This one is just for fun. While on our honeymoon in Bali, Drew and I encountered a gigantic spider after a series of misadventures. I hope this chaotic tale brings you a smile and perhaps a reminder to always read the reviews on Air BnB.
When I was three years old, I had a nightmare. This nightmare would inevitably affect the rest of my life. In the dream, I was lying awake in my wooden twin bed. Everything about the room down to the blankets depicted an exact mirror of reality. Naturally, my child mind became alarmed when I realized that I was paralyzed in said bed, while a spindly-legged spider the size of my child head, slowly crept towards me. I awoke in a cold sweat, screaming my child brains out.
Fast forward twenty-three years, to my romantic, getaway-honeymoon on the island of Bali. Drew had visited the island nearly five years before our trip, and he remained in awe of its beauty. I should preface by noting that the island is absolutely stunning, and nothing you are about to read should deter you from making the trip. Instead, read on, and know that I am a fool. I was blinded by excitement. Perhaps I thought the mysterious beauty of the island would somehow transform me into a more peaceful, nature-loving, yoga doing, one with the earth, hippie type of woman. Up until now nature and I had more of a cordial sort of relationship Like that weird uncle who no one actually dislikes, but you wouldn’t be in a hurry to make plans with. Maybe this trip would finally soften my asphalt heart.
Whatever delusion I was living under, it gave me a great idea. What better activity to plan during a honeymoon, than hiking through the jungle! My mind was swept up with thoughts of cutting through the brush, befriending small creatures, and jumping across rivers. Filled with the adventurous spirit, I would sing Colors of the Wind and make my childhood dreams come true.
I have never been so wrong.
We decided to spend the first part of the trip on the beach, then head North to Ubud, then even more North to the jungle-infested mountains which would host this planned excursion. The rest of the trip was unplanned because Drew and I are gluttons for punishment. The beach was fun, but we longed to get away from the touristy traffic. While the beach attracted drunk Australians, Ubud was the yoga getaway for bored white women. Ubud is gorgeously green and surrounded by rice fields.
One of my husband’s greatest qualities is his ability to make friends. On his last trip, he became friends with one of his drivers and they stayed in touch through the years. This friend took us to a lovely restaurant with a fantastic view. It was a perfect introduction to the city of Ubud. Everything was green. Below we saw a small river cutting through thick foliage, with layers of rice fields to the left. I let my eyes wander up the river, remarking on how the tropical trees intersected to form a small jungle.
That was when I saw them. Even writing this, I shudder at the memory. At a narrow spot, up the river, I noticed two webs large enough to trap a bird. There, balancing as though it could defy physics, sat the largest spider I have ever seen. Even at a distance, I could make out its black and red armored legs. I froze. I pointed them out to my husband who gave an insufficient, “oh dang” then turned to our friend, “Are there many spiders like those in the jungle?” He seemed alarmingly unconcerned, “oh yeah. Those ones like to stay in remote places.”
Not knowing what to make of “remote places” and more disconcertingly, “those ones” I felt my dreams of adventure come under threat. I turned to my poor husband stupidly, “I never thought there would be spiders in the jungle. . .” I trailed off staring down at my mortal enemy, hoping it would burst into flames.
Obviously, there are spiders in the jungle, it’s their favorite place. It's like a white man's golf course.
Throughout lunch, I decided this was not going to deter me. A couple of spiders were not going to kill my Pocahontas dreams. I glanced over the railing to be sure that the monsters hadn’t moved. If they do like “remote places” this would simply dictate a necessity to stick to the trail. The flame of adventure had lessened, but it was not dead . . . yet.
After three days in Ubud, it was time to head up the mountain. We had picked a cute little Air B&B that sat near magnificent waterfalls. The residence boasted of “authentic living” and a real “Balinese experience”. This was where I would complete my transformation and become the nature-loving guru I was born to be.
Poor ignorant me.
