And despite all the competence and bravery our young Brazilian friend showed, I ended up burdening her even more, to my continual embarrassment.
Everything after the ants becomes hazy and segmented, and the retelling is only based on what was originally told to me. Because I don’t remember a single second of it.
We were heading northwesterly, dutifully avoiding the major trees and creepers and generally anything that looked like it would eat us alive, winding our way back to the steep banks of the nearby hill. Instead of consuming myself with thoughts of quicksand, anacondas, and other traditional amazonian horrors, I mostly tried to stay upright.
Generally, I have about as much pain tolerance as a newly-minted, cooing baby, though after a certain time period (enough for lovely endorphins to kick in), the healing factor takes hold, and things become dull and throbbing, manageable. Which is about where I was a few hours later, bites and arm and ankle becoming background noise.
Três wasn’t faring much better, but she absolutely insisted we keep on until we found a way up to the path or a suitable spot to camp out for the night where we wouldn’t be eaten alive (figuratively or mentally).
As dusk started to fall, I must have let my panic slip, letting my rambling mumblings increase: about being possibly caught and whether we were sure to be rescued by my hero-man Graham, babbling on about how he ‘totally could have shot his way through all those guys,’ and how maybe I could punch through the insides of an anaconda if I could keep my knife out and in my hands. Ill-timed (and poorly performed) flirtations followed.
Luckily, we did find a more gradual slope to the hill, admiring the weave of the massive branches and flora overhead. Três apparently tried to help me up, though her own strength was flagging among the stultifying, ever-present heat. I was co-operating until something–a branch cracking, a tumbling stone somewhere hitting another stone, an echoing gunshot–startled me and, to put it mildly, I lost my shit.
So, I’m not entirely sure when and where it began, but I’ve had a kind of arachnophilia for a good portion of my life. Just as with the ants and other insects, they’re all so fascinating. To look at, to observe and learn about, to see the diverse range of climates they inhabit. But definitely not to get bitten by or have them crawl all over you, at least not when uninvited.
Spiders are greatest among all, though. They live in some of the highest mountain peaks, the lowest desert valleys, the cold of the frigid poles, the humid swelter of the rainforest. And they are fantastic predators. I don’t harm any of them if I can (though I do shoo them outside when needed), and definitely love watching them spin webs, checking out their traps and prey and weird, gross egg sacs.
I wish I had time to go through some taxonomy of the local amazonian species, because then I could tell you exactly the type of monstrosity I ran facefirst into on my brief slide and jog away from Três. All I remember was a fist-sized, three-foot long legspan of a thing, minding its own business in the hazy twilit hours, hung between branches and deadfall.
Being startled, it must have reared up and tried to lash out but I was already moving headlong so fast I batted it away out of instinct, careening right through the web and hurling the thing earthbound. I probably yelled an apology and how we could have been such good friends, looking back, hoping Três was close by, and entirely missing the dining table sized-stump in front of me.
I’m told the smack of my nose and head against the wood as I tripped right up an over made a sound both amusing and terrifying, but I wouldn’t know, being already out, gone amidst the growing amazon night.