This is a picture I did not take

In the past week, I have encountered some of those things that people warned me about*, namely “things that could probably kill or mame” or “things that are bugs, lizards, and creepy flying things.”  And I have no pictures of any of these things because I didn’t stick around long enough or get close enough to take a picture.

Spiders
Normally I’m not all that bothered by spiders.  They might surprise me as they run across the floor or wall or ceiling, but I don’t think I’ve ever jumped back or uttered a noise when I’ve encountered one. Until this past week.  Here at the house, we have a rather large garden that is filled with palm trees, jade, and other native vegetation. It’s a full time job to keep up with the weeding. The other day, I decided to get out the hedge clippers and take a whack at some bushes at the base of one of the palm trees.  I cut for a while and gathered up the leaves. As I proceeded to begin my second round of cuts, I used the hedge trimmer to pull back some of the bush.  And this exposed a giant spider.  Although I have no witnesses to speak to the giant-ness of this spider, you have to believe me that this was quite possibly the biggest spider I have ever seen in real life. It was bigger than my palm (legs included), hairy, and fat.  I did not scream, but I did gasp and take a couple steps back. I tried to get Dan and show him the spider (because, of course, he didn’t really believe me when I said it was big) but it was gone.  After some research (Googling brown hairy spider Australia),I have a feeling it was an Orb Weaving Garden Spider. If you know what’s good for you, DO NOT Google anything to do with spiders or Australia especially before pulling back the covered and getting into bed….or heading out of weed the garden….or opening a drawer…..or going to the bathroom in the dark.

Lizards
I see probably 2 dozen lizards every day. When I walk out the front door, the geckos that live in the plants in the front of the house scatter. They don’t scare me. They sit on rocks in the bushes, make weird noises, and eat bugs. They are harmless. But the other day while hiking in D’Aguilar National Forest, we encountered a large lizard. I’ve done some research (Googling again), but I’m not sure what it was.  It was probably as long as my arm, fat, and black. It was in the grass and when we approached, it walked into the bushes.  I was happy to note that it didn’t run into the bushes.  Animals that run, even if they run away from me, can always change direction. (I have a ridiculous fear of animals that will run up my leg and attack my head – squirrels and birds are included here).

Bats
When I went to camp in 7th grade, a bat got in our cabin, which resulted in twenty 7th grade girls screaming and ducking. I’ve never liked bats (see the fear of things attacking my head mentioned above). When we lived in Minnesota, we had bats in our bedroom at 5am, bats swooping through the living room, and bats living in the walls squeaking and scratching. Yuck. Here, however, there are no bats in the house. The bats are outside eating fruit from the trees.  And they are huge. They can grow up to 2 metres in length (6.5 feet!!!!!). At night they hang from the trees in our yard and eat fruit and flowers. If you want to creep yourself out, do what I did and read these pages: Flying Foxes or Facts about bats and flying foxes.  Or just rewatch the parts of Indiana Jones where bats are involved. Or Google “videos of fruit bats flying.”

-C

*When you ask most Americans what they know about Australia, they will usually mention the following 1) Steve Irwin aka The Crocodile Hunter, 2) the loooooong flight, and 3) things that will kill you in Australia.  On a related note, Dan is reading Down Under by Bill Bryson right now, and it’s really quite good.  Check out an excerpt here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2001/sep/24/billbryson

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