Spider trees in Dali in China
If anything scares me, it’s spiders. Nowadays I’m not afraid to carefully pick up a tiny spider smaller than half a centimetre with a fly swatter (or whatever else I can use to keep my distance) and take it outside. I’m afraid to kill it (due to abject fear) and I don’t want to (because it’s not the critter’s fault that I have a fear of spiders). When a spider is bigger than half a centimetre, I break into a cold sweat and feel like calling the cavalry to remove the thing. When I was travelling through China and arrived in a small town that had spiders in every tree, I was truly scared out of my wits.
With spiders in every tree I don’t mean 2 or 3 spiders in 1 tree. No, I mean dozens. Maybe hundreds. And not just in a few trees. No, every tree I encountered was infested with spiders.
Our Chinese guide was aching to show us the surroundings and brought us to little schools and temples there. During the tour I had tied my scarf around my head and neck like a hijab to prevent any spiders from crawling down my T-shirt. Eventually we were standing in a temple courtyard, listening attentively to our guide. Until one my fellow travellers gently pulled me closer: ‘You’d better stand here.’ I looked up and saw several spiders hanging above my head, less than 10 centimetres away. I got dizzy there for a moment…
Finally, it was time for a boat trip around the great mountain lake beside Dali. The boat was also full of spiders. The thought that the only way to avoid the spiders was to jump off the boat, made the hour-long trip slightly less relaxing for me. Especially when the spider in the picture came ambling down the deck. Our guide, who seemed a peaceful sort, was already rushing ahead with flip-flop in hand to squash the beastie. I could only just yell: ‘No, wait, I need to make a picture.’ Because otherwise nobody will believe you when you tell the story back home. I looked away after I’d taken the picture and heard a loud whack from our guide’s slipper. ‘He is not alive anymore. Look, he is totally flat!’ I was afraid to look.
But the stressful trip wasn’t over yet. Upon nearing the other side of the lake, I already saw the trees full of spiders looming ahead. The roof of the boat got caught on some branches and when these popped free, several spiders were catapulted onto the deck. Quickly I bolted from the boat as soon as I could. The long point of land we had to cross was bordered by trees on either side. Full of, you guessed it, spiders! Supported left and right by fellow travellers I walked under the spiders. When at the end of the point of land I saw our bus in the distance, I was inside in record time. I’ve never run that fast in my life.
Just outside Dali, by the way, are the famous Three Pagodas. This was also the main reason we were there. I just remember very little of it all. Only the thought of the spiders remains. Pity, because judging from the pictures, those pagodas were certainly worth the view.