I tightened the laces on my hiking boots, picked up my flashlight, and fell into last place in the line of people heading into the darkness of the Amazon Trail. A stray hair tickled the back of my neck. I nervously brushed it away. What was I thinking?
The Amazon rainforest, as beautiful as it is, stresses me out. The many-legged insects and slithering snakes that call it home make my skin crawl. As a result, I am in a constant state of high alert. After three days in the jungle, I was exhausted. Yet I somehow found myself agreeing to participate in the nighttime walk on the Tarantula Trail.
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The first part of the hike was innocuous enough. The guide pointed out pretty, neon-colored frogs hidden in the heavy foliage surrounding a pond. I exhaled and relaxed a little. We followed the trail around the pond and made our way into the inky black depths of the rainforest.
I saw it before the guide did—a long, thin snake resting on the surface of a giant leaf, like those Cleopatra’s slaves had used to fan her. It was about 10 feet off the trail. “Just leave it alone,” I silently prayed, hoping the guide wouldn’t see it. But the guide signaled for our group to wait, while he slipped through the foliage to grab the snake to bring back to show us. The snake promptly pooped on his hand. I winced.
After a brief show-and-tell demonstration, the guide returned the snake to a tree bordering the narrow trail. I held my breath and did a limbo past the snake to maintain as much distance as possible between us.
So far we hadn’t encountered any tarantulas on this Amazon Trail. I was fine with that.
Before I left, a friend had told me a story about tarantulas falling from the trees during a heavy rainstorm on one of her trips to the Amazon. I glanced upwards. The weak beam of my flashlight cast shadows making it difficult to see anything. I imagined an army of tarantulas poised in the trees, like divers, ready to jump at the first hint of moisture.
The guide signaled for us to halt and then directed our attention to a hole in the ground. We gathered around in horrified anticipation as he poked a stick in the hole. A tarantula the size of a dinner plate popped out. I shrieked and then immediately collapsed in embarrassed giggles. The guide held his hand beside the tarantula to show its relative size in the pictures we snapped. After a few minutes, the tarantula returned to its hole, grateful to be out of the spotlight.
Then, the guide had us turn off our flashlights and stand silently for a full minute in the blackness of the Amazon Trail at night. Although I couldn’t see anything, my mind played a slideshow of every insect and snake I could imagine. Just as I reached my limit, we turned on our flashlights to make our way back to the well-lit safety of the lodge.
Why had I voluntarily signed up to go on the night-time walk on the Tarantula Trail?
As the owner of a travel company, I like to experience all the activities we offer so I can answer questions from our guests. That said, I think my real reason for signing up was to push myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to miss out on anything life has to offer because I am afraid. And, to be honest, the actual experience wasn’t nearly as bad as the terrors I’d concocted in my imagination. I think this is true most of the time, don’t you?
So, what do you think? Would you go on the nighttime walk on the creepiest Amazon Trail: The Tarantula?