Hiking in Taiwan is always an adventure. Between poisonous snakes, deadly, swarming murder Hornets as big as a grown man's little finger, and spiders as big as a man's hand, it might seem pretty scary. Add in earthquakes, typhoons and native tribes and it might just seem pretty perilous indeed! Except...
...Well, as with many things, it's not nearly as scary as it might look or sound from the outside. The natives are peaceful, friendly, helpful, kind and live a very modern kind of life. The murder hornets tend to stay far, far away from inhabited areas or even hiking trails, the snakes - while genuinely deadly - are easily avoided with basic understanding and common sense, and the spiders, while admittedly huge, are easily avoided and, on the whole, not too dangerous. In fact, nature in Taiwan is a beautiful and rewarding thing to experience!
These are a few of the surprisingly beautiful spiders that I encountered one summer while traveling around some of the more remote, and amazing, corners of this island paradise that I hadn't yet visited. Zhuilu, the short hike I was on at the time, is worth another post on its own (and may get one eventually), but these spiders are beautiful and amazing creatures in their own right, so I think they also deserve one. Give them a chance - you just might find there's more to them than you think!
This giant orb spider, also often called a banana spider, is as big as a full grown man's hand. It was swaying gracefully in the wind as I went up the Zhuilu Trail in Taiwan's Taroko Gorge National Park. I've seen them all over the place in lower altitude hikes, and even walking around at near 0 elevation.
Unlike most other spiders, the all-dominating female makes webs so strong that it doesn't need to spin it over and over every night. Instead, they make one, massive web, bigger than an adult man with arms and legs outstretched, and live there for years and years. Their bite, though painful, is neither deadly nor poisonous to humans, but their amazing, shimmering and beautiful yellow silk has been turned into the most amazing and beautiful works of art you can possibly imagine. Just check out this short clip from Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley over at the Victoria and Albert museum to see - it blew my mind when I watched it for the first time!
The much smaller, red spiders you see on the web are the males. They hang out being lazy, looking for a chance to mate, and hoping to steal some food from the female. But it's risky business, as they often go from mate to meal in a fraction of a second themselves!
This leaf spider - I believe also called a spiny orb spider - was a cool bonus. I'd never seen anything like it until this hike!
After all the wonderful creatures I discovered hiking in Taroko, I'll definitely be watching out for more. I went in for the amazing views, and came out with a whole new experience! You never know what you'll encounter when you go out your door in Taiwan!
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