“Is that it?”
They peered out through the tall eucalypts, hoping to see more than trees and a lone electricity pylon. He shook his head in disgust. “That’s not a lookout.”
“Nope.” She wrinkled her face. “I’ve half a mind to complain. How dare they let their trees grow to obscure our view!”
He glanced back at her and caught the cheeky grin she couldn’t quite smother. “I can’t believe we killed ourselves getting up that ridge for this.”
She nodded. “I know, it sucks. I need to sit down for a moment.”
They sat on a small pile of rocks and drank some water. After a few minutes he stood and stretched.
“Right, let’s head back.”
She groaned, still worn out from the trek up the hill. “Geez, Dale, not everyone’s as fit as you!” With a loud sigh she struggled to her feet and stared disconsolately down the track. “At least it’s all downhill from here.”
Slipping on loose rocks, they trudged down the steep track. They stopped when they reached the first marker. It showed three arrows; one pointing left to the way they’d come, one pointing right to the lookout, and one pointing down. The last one was marked ‘Waterhole and picnic area’. As one they turned and looked behind them.
“We could try going that way?”
“At least if it’s as boring as the other way, it’s boring that we haven’t seen yet.”
“And it’s downhill, Sal, remember that.”
They smiled at each other and picked their way down the hill. The track here was wider and less overgrown. Sally peered up into the trees, hoping to see a koala. She walked into Dale, who’d come to a sudden stop.
“Spider web,” he said by way of explanation. She stepped back hurriedly. He cast about for a decent stick. “Hang on.”
Sally chewed her lip as he poked the stick through the web and cleared the path. “Where’s the spider?”
“I dunno, couldn’t see it. Gone now, come on.”
As they passed a tree by the track Sally noticed a large grey spider huddled on an overhanging branch and shrieked. She dashed past and hid behind Dale, who laughed and shook his head. She glared at him and walked off with her head held high, until the next spider web. His lips twitched as she ushered him past, but the mute threat in her eyes kept him silent.
He dealt with the web with ‘spider stick’, carefully flicking the golden orb that had created it into the bushes. They continued on, Sally far more jumpy than before.
“They’re just spiders,” Dale began but she interrupted him.
“I hate them. Don’t try to defend them. Nothing you say will change my mind.”
He sighed but left it at that. Dale quite liked spiders, found them fascinating. Sally was happy to let him remove wolf spiders and huntsmans instead of killing them but she was terrified of any spider larger than a ten cent piece.
Apparently there was some childhood trauma but she wouldn’t share the details.
“It’s getting quite hot, hey? Hope that waterhole is close.”
Sally shot him a look. “Nice subject change. Shouldn’t be too far I reckon. It’s a lot greener down here.”
Dale noticed she was right. The vegetation was lusher and more diverse than higher up the hill. Trees and shrubs tangled together to form a green wall along the track. With the extra greenery came extra—
“Spiders.” She groaned. The track before them stretched out with a long ceiling of spider webs. The gossamer threads were higher than their heads, and the spiders hung suspended in the air.
“I count about seven. Mostly golden orbs I think.”
Sally’s face was a mask of dread. “Can you knock them down?”
Dale stared at her. “Are you serious? They’d probably fall on my head! Look, they are high enough that we can just walk under.”
“Are you serious? They’ll jump on us!”
“They’re spiders, Sal. Not brain-eating monsters waiting for foolish humans to wander beneath them so they can attack. It’s fine.”
Sally looked sick. “I don’t think I can.”
“Fine, we’ll walk back up the hill.”
She stood there a moment, uncertain. Which was worse, spiders or the walk back up the hill? Finally she gritted her teeth and set her shoulders.
“Right, let’s do this thing.”
Dale went first. He dashed madly under the spiders, and waved the all-clear when he was done. Sally screamed the whole way, running hunched over and hyperventilating when she got to the other side but giggled with elation when she’d calmed down. They both looked at the green, algae-covered waterhole with dismay.
“Hellish spider bog,” Dale pronounced.
They inched around the waterhole, and gazed down another green corridor lined with spiders.
“No way,” Sally wailed in disbelief. “They’re bloody huge!”
And they were. Massive grey crab-like spiders hung over the path, to Sally’s eyes a road paved with guillotines. Dale started forward and she shrieked.
“They’re moving. They’re watching us, I swear it.” She shuddered. He scoffed and kept going.
The spiders began a gentle descent, growing larger as they neared the ground. They scuttled forward, a sea of eyes and legs. Yelling in terror, the couple bolted back around the bog, hurtling under the golden orbs still swaying in the breeze as the spider army advanced. They pushed themselves up the hill, breath coming in gasps, until they startled some Scandinavian tourists coming downhill.
“Don’t—go—that—way,” they wheezed. “Spiders!”
The tourists edged back, staring at them nervously. “Is it shortcut to picnic area?”
Dale and Sally shook their heads wildly. “No! Nothing but spiders! Go back!” They stumbled uphill, putting more distance between themselves and the spiders. The tourists glanced downhill uncertainly, then followed Dale and Sally uphill. Away from hellish spider bog.
In the car on the way home they looked sideways at each other and promised never to speak of it again. Sally, however, couldn’t resist an “I told you so”.
Photo credit to my partner Lloyd Barrett. I was stuck for inspiration this week so went through some photos of our adventures and I found this photo of “hellish spider bog”. It was one of the most amusingly dismal adventures we’ve been on, including the non-lookout, the algae-covered waterhole and yes, the spiders! Luckily instead of getting cranky about our misadventures we tend to laugh about them and this one I decided to share, maybe changing and embellishing some details ;).