I turned 23 in the Amazon. Pretty awesome, right? Yeah sure, on paper. The reality was somewhat less wonderful than you may be imagining.
Basically, if you do not love giant bugs smacking you in the face (who actually does?!) then the Amazon is really not the place for you. I spent the few nights I had there being terrorised by giant flying beetles. Going to the bathroom was a terrifying ordeal. I quickly learnt to drink as little as humanly possible and let the jungle sweat it out through my pores. Scientific, I know.
The Bathroom Beetle Battle
At one unfortunate point I did end up alone, trapped in the bathroom with what seemed to me like the entire insect population of the Amazon. My body was crippled with fear but my bladder urged me forward. I needed to pull back that curtain, that curtain decorated with giant moths and huge stag beetles. I don’t know what they put in the water in that place but how big does a bug need to be?! My fingers trembled as I tentatively lifted the curtain the minimum amount necessary for me to squeeze through without disturbing any of it’s inhabitants. I then proceeded to inspect the toilet very thoroughly for any sign of insect life. Once I was convinced the coast was clear I yanked my shorts down, hoping nothing crawled into them in the mean time, and had the quickest pee of my life. Seriously, I’m pretty sure it was some sort of record.
Unfortunately for me, on my journey out of the infested bathroom, a particularly large stag beetle decided he didn’t like the look of me. Perhaps he didn’t like blonde pigtails, perhaps he knew it was birthday and wanted to join the festivities, perhaps he just wanted to watch the world burn, either way he came trundling straight towards me with death in his eyes. What made this situation worse was that the bathroom was pitch black and the only thing that lit my path was a tiny head torch. I never saw him coming. I never stood a chance. I heard the buzzing just in time to turn my head. He collided with my cheek and I died. Ok, well I didn’t die, but that’s probably what the rest of my group thought had happened. I screamed at the top of my lungs and ran back to the “safety” of the dimly lit, open-air bar where my party was being held. I stopped my screams when the thought occurred to me that if I had my mouth open a bug could potentially fly INTO it.
But sure there were cocktails, and candles, so yeah, it was grand. “Happy BUGday Tara”, the Amazon cackled to itself as I tossed and turned under my mosquito net that night.
Surely there were better days?
The Wasp Whisperer
Oh yes, perhaps you are referring to the story I most frequently recount from my time in the Amazon. The wasp story. Now, those of you that know me will be aware that the presence of wasps awakens a deep, irrational anxiety within me. Just as well they have no wasps in the Amazon then! Oh wait, no, they have ALL of the wasps. My guide quickly informed us that the wasps will land on us but they are only interested in chowing down on our sweat. Awesome. I decided to go with it and try to bond with the local wasp population. Perhaps I would overcome my fear?
As I wandered through the jungle towards our boat I heard my guide tell one of my fellow travellers that if any of us got stung or bitten by anything they used a special device to suck the venom out. This seemed like fairly important information for some reason. By the time we arrived at our boat my arms had become a sort of second home for several small stinging creatures. I was starting to fancy myself as somewhat of a wasp whisperer. As we all took our seats and headed off down the river I suddenly felt a warmth spreading across my left buttock. This quickly transformed into an excruciating stinging sensation. It started to travel down my thigh. I lifted up my leg and, of course, found a rather squished wasp.
What did I do? What if it was super venomous? – I was in the Amazon after all. It wasn’t just some run of the mill wasp. I was torn. On one hand I didn’t want to die, but on the other I also did not want the guide using his venom-sucking contraption on my ASS in front of the entire tour group. It was this hideous vision that convinced me to ride out the pain. It was at this precise moment that my guide decided to strike up a casual conversation with me. I did my best to respond through gritted teeth; “mmhmm, yep, mmhmm, plantain chips are the best”. Luckily for me years of working in retail had allowed me to perfect a smile while thinking I might actually be dying.
Thankfully after a few hours the pain subsided and I realised I probably wouldn’t lose an ass cheek, or my life. Needless to say, my relationship with wasps is still as rocky as ever. Wasp whisperer my ass! Oh yes, pun completely intended.
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