“So, uh … how long will they stay asleep?” I whispered to my friend.
“Oh, until sunset at least,” she replied far too loudly.
I scurried on, too far along the trail to turn back, shaking like a leaf.
Spiders. Why did it have to be spiders?
But I’m ahead of myself.
Let’s set the scene, on a muggy summer day a few years back.
My friend and I were on a weekend trip to Hong Kong. The morning was a bust — too foggy to see even the towering giant that is the Tian Tan Buddha. All other hikes on Lantau Island were a no-go, too. So instead, we cut over to Tai O, per my friend’s recommendation.
It was, however, trouble from the start. The trail, my friend noted, was far more overgrown than it had been. Probably to deter too many tourists, she figured. Being the bug-phobic lass I am, I wasn’t thrilled. But on we went. I was stubbornly set on my course. I lived in Asia now, damn it! I could be brave!
And then, the first sighting.
A spider the size of a silver dollar was sleeping soundly in its web just above me.
Hoping it was an isolated incident, I shuffled nervously after my hiking partner.
Oh god, another, off to the left. And another few, clustered in webs that spanned the trail overhead.
Where the f*** was I?
That’s when I stopped my friend. Like hell was I going to proceed if our path led straight to Shelob’s lair. I mean, this is me we’re talking about: the same woman who conceded the bathroom to any wandering spider, even if on the cusp of pissing her own pants, refusing to let her guard down around any eight-legged intruder.
My friend chuckled, unafraid. “Trust me,” she insisted. “The view’s worth it.”
And after a stressful hour, it was. The infinity pool was incredible, glistening under a gloriously colorful sunset. The spiders were behind me …
But wait …
With each beautiful hue, we were another minute closer to nightfall.
It was time to move. And fast.
Hunched behind my 5-foot, 4-inch friend, I held my fear at bay. “I only need to be shorter than her,” I figured. “Let her be their breakfast. Just get to the end of the trail.”
But with every step, it was clear: The spiders were on the move, and no hunching could avoid them. They dangled low, skittering across their barely visible webs. Leg tip to leg tip, they were as big as my hand.
I was approaching full-blown panic.
So off I sprinted.
“I’ve never seen you move so fast,” my friend said, finally catching up. I was still wheezing, having broken into a teary-eyed, hunched-over run a long ways back. I wiped my eyes, still shaking.
But even then, I could recognize the accomplishment: I’d made it through hell, clean pants and all.
And at least I had a decent sunset photo to prove it.