Unwelcome bedfellows and other travel tales from Times readers
Readers share their stories of things that go bump (or bite) in the night.
Northwest travel guides
Last week, Seattle Times travel staff wrote of creepy-crawlies encountered on their travels, from an iguana emerging from a toilet to a giant spider dancing around a hotel room. Today, Seattle Times readers share their stories.
Sleeping with the enemy
When I daydreamed about our honeymoon in Punta Mita, Mexico, a thousand lovely thoughts danced in my head. One thing not included in my daydream was a large, poisonous creature sleeping in our bed.
On our first night in paradise I dozed off into a deep sleep only to be awakened shortly after by my husband complaining he had been bitten. I assumed it was probably a mosquito but realized after a closer look that the suspect was probably something larger. I pulled back the sheets and nearly jumped through the ceiling after laying eyes on a very angry scorpion.
We frantically called security and they were in our room in an instant conducting Operation Find The Scorpion. When they shook the sheets out he fell, angry as ever. The security guard jumped. I, of course, screamed. After the scorpion’s life was ended, we were quickly escorted to the medical clinic. The doctor administered an anti-venom medicine and within a few hours my husband’s face regained its color and he was on the road to recovery.
I learned a couple valuable things that eventful evening. I learned that a tropical vacation may not end up like your daydreams. And most important I learned to always shake the sheets before going to sleep in Mexico.
— Coty Thompson, Tacoma
Bugs, bugs everywhereMy friend Tammy and I were playing cards in a guest cabin one rainy night at the Kenya Mountain Lodge in Africa. We were the only guests that night as the tourist season was over.
The rain eventually stopped, leaving a bright full moon peeking through the window. Suddenly, a flying black bug hit me in the head. I swatted it away as we both laughed in surprise. Soon one hit Tammy, then more crashed into me. We hadn’t noticed bugs in the cabin before, so we started to look around to see what was going on.
We were shocked. The bugs were streaming in under the bedroom window! The window wouldn’t close, so we took refuge in the foyer and discovered they were also pouring in under the front door! Next we barricaded ourselves in the bathroom, placing a towel under the door, but when we turned around we were horrified to see hundreds of them now emerging from the drains!
In fear, we bolted for the front door, but the outside of it was completely covered with crawling bugs. We sprinted across the grounds to the main building of the hotel, yet with each step, we noticed less of the crunch of living insects underfoot.
As we neared the lobby, we saw a hotel employee with a huge broom sweeping up thousands of wings. Our guide came out of his guesthouse and explained that this was a termite hatch — millions come up out of the ground once a year, on a full moon, after a heavy rain to find their mate. Once they do, they retreat into the ground again, leaving their wings behind.
— Dan Travers, Seattle
We spent our honeymoon 30 years ago with my wife’s aunt and uncle at their place in Antigua. We stayed in the boat house beside a cove 200 yards below the main residence. Every night after dinner, we walked down a winding paved path to our cozy place by the water. The first night we heard a strange rustling sound in the gardens by the path. We later learned the source of the threatening noise was a land crab. These nocturnal creatures are about five inches across, territorially protective, remarkably mobile and quite aggressive.
This very unhappy dude would skitter toward us every evening and scare the daylights out of us. It got so we’d sprint past his neighborhood on the walk back.
On one of our last nights we were in the main house having drinks and I heard a familiar sound. I looked up and saw the assertive crab — or a brother — skittering across the top of a sliding door. My wife and her aunt shrieked, drawing the attention of a house worker, who got a broom and deftly swept the crab into a bucket. We asked, “What are you going to do with it?” He responded, “Dinner!”
— Jeff Shelley, Seattle
Beaten by the beetles
A close friend (she still is a close friend) and I decided to explore Madagascar by traveling between its beaches and towns via Africa’s infamous minibus taxis. My memories of this trip are fond — and the local brew, Three Horse Beer, featured prominently as we recounted each day’s bone-jangling journey that brought us to that particular beach sunset or crumbling hillside town. We were hardcore!
It was a trip to Ranomafana National Park, a rain forest teeming with such rare flora and fauna that UNESCO has recognized it as a World Heritage Site, that finally dialed our bravado down a notch or two.
Our minivan-taxi had wooden planks covering the worst rust. We climbed on alongside a trader’s live chickens and sack of fish. Together we dipped and swayed over boulders and through mire. When the mud became impassable we climbed out and watched a tractor drag our battered vehicle across the muck while we picked our way along the drier edges. It was a 30-mile journey that took 12 hours. We arrived hot, filthy, and beyond hungry.
Ravenous, we looked into the bowls of rice we had bought to find them crawling with brown spots. Utterly deflated, we silently picked out the weevils (a type of small beetle) with the edge of our spoons, swallowing mouthfuls of rice while trying not to cry. All around us the ancient rain forest hummed with life.
— Catherine Kowalski, Redmond
The deer-ly departed
When I was bow hunting for deer near the town of Okanogan years ago, I stopped at the local restaurant and got talking with locals about the best places to hunt.
One elderly gentleman with a long beard spoke up: “If you dare do it there is the cemetery just outside of town. Myself and many others have seen a huge buck there ... most of the time at night or very early in the morning.”
I thought, “Why not give it a try. Wouldn’t bother me. Everyone is dead there anyway.”
The next morning I got up before dawn and headed to the small cemetery.
