13 August 2008

Heavenly Creatures

Picture this perfect little cottage accommodation at the back of a motel in Omeo, VIC.

While we were travelling through Northern and Eastern Victoria over a weekend back in January, we hired it for our Saturday night stay.

After a very nice meal in town, we came back to settle down for the night. As we got out of the car, we were amazed at the stars above us. The Milky Way was clearly visible and I stood pointing out the constellations to J, including the famous Southern Cross which can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere. I hadn't seen that many stars in a long, long time and J couldn't remember ever seeing so many.

With the Sergio Mendez' tune "So Many Stars" going around in my head, we went inside. As J closed the curtains in the lounge area, I noticed something on the ceiling follow her as she made her way back across the room to the kitchen.

It was BIG. And hairy.

Calmly, I asked her to come over to where I was standing. We stood staring up at the largest spider we had ever seen indoors - or outdoors, for that matter. I was pretty certain that it was a harmless Huntsman, but at this stage we weren't taking any chances, and if we were to get any sleep that night, it would have to go - outside - preferably far, far away.

A frantic hunt through the cupboards produced only a single container that our hairy visitor would fit into - a plastic colander with a 25cm (10") diameter. The other challenge was what we could use to slide between the colander and the ceiling to get the spider into the sieve. The cover of the motel guide was the only thing we could find that was rigid yet thin enough to do the job.

The Huntsman waited calmly, watching the commotion below with interest. Conveniently for it, but not for us, it had parked itself on a joining strip between the ceiling panels so the colander wasn't going to sit snugly against the ceiling while we slid in the cover.

Click the image to enlarge - if you dare

J jumped onto the kitchen bench, and when she was in position I handed her the capture apparatus. The colander went over the spider - just. Did I tell you that it was big? The spider didn't move. The colander see-sawed slightly over the ceiling join. J tried to move the colander and the spider off the ceiling join before she slid the motel guide cover between the colander and the ceiling. The spider had another idea.

Spying a miniscule gap between the colander edge and the ceiling, it crawled out and sat on the outside of the colander - on the opposite side to where J was standing. Have I told you how BIG spiders can somehow shrink to fit through small holes?

J couldn't see it but I could. From below her, I yelled, "It's on the outside!" J dropped the colander and the motel guide and the spider.

Onto my head.

We both screamed like girls. Or at least I did, but I'm sure that I heard J scream too, although she later denied it.

As I did a little dance, frantically brushing my hands through my hair, deathly afraid that the spider was now on my head and would soon crawl down between my shirt and me, the spider, which had thankfully fallen off the colander, (as it hit my head), and onto the floor, calmly crawled across the carpet and up the wall - where it paused about 1.5m up and sat looking at us as if asking, "What the hell was that all about?"

Now that it sat on a completely flat surface and at a better height for the humans, it was an easier operation to capture it. As I held the colander and J slid in the guide cover, the spider casually moved into the bowl.

Holding the sieve between us, and the cover clamped tightly on top of it, we crabbed our way across to the door and outside, placing the colander on the ground and removing the lid to release the Huntsman. It didn't move. It liked its new yellow, plastic home. I encouraged it with a broom. It slowly crawled out and disappeared into the bushes.

Locking the door behind us, we then grabbed a blanket with which to seal up the 3cm gap at the bottom of the door - just in case the spider decided to return indoors, or send in one of its relatives to take a look at the weird humans. After inspecting the rest of the cottage and finding a much smaller black, more lethal-looking cousin to the Huntsman in the bedroom, (it fitted in a normal drinking glass), we had a very uneasy night's sleep. Or at least I did. By the sounds that J was making, it appeared that she went to sleep with very little effort.

We left at first light; didn't even wait for the shops to open for breakfast.

If I ever find a Huntsman on the toilet roll as in the image on this website, I may never go to the toilet again.

We prefer to look up at stars than at spiders - just in case you were wondering.


Dubai Sunshine said...

OMG I would have simply died!

kaya said...

(frantically rubbing arms and getting all nasty sensations all over body!!!)
OH GOD! Thats so aaaaargh. DIDJA have to POST such a humongous pic.
I wont sleep tonight , this much I know.
ewwwr and loook at the clarity of the pic, you evil woman. Why didnt you take with a phone. Did you have to take such a NAT GEO pic.

Harsha said...

Ditto Kaya




Seabee said...

Yes, that's a harmless Huntsman...it's the little buggers you need to be afraid of, like the Redback or the Funnel Web.

Oh, the joys of Australia's wildlife.

Shalom said...

I read the start of the post, saw the picture and then came straight to the comments....I'm sure I'll sleep better not knowing what happened :)

Anyway, you've been tagged!

Grumpy Goat said...

I've no idea what species of spider it was, but I once encountered a huge example in the hotel bathroom in the Maldives. Including legs, my monster completely covered a wall tile: six inches across 8-0

So glad I'm not arachnophobic, but I'd still not keep spiders as pets.

Robin said...

I have extensive experience looking at the southern skies and also as a huntsman relocater.

One of the things I missed in the UAE was the clear night skies. Central Australia has the loveliest view ... unpolluted, of the heavens and it's something that has been close to my heart since 1957/58 when I saw the first satellite, Sputnik from Tennant Creek.

Huntsmen are usually best removed with a tea towel. Chuck it over them, wrap them up and shake outside.

Happy days.

Paresh said...

yeeegh.. *goose bumps*
No. Thank You. That was a story best left unshared....

Jayne said...

Oh you pair of wussies! It was just a little spider (giggling to myself!) but the thought of it landing in your hair M made me chuckle I must admit!
I can hardly wait - only another 4wks & I'll get to gaze up into the African sky again & check out all the stars :-)

nzm said...

Heh to all of you who got the creeps reading that!

This spider was big - about 9-10" across. The fact that Huntsmen can jump and move fast also didn't fill us with happiness so we knew that we had one chance to get it. Luckily in the end, the amiable spider gave us 2 chances!

Seabee: we did find a smaller one later and it looked more lethal. More quickly disposed of, though.

Robin: if it hadn't been on the ceiling, a teatowel would have been a good option. Do you get big spiders in Alice?

Jayne: Lucky you and you've only just come back from Ireland! Still, you guys deserve the break after what you've been through this year.

Sandie said...

Oooh!! That is so unreal! Now that we live in Australia, we keep checking the house, inside the beds and inside our shoes everyday for spiders. Our area has the poisonous red back spiders which you don't want to mess with when you have a 3 year old.