in your mouth.
After photographing the 3 Nose-horned Vipers we drove to the Gail river and searched there for some water loving snakes, I found a big Grass Snake in the water and unfortunately the Dice Snakes were not found.
From this place it was more than 600 km to the next area we wanted to visit, so we started to drive west, we passed Venice and Milan and from there we drove into the Italian Alps.
From the car I asked Bobby if he still had the phone number of the nice hotel we stayed in last year. (where some people liked to piss from the balcony on passing cars)
We called the hotel and it was good to be there again, around 22:30 we arrived and the owner made us a good meal with pasta, potatoes and beef, wine, beer and grappa were also found there and this time the balcony was not used for taking a piss.
Italian Alps, tuesday the 11th of april
We woke up around 08:00 again and after breakfast we drove up the mountain and the weather was great.
Great for me, because I wanted to find vipers, but my herping buddies only wanted to see Slow Worms, so they avoided all good habitats for vipers..
After searching for half an hour I saw a beautiful male Walser's Viper and caught it, 2 minutes later I found a female also of this species.
I climbed up a bit higher and found a female Asp Viper while Tim and Chris found 2 more Asp Vipers and a Smooth Snake, but they were way more happy with the Italian Slow Worm they found.
So now we saw 4 viper species already and 2 other snake species!
After a big photography session we released all the snakes again and made a plan for the next day, team America choose to look for Ursini's Viper instead of looking for melanistic Asp Vipers.
We hit the road again and went through the Mont Blanc tunnel into France, here we had to drive through the Alps before we could go south into the direction of the Mont Ventoux, from the car I booked a hotel, but when we arrived it was closed and they did not pick up the telephone either after calling them 20 times, so we looked for an other on and found a nice one in Vaison la Romaine, a village 10 km away.
When we were checking in there was a police car who arrested a man and for me it was a bit weird that it was not me or my buddies, wouldn't be the first time on a herping trip..
France, wednesday the 12th of april
Breakfast was very good here, I ate a meter of pain avec fromage et jambon, jus d orange et cafe au lait.
We drove up the Mont Ventoux and saw a snake on the road, it was an Aesculapian Snake, so the day started out really well.
A bit higher up we searched for Ursini's Viper, but found nothing, I think we were still a bit early for this species, the temperature was more than ok now, but I did not see any possible prey animals for them.
We cried a bit and drove down the mountain and headed for some other mountains, the Pyrenees this time, it was only 700 km so it was easy to get there...
From the car I tried to book us a room in a hotel, but they did not pick up the phone and did not respond on my email, so we said 'fuck yeah' and drove there anyway.
The hotel was closed, but when we called somebody picked up the phone, it was around midnight, so maybe thats why the guy sounded a bit annoyed.
I asked him if he had a room for us and he said no straight away, but we knew that there were several free rooms inside because there was a open door and we checked out some rooms..
The guy kept being an ass, so I tried the friendly way and said please, that almost worked, I also told him that I send him an email and called him 5 times, after that he decided to come to the hotel and guess what, he had even more than one room.
We put our bags in the room and drove off into the mountains to a good spot to find Fire Salamanders, it was around 25 km of winding roads, so we were happy when we arrived.
We walked up the stream and after a couple of minutes I found the first one and after that around 10 more were found, most of them were females who were close to the stream to deposit their larvae in the water, they are not moving anywhere when you find them, so you can make great photographs without touching the animals. Some were on top of a stone and others were in or half in the water.
On the way back we had to drive carefully again because the toads were everywhere on the road, it was a bit early for mating balls, but when I showed the photos of that from a few years ago, Chris and Tim got really excited and wanted to try it out themselves.
Around 04:00 we finally had our well deserved beer and fell asleep 2 minutes after finishing it.
Thursday the 13th of april
When I woke up I saw Chris & Tim doing some toad mating ball exercises, so I went for a shower and after that we were treated with local ham, cheese and other treats for breakfast.
Now quickly to a good spot for Seoane's Viper, we had to d*ck down one more Vipera species this trip.
When we arrived I noticed that a part of their habitat was destroyed and an other part was burned down, so that was a big 'fuck noooo'.
We started to search and I spotted the first viper, it was a nice melanistic one and thats the form that Chris and Tim wanted to see the most, so I used that to force them into some naked synchronized swimming in the lake, we always do that on herping trips, that is the european way...really!
I think they liked it because they did it a lot longer than I did, maybe the morning 'toad mating ball' exercises they did were a good training for synchronized swimming..
After the swimming we searched some more, Chris found 2 more vipers and I also found 2, besides the vipers we also found Wall Lizards and Viviparous Lizards, an other new species for Tim & Chris.
After the photography we treated ourselves on a nice beer and drove to an other great spot in the Pyrenees.
