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December in the Netherlands, not the best time to practice the art of herping.....so what can you do then...just look around for cheap tickets towards places which I did not go to yet that have some new species between their boundaries.
Malta, only 79 € for a retour tickets, that looks good, I contacten some fellow nerdy girly friends and booked my tickets asap.
Malta had 2 unseen species for me, Maltese Wall Lizard and the Algerian Whip Snake, the lizard would not be a problem to find, but the snake has not been found the last years as far as I know.
I needed some good snake catchers to join me, so I started to make a list of people with Sjuul Verhaegh on top of my list because he gave himself the title of good snake catcher the last trip I did with him in Israel, but as you can read further in this story, this title was build on luck...
Who is Sjuul, well a nice young bloke from the most criminal part of the Netherlands called Limburg, he is an introvert when it comes to talking, but when he says something, it will be "one shot, one kill.
Other team members were Sjoerd van Bemmel and Paul Lambourne, Sjoerd is also from the Netherlands and besides looking for animals he also likes to do gymnastic tricks inside a bar after he had 22 beers, make selfies and catch snakes in his dreams...
Paul, most of you people reading this will already know him as a tea drinking gentleman from the UK, he is famous for his great way of saying things, you will get an image with it straight away.....a couple of examples from the best European fieldherping forum "fieldherping.eu":
"I went into the terminal and soon spied the vision of loveliness that is Gert Jan striding out of the arrivals hall.. after the usual ruffling of hair and bottom slapping, we arranged the hire car, whilst we waited for the remainder of the team, Sjoerd and Sjuul.. both sounding and looking like characters from Game of Thrones and both operating on Dutch time..
We jumped in the car, and had the pleasure of being driven by Gert Jan on the correct side of the road.. after only a few minutes(Malta is smaller than a pole dancers pants) we arrived at our first site.. an overgrown park near the Harbour in Valetta.. this park is home to the highest quality gay dogging and the infamous Algerian whip snake.."
Saturday the 13th
The Dutch arrival time was around 14:30 and Paul was already waiting for us at the arrivals hall and as you can read above we took some moments to enjoy our third meeting already this year in a
very manly way...
Now we only had to wait for my 2 Dutch amigos who were walking in front of me, I was in no stress because as a potential killer for the King of the Netherlands Sjoerd is skilled with map and compass routine, even in the dark.......but the influence of Sjuul must have been that bad that they got lost on this airport, which is also smaller than a pole dancers pants..
We picked up the rental car, an almost new ford fiesta and drove to the first location, as Malta used to be British they still have the nasty rule that you have to drive on the wrong side of the road, so you can expect that Paul kindly offered me to drive only 10 times a day...
Valletta offered us a big old city park, here we saw lots of Moorish Gecko's and some Turkish Gecko's, while looking around and photographing some gecko's we noticed that we were watched by naughty men in very tight jeans, at first I thought that they were also looking for snakes, but when I observed them a bit better I noticed that they were playing a game, they teamed up and tried to play hide and seek behind the ancient walls and thick bushes, some even took off their flashy clothes to avoid other men participating the game to find them.. silly boys
Sjuul and I wanted to go back so we called Paul and Sjoerd and after they got dressed again we went to our hotel, it was a basic place with a restaurant below the hotel, I had a room with Paul and Sjoerd with Sjuul, the youngsters were at the 3rd floor and me and Paul choose the 7th floor and made a rule straight away, only full speed running the stairs when going up, so we are fitter now..
In the room Paul made me some tea and a bit later we went down to have diner, the lady of the hotel gave us a discount receipt for in the restaurant and tried to seduce our young Dutch boys, while standing there we were invited to have a drink in the bar later that was below the restaurant, after diner with many cisk beers Paul and Sjuul retreated to their rooms and Sjoerd and I had some more beers in the bar, here I showed the locals how to do some tricks in a pole that was there on a little stage and Sjoerd did a back flip with his beer bottle still in his hands, the cisk lagers swopped for corona beers which were only twice the price...
Around 02:00 Sjoerd and I went back to our zaal, here I found Paul talking in his sleep about ticks missing in the last 2 trips he did...
Sunday the 14th
07:00 I heard a very annoying noise, it was the alarm clock of Paul and half an hour later we were sitting at the breakfast table where Sjoerd and Sjuul showed up 20 minutes later...
Breakfast was good and that for only 9 € P/person/night.
First location of the day was an other Valletta city park, here we found many Maltese Wall Lizards, they kept getting more pretty and I showed all the pretty ones to my buddies and at the spot where I found the best one ever I also found a juvenile Mediterranean Chameleon which was a tick for Sjuul & Sjoerd so they liked me even more then they already did...........
Second location of the day was the park from the day before again, the hotel lady of the hotel told us the name(or her name) of the park, it was "Do not bend over park" again we saw many men in the park and some junkies, I photographed a Moorish gecko, first in situ and after I caught it I made some close ups of its feet, then searched some more, but unfortunately no Algerian Whip Snakes were found.