When we arrived, we realized just how authentic our Balinese experience would be. The road leading to the area where we would stay was too small for a car so we needed to be driven by a scooter. This was slightly problematic due to the fact that I consistently overpack and was wearing a long skirt (this skirt never made it home as it decided to trap itself in an escalator at the Singapore airport which leads me to believe that myself and the skirt are obviously cursed).
Now we begin the real story. The story which will forever haunt me. The story in which my poor husband finally felt the weight of my traumatic fears. There is one more character who played a role in our adventure. This was a nineteen-year-old Balinese kid named Ketut. I am comfortable sharing his name as I have realized it is a popular one for Bali, and because he deserves all the props he can get.
Ketut was the one who scootered us both from our car to the entrance of our new home. He announced that he would show us the “house” after he explained the goings-on of the area we stayed in. There was a small restaurant, which we later learned was only open until 5:00 pm. Down the road, we would find the company that would take us on our jungle trek to the waterfalls.
As Ketut spoke I looked down to see a parade of ants marching below my feet. it had just rained so all the creepy crawlies were escaping their flooded homes. I tried gathering up my cursed skirt but this did not stop them from exploring elsewhere. Soon my flip-flops became an object of desire. I tried moving my feet while keeping a hold of my good-for-nothing skirt and maintaining a look of pleasant interest. I began to long for a safe, ant-free environment. Ketut finally announced that he would take us to our house, and I was desperate for an escape. With the ants, mosquitos, and so many other bugs, I was excited to find shelter.
Rolling my oversized Samsonite down the dirt path I noted how sensibly my husband packed. His mid-sized backpack and small carry-on stood in stark contrast to my large bumbling luggage. I said a silent prayer asking God to preserve the wheels of my bags. It wasn’t the only prayer I would utter that night.
We arrived at the “house” and while it was lovely, it did not constitute the basic necessities of a house. The bottom floor boasted a lovely open-air kitchen with a wicker love seat.
The three walls were made of bamboo and concrete, containing a small stove and a sink. We climbed about eight steps to the bathroom on the left. This was more alarming as the walls were not sealed. The bamboo slats crisscrossed in order to give the user a view of the outdoors. I noted that this would give anyone outdoors a view inside as well, and any creeping thing would find easy access to the place where I am most vulnerable. I was still able to shrug this off and I simply figured that I would not take any nighttime showers.
Walking the six stairs up to the bedroom I noticed another parade of ants leading inside. It was upon seeing this room that my heart truly sank. The room was. . . quaint, but not nearly secure enough. A three-inch gap circled the room where the walls and ceiling should have met. The dingy mosquito net was holey and stained. Bugs could quite obviously have free reign in this “house”. I would find no shelter here.
We were hungry, so we left our bags and walked up the hill, past the rice field, to the small restaurant. I could feel my panic rising throughout the meal. My husband continued to rave about how these were “the best noodles he’s ever had” and how great it was that we could, “spend the night in paradise”. I tried to contain my heeby-jeeby feelings, but when I caught an ant crawling on my face, I knew tears were coming. We went back to the “house” and I tried to pull myself together. Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror I tried to summon courage with a, “you can do this” but there was no courage left. I was a white city-girl in a jungle I had no business being in.
I finally broke. I walked into the bedroom, tears already in my eyes, hugged Drew, and simply said, “I don’t think I can do this.” Knowing my general dislike of insects, and my overwhelming arachnophobia, he suggested that we stay just one night. I agreed, knowing he would kill each and every crawling thing that had already made its home inside our poor excuse for a mosquito net.
