On my last trip round the world nearly ten years ago my friend Ben and I spent about six weeks travelling around Thailand. We began to make a habit of turning up in strange places, dumping our bags and heading out to get drunk which made waking up in the morning an interesting experience most days. So it was that we arrived in the town of Pai in the north of the country after a long dusty journey from Bangkok, checked into a cheap wooden shack, left our stuff and headed out to find a bar. We were up till late by a campfire somewhere and saw Thai lanters being set off for the first time. I can also remember marvelling at the inbuilt homing device that takes you home to a place you don't even know in the dark at four in the morning.
Anyway we got back this night got into bed and tucked the mosquito net around the bed we were in and fell fast unconscious. The first thing I realised when I woke up was that I had a load of mossie bites and I cursed what must have been a hole in the net. It was only when I sat up that I realised that there was one large hole in the net... so big there was a dog asleep in the bed with us.
Such misty eyed reminiscence has a point as I have just encountered what could possibly be an even less effective mosquito net. Gemma and I had the fortune to get to stay in a little hillside cabin in the rainforest in Chirripo National park in Costa Rica. It's a stunning place and our little electricity free cabin was beautiful. Wood burning stove, candles, hammocks on the porch and amazing views and it was just us up there with no-one around. The place was of course humming with life; spider monkeys were in the trees, we saw a bat falcon, vultures and humming birds buzzed busily around the flowers round the cabin as we sat and watched.
Somewhat alarmingly in the cabin there was a laminated sheet which showed different types of spider, scorpion and venemous snake that were to be found in the forest. The tarantula here can jump up to a metre and a half!
We had a lovely night with a fire and candles and ambient music on our speakers then it was off to bed. The mosquito net was to start with riddled with holes. Not good. Then it appeared that on one side it was split right up a seam from the bottom to the top making it more like a curtain. The opening of this curtain was right at my head as we slept. I wasn't overly bothered as the mossies hadn't been too active that night so far. I drifted off as the candles burnt down and the mix finished on the speakers...
...the next sensation I felt was a sizable creature crawling across my face. When I say sizeable I mean about the size of my hand. I felt footprints. I was dragged up from my heavy sleep and sat bolt upright in bed and swept wildly with my pillow to push whatever it was off the bed then shut the "curtain" net and pushed my pillow against it. Gemma woke up at the commotion but I half managed to convince her it had been a mossie bothering me. I lay back down with my heart racing and a sweat on my brow. It could have been a lizard but it could also have been a fucking tarantula! I lay there going over it in my head and a bit concerned about what was on the floor by the bed then a few minutes later I heard it scuttle up the wall and away. It sounded heavy. So heavy Gemma thought it was someone trying to break in.
So I will never know what it really was. I'm still alive to tell the tale though and that tale will no doubt err on the side of the massive tarantula as the years unfold.