Tarantula's of Tikal
As a tarantula the size of your hand winds its way up your arm, it's not the size that makes you uneasy, it's the tingles from each one of eight feet landing that makes your skin prickle.
I met this beauty in Tikal – the heart of the Mayan empire – in the jungles of northern Guatemala.
Wandering the winding walkways through sub-tropical jungle there is an abundance of wildlife. Vibrant and shimmering emerald, bronze and azure blue feathered Ocellated Turkeys walk alongside you. Things scurry off into the undergrowth as you come near, exotic birds call from the canopy and if you're not careful a cheeky spider monkey may throw poo at you. It's every nature lovers dream. Well, maybe not the poo throwing.
Being a nature lover every moment was bliss. Immersed in the jungle I felt my lungs expand breathing in the clean crisp air as my heart eased. Yes, every moment, even the poo throwing incident couldn't squash my joy. But when we came into a clearing and a local worker at some less visited ruins appeared, I couldn't help but smile when I saw what he had.
He had found this gorgeous big female Red-Rumped Tarantula and held her out to me. Reaching for her without a seconds thought bought a broad smile to his face and a sharp intake of breath from my father.
Then he smiled and shook his head because he knew me, and of course I was going to reach for such a magnificent creature. Having said that, it also made me wonder if I skipped the 'I should be afraid' gene when they were handing them out at birth. Nonetheless watching one, then two, followed by each of the other six little feet step up onto my hand held me transfixed.
It was an unforgettable moment.
Then she was mine. A gorgeous red-rumped beauty I'd only ever dreamed of or seen in books.
There aren't words to describe the all over body shiver you get as slowly, each foot lands. It prickles, not tickles.
Not a fast moving species, each footfall is felt intensely. As if in slow motion so I was held transfixed unable to move as she slowly, inch by inch she made her way up my arm.
Now don't worry my darling little travel baggers, she was a lady. Never once did she try to run, scare me or bite. She just walked around leaving a sense of awe in her wake seemingly quite content to explore another human. Looking at her looking at me I wondered if we were having the same sense of admiration.
Was she thinking "wow look at this human, this is incredible, wait until I tell my family what I've seen" just as I was thinking how beautiful she was and lucky to be experiencing such an unforgettable moment. For this peace-loving nature lover, I sincerely hope so.
I'm serious. It's hard not to feel such an experience intensely. Firstly because tarantulas are quite the 'hairy scary huge spider' icon of horror movies and nightmares. Secondly because each of these tiny hairs makes does actually make you itchy. In fact, that is what itching powder is made from. Tarantula hair.
You know the stuff. The itching powder you bought from the novelty store as a kid. The stuff you sprinkled down your brothers back or put in your siblings bed before they climbed in (for a joke of course) ... yes that itching powder is in fact tarantula hair. A fact that would have terrified your siblings more if you had of known and you truly wanted to torture them.
But I am happy to say that this experience is a treasured one. As travellers we are lucky to experience unforgettable moments and form lifelong memories on our journeys. These are my greatest treasure and this glorious red-rumped beauty is counted among them.
I will never forget her or the sensation of such an incredible creature. So, if you get the chance on your travels, take a moment to step out of your comfort zone and acquaint yourself with some local wildlife. It could give you some of your most precious travel memories.