We went downstairs and were met by Ketut who was all smiles. I don’t know where he summoned his energy from, but the kid bounced around like he was on fire. I thought he would burst into a rendition of “Be Our Guest” any minute. He sprung up after installing a small hammock, “Ok! So now what do you think of doing some grilling?” My husband and I exchanged looks and shrugged, “Sure that sounds great.” Ketut explained that we would need to go to the market so he could take one of us on a scooter. When I asked if we could walk he said it was a little too far. My husband was the obvious candidate and I was happy to stay home with my book. I pulled Drew aside, “Just get some meat and bread or something. Oh, and please get me wine.” I knew I would need some kind of liquid luck to get me through a night in that room.
The hammock resided over a bed of giant red ants, so I gave that up and returned to the loveseat. After forty-five minutes of book reading, I began to calculate. If the market was just a little too far to walk then it was probably just fifteen minutes away by scooter. They should come back within a few minutes. After an hour I readjusted my calculations. At an hour and a half, I decided to walk to the trailhead and see if I could spot them in the distance. Nothing. Knowing I was absolutely powerless to save my definitely now murdered husband, I decided to return to the house. I finally heard Drew's booming voice after nearly two hours. Seeing that their arms were full of groceries and charcoal I ran to grab a bag.
“Have I got a story for you.” Was my husband’s breathless excuse.
It turns out that the market is actually half an hour away via scooter, a distance I would never describe as “probably too far to walk.” Additionally, in order to make the journey, Ketut required two helmets, which were inconveniently located at his house fifteen minutes away. Drew was halfway to the market when he began calculating just how long he would be gone. Knowing how nervous this would inevitably make me, reinforced the need to return with wine. He described the market as “something out of Indiana Jones”. They had to visit various shops in order to fulfill the grocery list including the blacksmith where they would find charcoal for the grill.
Before returning home Drew turned to Ketut and asked where he could find some wine. “Well, would you like to try Balinese wine?” Thinking there could not be a striking difference between wine varieties and knowing all I needed was some form of an alcoholic beverage, Drew agreed on the contention that the “wine shop” was close. What he found was less like a wine store and more like a twenty-something’s basement. The wine was made from coconuts and clearly fermented in the gasoline jugs which lined the “shop”. The owner, one of Ketut’s friends and avid Indonesian music fan, was found loudly singing into a karaoke set. Ketut joined in, and Drew was given a quick tasting. This stuff, whatever it is, is not wine. It smells as though someone let cheese go bad inside an old shoe. Not wanting to be rude poor Drew drained his glass and bought two bags. Why they came in bags I will never know, but it was these two bags that I carried back as Drew and Ketut unloaded their groceries.
Ketut left to get the “grill” and I began to form a cooking plan as Drew explained his adventure. We laughed over the Bali wine and decided to ask Ketut to get us some beer. When the ball of fire returned, he gladly bounced away to purchase our much-needed vice. We had potatoes, onions, garlic, pork ribs, and bread. I began dicing the onions and garlic to sauté with the potatoes on the stove, leaving the meat to my dynamic duo. The “grill” was just a trough for charcoal. Ketut brought some chicken wire to lay over the heat but Drew refused because the galvanized metal would kill us (you learn something new every day). A painted piece of scrap metal was another alternative but apparently, that would have killed us too. I am really glad he knows these things.
Eventually, the meat was laid vertically, and Drew was able to cook it without letting the ribs rest in the charcoal. Meanwhile, I burnt onions and garlic as I attempted to cook potatoes on an old pan. I noticed that Ketut had previously brought three sets of silverware and three plates. I was happy that he intended to eat with us even after all the trouble we put him through. Ketut remarked that he could smell my burning onions from outside our house, which I took as a mild insult, but shrugged off given my circumstances.
Our dinner was finally finished and though the onions and garlic were now blackened to a crisp, the potatoes were fine. The pork was not as crispy as the onions but also burnt. At least we knew our food was as safe as it could be. Now I should mention the fourth character in our story. Her name is Maya and she is a medium-sized white dog that showed up soon after the groceries made an appearance.