Here we wanted to find Asp Vipers, but it was high up and we had to climb, Tim had a lot of pain in his back, so I think he broke his back on that mountain..even Ron de Jeremy rum did not get him back into shape.
The Asp Vipers were not found, so we walked back to the car and drove over de Col du Pourtalet into Spain and made some touristy pictures.
In Laruns we found a place to sleep and we had some food at the creperie, I had a crepe with ground beef and cheese, that is beef that fell on the ground according to my American friends.. Im learning so much new stuff!!!
So I learned something about ground beef and also about tasty burgers, maybe this sounds a bit weirdly related, but in my opinion it is all very good! Especially al the shapes and forms of all those tasty burgers...
In the restaurant the ground beef, crepes and all the beers were served by a tasty burger, we tried out all the beers and the triple was the best, I think...
Friday the 14th of april
The next morning some of us were a bit slow, but that didn't matter one bit because the route to the planned spot was closed when we were only 5 km from it, so we drove back and searched at some other places hoping to find Asp Vipers, but we did not. We did find many Grass Snakes and a Smooth Snake, some of the Grass Snakes we found were more or less blue.
One of the Grass snakes puked out an adult Fire Salamander and it was already half gone. I did not know that Fire Salamanders were on the menu of Grass Snakes, so that was new for me.
It was already late in the afternoon when we drove out of the Pyrenees and the target for the next morning was Slow Worms for Team America and I wanted to see an Asp Viper, but we had to drive all the way to the NE of France and this distance was a bit too much so we made it to Orleans and went into a cheap, but very fine hotel where they served wine, whiskey and beer...we were so lucky!
Saturday the 15th of april
After breakfast we left and I must say, we were early, around 08:50 we were in the car, but it was more than 300 km to the Lorraine, the weather was totally different from the rest of the trip, temperature was around 10 degrees celsius with rain...
Around 12:30 we arrived and the weather was still not good, so we put a little bit of Ron de Jeremy in our mouths for motivation and started to look for animals.
All the times I was here before I found Asp Vipers without a lot of effort, but now we searched for 2 hours and we only found 20 Slow Worms, so some of us were really happy, but they got a bit more excited when I finally spotted a basking Asp Viper.
I convinced them to make some pics of the viper and I think they did, but those Slow Worms got all their attention...weird guys.
From Lorraine it was around 5 hours to my home, but Tim wanted to visit Bastogne, so we drove through it. Some monuments and a M4 Sherman Tank reminded us of what happened here in the Belgian Ardennes in WW2.
When we arrived in my village we cleaned the car and went to the supermarket for some wine, beer and stroopwafels.
At home Cynthia made us some good food including an other Dutch treat called frikandellen, Tim and Chris loved them and ate them with onions, lots of mayonnaise and curry ketchup, better known as the 'frikandel speciaal'. (For a 'how to eat frikandellen' movie you have to contact Tim)
The evening was spend with herp books, rum and a 'man love' beer, which tasted pretty good actually. The next morning my head was a little more heavy than normally, but I think we all enjoyed that feeling. Chris and Tim left around 08:00 and tried to find Vipera berus on the way to the airport, but the weather was cold and windy, so they did not see any. Have a safe trip my friends and I hope you enjoyed the last pack of krentenbollen!
Tim and Chris are now more or less used to the great things we do when we go herping, so they also gave me some things to become a more complete global herper, most of those tasty burger things can't be told, but this great song was the best and we played it every day!
Lets play it one more time!
I had a great time with my new herping buddies and think it is pretty damn special that they come all the way over here to see only a hand full of vipers in Europe. The French car was shit and the roads were long, but the big stash of Dutch and Belgian beers we had in the trunk was enough to keep this train going.
Thanks for the great week guys, I'm looking forward to herp with you guys again and that might already be this late summer since I am now checking out the tickets to AZ USA and I just booked one!
Mexico F*ck yeah!!
1. Common Toad - Bufo bufo
2. Iberian common Toad - Bufo spinosus
3. Grass Frog - Rana temporaria
4. Fire salamander - Salamandra salamandra fastuosa
5. Stripeless Tree Frog - Hyla meridionalis
6. Sand lizard - Lacerta agilis
7. Western Green Lizard - Lacerta bilineata
8. Common Wall Lizard - Podarcis muralis
9. Viviparous lizard - Zootoca vivipara
10. Slow Worm - Anguis fragilis
11. Italian Slow Worm - Anguis veronensis
12. Grass Snake - Natrix natrix
13. Smooth Snake - Coronella austriaca
14. Aesculapian Snake - Zamenis longissimus
15. Adder - Vipera berus
16. Nose-horned Viper - Vipera ammodytes
17. Asp Viper - Vipera aspis ssp 'atra' & aspis
18. Walser Viper - Vipera walser
19. Seoane's Viper - Vipera seoanei