I found a large gravestone that had been there for many years. The man had died from a falling tree while cutting timber. As I propped myself up against the headstone, leaves were falling and whistling with the wind. I began getting a bit nervous. I am not superstitious, but being in a cemetery when it’s dark is spooky. I had to wait till hunting time before I could shoot.
Soon I heard the rustle of brush right behind me. It was still a bit dark. I sat perfectly still trying not to even breathe hard. On the right side of the gravestone that huge buck’s head appeared. It was as if I was staring at a stuffed deer I was so close. He stared back at me as if to say, “What the heck are you doing here?” We looked at each other at least a minute and then I watched him walk away.
Even if it had been legal hunting time I would not have used my bow and arrow. It just did not feel right, so I packed up and left.
A great, but chilling, memory I will never forget.
— Joe Giannunzio, Redmond
A mousy tale
It was a long time ago. My sister and I had decided to stretch three months of round-the-world travel in luxe hotels into a year on the road in less-than-stellar accommodations.
We were in a $1 a night (lodging) in India and the toilet paper roll on the dresser ... well, it kept shrinking. Finally, we pulled the dresser away from the wall to find a killer rat with its evil nest.
Of course we jumped on the rope net bed, screaming our heads off. The fellow trekker who came to our rescue nearly died. Not from fright but from laughing.
He rescued what was left of our toilet paper and gently shooed the poor tiny mouse out of our room. We kept the roll in a more secure location after that.
Yvette Cardozo, Issaquah
Crammed in Krakow
Here is a case of me being the creepy-crawly thing, with the narrow, but long bathtubs one encounters in Krakow, Poland. Truthfully, an 87-year-old woman apparently has no business getting into a tub that has neither safety handles nor nearby telephone to the front desk.
The aging body cannot stand from a laying position, unless rolling over onto knees, then pulling up to a dignified standing position. Like a beached whale, struggling with the flip turn, using old out-of-date swimming techniques, acquiring bruises on her shoulders, time elapsing; new sweat accumulating with the need for a real shower, success finally arrived. The Polish nightmare was over.
I suggested to myself that the inviting appearance of a large bathtub with high-tech water jets creates a false sense of delight. Remember, you are a little ancient to be experimenting with new technology; however it might be a good idea to at least take your cellphone when you enter a strange bathtub.
— Pauline Little, Snoqualmie
Night of the roaches
After presenting ESL techniques to teachers from a consortium of schools, my Thai teacher-friend and I were promised a fancy dinner by our husbands. I guess I missed something in the translation, because that meant “the boys go one way and the girls go another.” The last thing my husband said was, “I’ll be home early.”
Off Saowanee and I went — in monsoon rains — to a fancy Chinese restaurant she favored. After a luxurious dinner, she hailed a cab and went with me through floorboard-deep rain to the suburbs of Bangkok where we were staying in another friend’s summer house.
Upon arriving, she opened the cab door and said good night, leaving me alone in knee-deep water outside the compound gate. When I waded to the house, I found the shoes left outside on the veranda were floating and full of little frogs, croaking away happily.
The water was deeper in the sunken living room, the house was sweltering hot and dark, and there was no electricity. I found candles and matches and called Doi (the owner of the house and a police officer) to tell her I had no power. “Is OK,” she said cheerily. “I get it fixed. My police friend next door will check on you.”
So — go upstairs and go to bed? Crunch, crunch, crunch. The stairs were covered with cockroaches the size of small kittens. The bed was also inhabited, so what to do? I crunched back downstairs, got a bottle of scotch, all the candles I could find, empty beer bottles to put the candles in, grabbed a book and retreated into the bathroom. Prepared to tough it out, I filled the tub with lukewarm water from the cistern on the roof and prepared to wait.
Midnight — no light but a cheery “Hello, Kitty. You OK?” The neighbor hollered from outside.
Safely insulated from the cockroaches, I yelled back, “I’m OK.”
“OK,” came the reply.
1 a.m. — no lights or AC, “Hello. Kitty. You OK?” Safe in my moat, I replied in the affirmative.
This pattern repeated hourly. Getting bored with my novel, and inspired by the scotch, I began to candlelight cockroaches, luring them to the outside of the tub and bashing them with a beer bottle. Meanwhile, no husband, no idea where he was, and no way to reach him.
About 4 a.m. I heard the sound of a truck outside, crunched downstairs, and saw two men looking at the power pole in front. After a hurried conversation, they drove off. Back to the tub and “Hello, Kitty ...”
An hour later, the truck returned. I pulled on my caftan and made the noisy trek back downstairs. One man was sitting in the truck with his feet on the steering wheel and drinking a coke. The other, obviously his inferior, was standing in hip deep water, flashlight in his mouth, holding wire cutters and pliers and preparing to hot wire me into the 220 electrical circuit on the telephone pole.
The lights and AC repaired, I turned on everything I could and watched the surviving roaches scurry for cover. I was so mad at being abandoned I started packing, figuring I’d find a way to get a cab and go to a hotel in town. Even though I didn’t speak much Thai, I had an American Express card. Money talks in any language.
At that point, my husband arrived. I was so glad to see him, I burst out in tears. Surveying the carnage on the floors, and my disheveled condition, all he said was, “I said I’d be home early. Five a.m. IS early, isn’t it?”
— Kjysten Drew