While we set the table Ketut looked at us with shrugged shoulders, “I was wondering… would it be alright if I were to… go home now?” I don’t know what the poor kid thought we expected of him. When he helped us with our bags we certainly did not think he would spend the whole evening assisting us. “Oh my gosh of course!” we both insisted. We sent him home with some charred pork, which he most likely tossed in the presence of a much better home-cooked meal. Even Maya wouldn't eat my potatoes.
We laughed through our dinner and after relaxing with a large beer I decided I was ready to brave the room. As we climbed the stairs still laughing about Ketut and the events of the day, I began to soften my opinion of the surroundings. Things were starting to look up and I was just beginning to think traditional Balinese living isn't so bad after all.
In our room I leaned over my large Samsonite bag, hoping to extract my toothbrush without causing too much of a mess. I briefly looked up into the built-in cabinet right in front of me. That was when I saw him. It may have been a her, but the thing was certainly too large to be called an “it”. He had a soul. Perching, menacing, lurking in the shadows was a dark figure. At first, all I could see was a black bundle of legs. “Is that what I think it is?” I could hear the shaking in my own voice.
When recounting the story, Drew pointed out that he thought I was pointing to a teensy-tiny spider hanging down an infinitesimal web. Perhaps this was what had first attracted my eyes to the creature that hid behind it. I switched on my phone’s flashlight, and he was finally able to see what I saw. Its many eyes reflected the light, and the definition of its eight hairless legs came into view. It is not enough to call it a spider. This thing was a monster. Drew spotted it, and uttered the only appropriate response, “Holy fuck-a-moley”.
I cannot really remember going down the stairs. I felt the cold sweat creep down my spine and small black spots began to cloud my vision. Next thing I know I am back on the loveseat. I am sure I was speaking a lot, but I have no memory of it.
“Ok, I’m going to kill it, and we’re going to find another place to stay.” Reason spoke at last. “How are you going to kill it?! That thing…” I trailed off remembering its power position. Surely the monster had the upper hand. Drew ripped off a piece of bamboo from the poor excuse for a wall, “I’m gonna poke it.”
I have never doubted my husband, except at that moment. “Just please move the luggage out of the way.” Drew examined his weapon, “It’s not like it's going to jump at me.” “You don’t know that! Some of them jump!” Drew shortened his bamboo sword and made his way up the stairs, “I’m gonna go play stick fight with the spider.”
I could hear the whole thing. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or pray or curse. What came out of me was a combination of the four. In my hysteria, I may have spoken in tongues. First, he postured himself, choosing the best location for the execution. I could then hear my large Samsonite bag make its way across the room. What followed, was a series of jumps and thwaps that took way too long. When everything was silent, the thought occurred to me that Drew could have lost and that I would have to drag his cold dead body out of Shelob’s lair.
He emerged victorious, though visibly shaken. “It’s dead." When I asked what happened he only shuddered and admitted, "it totally jumped." After the adrenaline wore off he explained that the monster jumped towards him the second Drew chose to strike. It then tried to escape the room and ended up on the outside of the bedroom door. Drew's only thought was "it's outside... and Allie's outside". He swung the opposite door open, swiped the spider onto the floor, and whispered a quick, "I'm sorry" as he thwated it to death.
We then attempted to find another place to stay, in the jungle, in the middle of the night. The first hotel I called produced few results. Someone answered, but they were closed for the night. We eventually booked a bungalow at a place down the road. We called the booking company and asked them to check with the front desk after reading a review which stated it was “hard to find”. He reassured us that everything would be fine and that we had booked the space. Oh, how I wish I had taken down his name.
Maya the Wonder Dog was ever-present throughout the ordeal. We decided to grab our toiletry bags and leave the rest of the luggage locked in the bedroom with the corpse. As we set off on our midnight trek, I imagined curling into a safe, clean, spider-free bed. Maya joined us, and we were thankful for the company. When recounting this story to friends and family, a few have remarked that this should have been the most frightening part of the saga. And yes, to a normal, rational person, taking a walk in the middle of the night in a foreign country should present a red flag. But I am very, VERY scared of spiders. At this point, a midnight stroll was the least of my concerns.
