Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tarantulas in the Dark

Chrissy led us on a night walk into the eco reserve the other night. It was an interesting mix of emotions: excitement, curiousity, fear, awe, disillusionment, sadness. The exciting part was just entering the dark trail, hearing all the sounds of the forest and seeing that first huge moth we came across with the glowing eyes reflected in the light of our head-lamps. At the first ojo indigena (they call them lagunas here - Chrissy says they're technically sink-holes. Sink-holes? Who wants to swim in a sink-hole?) a big bird came swooping at me from across the water, screeching. Chrissy identified it as a black crowned night heron. The curiousity of what was making all those different sounds in the dark, what was lurking just beyond those trees, just out of reach of the beams of our intrusive flashlights. The awe of seeing tarantulas that big, just by the path or on top of a termite mound - huge, huge, huge, and hairy - gargantuan was the word that struck me. They have an almost purply tint to them, they are so black. As we took pictures, I had the brilliant idea of laying a pen near the tarantula for scale - just as I laid it down, the monster attacked the pen, lunging at it, jumping on top of it and grapping it with its mighty, venemous fangs. We all jumped back in fear, startled - it had looked so docile, so dormant, just sitting there, until the pen got too close. I barely had my hand away when it pounced. We took plenty of pictures with the tarantula with the pen - I checked back on it twice to see if it had lost interest in the pen, but the first time I checked back, although it had let it go from its fangs, it was still sitting on top of it. The second time I checked, on our way out of the reserve, both the pen and the tarantula were gone. Where did it take my pen? If a thousand tarantulas were given a thousand pens and a thousand years, what masterpiece could they create? The disillusionment came when we all turned out our headlamps and flashlights, trying to experience something of the mystery and inky blackness of nature at night the wilderness. We got quiet and peered around in the dark...we were just starting to appreciate the magic when the distinctively aggravating music from the kiddy center at the hotel came drifting through the trees, reminding us that we had not gone anywhere, that although this beach area was once covered with forest like this, it had mostly all been killed, knocked down, developed, golf-coursed, paved, etc. On the way out, it was sad to see a dead hermit crab - like the ones Ritchie and I are studying, crunched and on the border of death in the gravel at the entrance - we had trampled it either on entering or exiting the reserve. How many other little animals had we unknowingly trampled in there? So, a bittersweet end to an amazing night - I wonder how many visitors to the hotel even bother exploring the reserve, to see what was left of we've done away with...(thank God that the founders had some sort of eco vision for the place - I can't imagine that Club Med or any of the other resorts have any sort of eco-reserve at all).

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