Travel Writing Awards Entry

By Melissa Ryan

I guess looking back it didn’t start off like any other normal day.  The pleasantries of a mixed hostel room were typified when I rolled over and awoke to find a rather large, well, fat man towelling himself off right next to my face. 
Needless to say, I passed on the sausages that morning at breakfast.
It was a muggy morning in Northern Thailand and my group and I were about to embark on a four day trek into the surrounding hills just as so many tourists had done before us.  We were off in search of hill tribe folk, to learn about their lifestyle, take a peek at their culture and I wanted to see if there were any rave parties happening inside their straw huts.
In the back of the ute we jumped and we were whisked off to the starting point of our trek.  I always had trouble figuring out which side of the road they drove on in Thailand…from what I could see it worked on a first come, first served basis.
Not to worry I thought as we were dropped off at the end of a dirt track with our bags.  No chance of a skinny latte around here I figured.  We soon set off with our two newly acquired porters leading the way.  A quirky pair; they took to hiding behind bushes and suddenly jumping out in front of us- sure to get a reaction from at least one of the five girls in our group.  Their names remained a bit of a mystery to us, a sort of cryptic tongue twister that we could never pronounce right.  Given this, the most obvious solution was to create nick names for them.  Thus, Spiderman and Sexyman were born, despite neither one of them having any great resemblance to their new, Anglo names.
Several path diversions, a couple of river crossings, the odd bit of bush bashing and several hours later, we reached the village of intent.  A simple place, we were shown to our rooms and quickly dropped our bags.  I headed straight for the shower as I had been sweating like a waterfall all day.   And this is where it all came unstuck.  Into the shower I went, turned on the water and there, starring straight at me was a big, black scorpion.  Survival instincts began to engage and I soon realised that it was standing between me and the door – the only exit of the bathroom.
Growing up in New Zealand had not prepared me well for this encounter.  The most dangerous animal in our country was some small spider that was distinguished by a red stripe on its back…I can’t recall its actual name though.   But it had nothing on this giant scorpion that didn’t seem to be concerned about the look of horror on my face.  I wondered if this was its favourite pass time- a game played by all potentially venomous creatures, with bonus points given for physical contact.
I looked around the room for some sort of defensive object.  Should I squirt it with shampoo?  Should I attempt to cut it with my razor?  No, I know, my quick drying, super absorbent yet miniature towel will come in handy…there weren’t a lot of options presenting themselves to me at that moment in time.
So, here’s what I did. I threw my towel in the direction of the scorpion (eyes firmly closed at this point of course) and I ran, I ran like the wind.  I jumped too, like a gazelle on speed. Out of the bath room I went and straight into a room that had several members of my group and some of the local tribes’ people in it.
There I was standing naked in front of them all.  As I was thinking of something half decent to say, I thought back to my early morning wakeup call and it appeared that I was now the one in need of a towel. 
Needless to say, everyone passed on the melons that night at dinner.