Next to the "Bend over park" was an old English cemetery, here we saw the usual species again and some of us had a much needed beauty sleep in the sun, after waking up Paul gathered some herbs for his english herb garden at home, I hope his boss doesn't know what is growing there already..
In the late afternoon we went to a stream and Sjoerd and I found a Painted Frog, now quickly back to the hotel where we went into the shower and put on our finest dancing outfits for an other night with lots of food, beer & fun, I even checked out an outdoor swimming pool, but the clothes were not off very long..
Monday the 15th
Waking up early and again Sjuul and Sjoerd were late for breakfast, for Paul it was his last morning on Malta so we went to his favorite park again, only men and some ancient rock art was found, this art really shows that the prime activity in this park in here already for ages...must be the British rulers who introduced this. The second park was also without snakes so we drove Paul to the airport and said goodbye, superdoei dikke Paul!!
When Paul was out of sight I grabbed my list with interesting places and we went to one of the few areas on Malta that was still looking like it was pure nature, here I found a pretty Leopard Snake within 5 minutes, again a tick for Sjuul and Sjoerd.
It was about time that the Sj-brothers found me a nice snake or anything else...
Next thing to do was finding some chameleons, not the easiest thing to do in the daylight, Sjuul & Sjoerd were already searching for them while I was photographing the snake, first they stayed around, but I like to photograph in silence so I send them away, they used the excuse that they did not know how to find chameleons and they did not lie about that......
30 minutes later I also started to look for chameleons and found one within 10 minutes, I notified my girlfriends and they showed up empty-handed (again....)
While making some photos I told them how to look and where to look and it payed off, all of us found a chameleon, I felt a bit proud.
On the way back to the car Sjoerd found a snake that was not in his best shape anymore.
Back at the hotel we took some time for a shower before our exhausting evening program would start again.
I was last in the restaurant and Sjoerd already finished a whole bottle of white wine on his own, funny man he was, hahaha...
After diner we had a drink on the terras outside with Martha from the restaurant and after we said superdoei to her we went into the bar again, this time it was Sjuul who showed his tropical dance moves to everybody there, it turned in to a Pole-battle and my trick and Sjuul's dance moves were not good enough to beat Sjoerd's back flip! I can't remember what time I was in bed, but not much later I was ready for breakfast again.
Tuesday the 16th
Now Paul was gone we could go back to Dutch time, so we slept one hour longer and after breakfast we went again to the best park in Valletta, I spotted a juvenile Western Whip Snakes in a crack of a wall, but could not catch it....after 100 questions: " are you really sure it was not an Algerian Whip Snake??" I still was 100% sure that it was not an Algerian Whip Snake.
So Sjuul, do you remember why you came along on this trip, you are the great snake catcher that didn't even see the Western Whip Snake that was only one meter away from the both of us, but Sj & Sj had an other kind of luck, they saw 2 men who did some hardcore naked wrestling, they gave them some compliments on the high level wrestle techniques they used and left them alone.
After this we went to an islet close to the coast which you can reach by walking over the rocks and through shallow water, we saw many pretty Maltese Wall Lizards, after this island adventure we
visited some other spots, but the wind was very strong and we didn't find anything anymore, so back to the hotel again where we had some superb relaxing time until we went into the restaurant,
Sjoerd found a snake in his sleep and Sjuul made a perfect photo about that! In the restaurant we had lots of red wine and lots of beer again, but this time we went to bed early...after one more
beer in the high quality bar.
Only 4 and an half hours later the alarm clock went off again and 15 minutes later we were having breakfast, it was 05:45, but all our friends came to say goodbye, lots of tears everywhere, so we used the few tissues which were left to wipe our tears away, breaking hearts is part of the herping-way of life........ the other tissues were already used when Sjuul came to the conclusion that all his Israeli snake-catch qualities were just luck.
At the airport we gave the undamaged car back to avis and waited for our plane, back on Eindhoven airport we made a group picture with a christmas fairy, we call her Paul now and she can only wish that she would have a body like my tea-drinking non European, tummy rubbing friend Paul.
Great trip, the best company that really made up for the missed Algerian Whip Snake, going back to Malta will not happen for the snake, it is better to look for it in Morocco for example... some of this team I will see again very soon on Mallorca, Thanks amigo's.
Also thanks to Bobby B. for some information & Jeroen S. for poking my eyes out with his 2007 report...
1. Painted Frog - Discoglossus pictus
2. Mediterranean Chameleon - Chamaeleo chamaeleon
3. Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica
4. Turkish Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus
5. Ocellated Skink - Chalcides ocellatus
6. Maltese Wall Lizard - Podarcis filfolensis
7. Western Whip Snake - Hierophis viridiflavus
8. Leopard Snake - Zamenis situla