Fear Fighters

The first person we ask for directions tells us to turn back. So does the second; he's Thai, and he's frankly confused that we'd want to walk to Hat Yuan when, for a hundred and fifty baht, we could get a boat there.

But that's not the point.

So we ignore his detailed directions back to the pier, and hike into the jungle above Hat Rin. The trail's poorly marked, and by the time we reach the top we've received directions from a Thai leaning out the window of a hut in the middle of nowhere, and a very strange farang who did not expect to find us in his garden.

The viewpoint's everything we'd hoped it would be, a huge bare rock with 180 degree views. With my monocular I'm able to count tourists arriving by longtail, and identify an incoming Zodiac (what's that doing here?). A cloud of dragonflies circles a few metres above us.

But on the way down the other side of the ridge, I come to a sudden stop. It's the size of a fat man's fist, black, yellow and red, fangs visible and sharpened legs at nightmare angles. It's hanging at classic face-height, on one side of the path. Lyn must've missed it by a foot or two. She didn't see it, but now that I have, I'll have to go around.

Bush-bashing in the jungle is a very bad idea, but this is only a couple of metres, cutting a corner downhill as the path switchbacks. I start my bum-slide, knowing that the orb-weaving spider couldn't care less but terrified that I've somehow snagged it, now that I can't see it. Plants catch at me and I tear through them, accelerating.

I stumble to a halt at the bottom and begin to take stock. There's something on my chest. It's the size of my outstretched hand. And it's moving.

Suddenly I'm flailing too wildly for Lyn to get it off me, and screaming too loudly to hear her telling me that it's a stick insect. Deep down, IÂ knew that.

But it doesn't make any difference.

When we finally reach Hat Yuan the clouds are gathering. We're trying to celebrate with a beer or two, but I'm watching the darkening sky and the little longtail boats bobbing around on the wide ocean. May is the monsoon season, and massive storms arrive most afternoons, with little warning. It's time to go.

So after only an hour in our new paradise, we're running down the beach towards a boat that's ready to pull away. We leap in, the driver starts up the massive car engine bolted to the back, and we escape from Storm Cove before the thunder hits us.

Lyn, not a fan of deep water even when it's flat, is tensely silent. It's only a five-minute ride, though, compared to the three hours it took to hike. When I mention this, she threatens to find me another stick insect.

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