I was recently asked to write about one of my most memorable travel experiences. That’s kind of hard to narrow down, seeing as how there’s so many incredible places in the world. So I decided to write about an unforgettable furry friend I met while in the Amazon, who still continues to haunt me…
One of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited has to have been Peru. Sure, I visited Machu Picchu and was absolutely in awe of its beauty, its sheer size and incredible history, but this is not about my time there. Instead, I would like to tell you about another part of that trip that I will never forget: my time in the Amazon.
My family and I went to a part of the Amazon so remote that we had to take a boat ride for several hours to get to our campsite. When we arrived at camp, we were greeted by a host of friendly and courteous locals that worked there and they showed us to our rooms. And when I say rooms, I use that term very loosely – rooms typically suggest privacy, and in this case we had very little. Not only were the walls made of tree trunks that you could see between, but the back wall was completely missing to ensure that you were truly one with nature. Furthermore, there was no electricity in the camp, and you had to use lamps in your rooms and when walking around at night. After coming to terms that my hair would not be straight for the remainder of my time there, I embraced it all and started to really enjoy this eco-friendly lifestyle in the jungle. Meals became more intimate by candlelight, the small and cozy size of the camp enabling more interaction between other guests staying there, and soon it felt like we were one big family. Each night I fell asleep to the sounds of crickets and other animals outside my room, enjoying the natural soundtrack but also praying that they were at a comfortable enough distance from my bed. And for the most part they were… until one night when I met a new roommate.
It was the end of a long day and my sister and I were in our respective beds with the mosquito nets tucked in. I had just finished reading, and needed to take my contacts off before I could get some sleep. I realized that I had left them in my bag on the other side of the room and, since I’m a little afraid of bugs, I was not happy about the fact that I would have to leave the safety of my net. Grudgingly, I got out of bed, reached for a flashlight and started rifling through my backpack. There was a ledge right above where my bag was, and suddenly something caught my eye. I raised the flashlight and to my absolute horror came face to face with the largest tarantula I have ever seen in my life.
I was so scared that I could barely get any words out. I can’t even handle regular house spiders back in the States, the last thing I’d want to be near is a furry tarantula. In my state of shock I started slowly backing up from the spider, not taking my eyes from it in fear that it would leap onto me and bite down with its massive fangs. Meanwhile, my sister is in her bed, ignoring me because she assumes that I am getting scared by some trivial insect. Only once was I back under the safety of my mosquito net was I able to collect myself and actually verbalize what I just saw. We eventually were able to get someone that worked there to come, and even he gave a low whistle when he saw the size of the tarantula, admitting that it was one of the bigger ones he’d seen. And then, to my utter amazement, he fearlessly chased down the tarantula and captured it in a plastic bag so he could set it free on the other side of the campgrounds. When I asked what would have happened had I been bit, he nonchalantly responded, “We have anti-venom. You would be okay.”
The next day we had a beautiful day in the wild. We went bird watching and saw different species of birds including the beautiful macaw. We visited a medicinal garden and met a shaman, and learned about the different uses of some of the plants there. Our guide also stopped to tell us about the different types of insects and spiders on our trails, including one tarantula that was crawling out of a hole as we walked by. I remember looking at it blankly and just thinking, “You are tiny compared to the friend I made last night.”
While coming face to face with a tarantula was not one of the most enjoyable travel experiences I’ve had, it is definitely something that I will always remember. The great thing about traveling is that you find yourself in unique situations all the time and as a result you walk away with amazing stories to share. And of course my close encounter did not ruin the beauty of the Amazon; I loved my time at that campsite and enjoyed learning about the fascinating culture of the locals. I hope to be able to return someday and have more incredible adventures in Peru, just maybe next time without spiders being included in the story.