Face-to-face with a couple of tarantulas
It’s been a while, but I find myself driving back down this long, familiar driveway in the middle of the West Auckland bush.
The nerves start jangling a little but I know that we can’t turn back now.
My date with a tarantula has finally come.
Bug man Brian Lawton, owner-operator of Hands on Creatures and Creatures Unlimited, greets us with a devilish smile at his front door.
It’s taken two years since I held an Avondale spider. But I have returned.
When I was a little kid spiders absolutely freaked me out.
As I’ve grown older my fears have subsided but still, I’m about to get up close with an arachnid that has frightened and fascinated.
Lawton tells me there are about 800 species over the world, predominantly in tropical climates. Most tend to be tree dwellers and are good at hanging. The name possibly originates from the ‘‘tarentella’’ dance, he says, which was performed by Italian cultures centuries ago. They believed it helped with the healing if they’d been bitten by these huge spiders.
First up is the Chilean rose haired and my palms are sweaty.
Lawton has a strong calming presence, I’m about as ready as I’ll be.
‘‘Their bite’s no worse than a bee sting,’’ he says reassuringly, moments before the giant spider slowly crawls onto my hand and begins moving up my arm.
It’s a lot heavier than I first imagined - the tiny claws are dig into my skin as she prowls along, it’s a surreal feeling.
Lawton takes her off me and I feel (surprisingly) great. Then he brings out the much bigger Peruvian pink toe. The hair on this thing is incredible, kind of like fibre optics when it catches the light.
I’m a lot more confident but the claws are much stronger and her legs are flailing everywhere. Where’s she going to go? This is what I reckon freaks people out the most about spiders - the unpredictable movements.
The spiders are now safely back in their enclosures and we say our goodbyes. I leave with a different impression, seeing these fascinating creatures in a whole new light.
However I can’t help thinking I’d feel a little different if one unexpectedly dropped on my shoulder while I’m hiking in some remote rainforest.