Macaws were flying over our heads, howler monkeys screaming and chasing each other in the trees around us and jumping pink dolphins along the boat as we went through the channels of Orinoco River. That’s Venezuelan jungle. Most of the animal encounters we had were pleasant, except one.
As we went to Orinoco River Delta in Venezuela, we knew we’ll be seeing lots of animals up close. In case you’re not familiar, Orinoco River Delta is comparable to visiting Amazon.
The jungle is a fascinating place. You see animals only known from books or wildlife documentaries and sometimes so close you can feel them right next to you. Monkeys are the most popular but what about tarantulas?
What happened in Venezuela almost gave me a heart attack. It all started with a trip to the jungle and a question: “Can I put a tarantula on your head?”
Nightmare for a lot of people or pushing limits of fear for others. It was the most intense moment of our trip to Venezuela.
I think it’s safe to say people generally don’t like spiders. Many are afraid of them, including me, and Michal. I don’t know what is it about them that makes you step back when you see one.
Into the jungle
We were looking forward to spending a few days in the jungle and listen nothing else than howling monkeys and screaming birds. Our boat was slowly making its way on the Orinoco River towards one of its smaller channels when we suddenly stopped on the shore for a ‘surprise’.
As soon as we stepped out of the boat, local children were rushing to greet us gesturing they want to show us something. We were headed to a garden filled with flowers. So far so good. When they reached out into the flower and took out a tarantula I thought I was going to faint at that very second.
Friendly creatures or deadly spiders
As we were told, when you squeeze a tarantula, it bites you but other than that it’s a playful creature. Local kids showed us it’s quite easy – just grab one from the flower where they hide, put it on your head and wait how long it takes for a tarantula to run all over you before it finds the ground. Sounds scary, I know. But a 6-year-old boy made it look like a normal thing you do daily and couldn’t comprehend I was scared as hell.
More kids came searching the flowers and before we knew, few tarantulas were casually running around us. Kids were chasing them and putting on their heads. I’ve never seen anybody so comfortable with a huge spider on them.
One local boy, a hero in my eyes, grabbed a tarantula and wanted to put it on my head.
It’s a great experience if you like to go beyond your fears, and that’s something I try to do. But having a tarantula on my head sounded way too scary. I was less afraid to jump off of a 15 meters cliff into the lake.
I figured maybe if I could ‘get to know it first’, my fear might slowly disappear. With a short wooden stick in my hand, I held it close to the ground and waited for a tarantula to climb on it. At the same time, I had to watch other tarantulas so they don’t come too close and scare the hell out of me.
As soon as it climbed on the stick, I became so terrified that it would run too fast and onto my hand that I dropped the stick.
Well, that didn’t work out. But I am still proud of myself. Getting so close to a tarantula is not exactly a dream come true rather than a test of how far am I able to go when I’m terrified. And I think this is pretty close:
Maybe next time…
We’ve met moose and bears while mountain biking and hiking in the Canadian Rockies but I was never more anxious about an animal encounter than I was in Venezuelan jungle surrounded by tarantulas.
This might not be an encounter many people would like to have. But pushing boundaries of your comfort is part of the experience. It’s what makes us grow.
That day I went (almost) beyond my worst fears and dreams. I got so close to tarantula that I might consider holding one next time I’m in the jungle.
Tell me..would you let a tarantula run all over you? Or would you rather jump off a 10 meter bridge?
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