When Google maps informed us that we had reached our destination, my heart sank. The locked gates and extinguished lights sealed our fate. The bungalows were closed. I looked up at Drew, “What are we going to do now?” He sighed, “We’re going to have to go back.” I was afraid he would say that. At this moment I had a decision. I could walk back, and cry, or I could walk back and not cry. I think I was just too tired for tears.
Back at the hell house, I sat on the loveseat in the open-air kitchen. “I can’t. I can’t sleep in that room. I’m sorry Babe but the thought of being in the room with that . . .” I shuddered at the memory. “I know.” He reassured. “We’ll just have to sleep down here.”
Let me reiterate. This was not a couch. This was a loveseat. I could not lay across it without scrunching up my legs. Drew is six-foot-three so he had no chance. In total, we probably each got a few hours of sleep. Drew ended up utilizing three wooden chairs as a bed and woke up exclaiming, “I’m a samurai bitch!” We also took down the hammock, which became our blanket/mosquito net. Maya the Wonder Dog rested peacefully at our feet. She would bark at passing creatures, which is just about the creepiest thing you can wake up to in the jungle at three in the morning. We somehow made it to daylight, vowing that we would soon get the F out of dodge.
Before we could make our escape, we would have to inform poor Ketut. We walked up to the restaurant and were met by his beaming face, “Good morning! And how was your night?” I let Drew take the lead on this one. “Well, we actually slept downstairs.” The smile was instantly replaced by misunderstanding mingled with surprise, “You slept outside? But why?” Not ready to accept the blame, I kept my face turned to Drew. He continued to bear the burden of the story, “Well. . . we went to our room, and there was this spider.” Ketut worriedly interjected, “Oh no . . . but I had checked the room for spiders.” If there was any doubt in my mind that maybe we should give this place another shot, that comment certainly solidified my resolve. Any sort of living situation which would require someone to perform a cursory spider check was not the place for me. “So where is the spider now?” Ketut inquired. “Oh, I killed it. It’s dead.” Was that just a hint of pride I could hear in my husband’s voice?
Ketut wanted to see the corpse and we agreed. We also wanted to make it clear how excellent of a host he had been, and to keep working hard, but maybe not so hard. Remembering his concern with going home the previous night, Drew explained, “You don’t have to worry about staying with us every step of the way. Just tell someone their options then let them work it out. And if they need help, they will ask for it.” Ketut seemed to understand. He sat in thought for a little while, then turned to Drew, “It's just. I thought you were leaving because of the spider” “Oh we are totally leaving because of the spider! Don’t worry Ketut. We are absolutely leaving because of the spider.” I added my own feeble words of encouragement, but our friend seemed much more upset about our night than we ourselves did.
I began cleaning the kitchen area and Ketut went to examine our kill. He came downstairs and, to my horror, had the thing in his hand. Drew walked over and shouted in fear. It was something like a, “GHAAaaaAAAHhh!” Apparently, the ants had gotten ahold of our dead enemy and were currently making their way up Ketut’s arm. Drew is a big guy. And seeing a big guy jump back in fear will always be hilarious. But especially while Ketut, who stands at about five-foot-five and will forever remain skinnier than me, just stared at him in quizzical surprise, “This is just a walking spider.” “Ok Mowgli.” I added under my breath. We didn’t care what kind of spider it was, knowing those things exist was enough to scare me away. Who knows? With his last breath could have shouted “Avenge meeeeeee!” to his whole spider family. If Ketut wanted to brave spider revenge he could have at it.
With a few words of farewell, a more cheerful Ketut helped us packed our bags into a taxi. We were able to book a week at a resort in the Northern part of Bali. For the next hour and a half, we slept a little, laughed a lot, and vowed to always read the reviews on Air B&B.