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Travel journals are the perfect way to record your experiences and observations. Some of the memories may be better than others but it’s always great to have the opportunity to relive your trips. I recently looked back at a journal of mine that chronicled a 13-month round the world trip my wife Lianne and I took nine years ago. I still get shivers when I think about the night that we survived in a Mongolian yurt with hundreds, if not thousands of spiders…

The Canary in the Coal Mine

Lianne had been adamant, “When we go to Mongolia, I want to stay in a yurt and ride a camel!”  She would repeat this seemingly every day.

I personally didn’t see the big deal, but she had put up with tons of my travel requests, so I agreed. When we arrived in Ulaanbaatar, we found a local guide who talked up staying in a local family’s yurt to “get away from other tourists and experience life like the locals.”

The next morning, we drove to Terelj National Park and met the local family who would be our hosts. I should have been on alert when they told us they had not had any visitors for several weeks. We had a magnificently paired dinner of spaghetti noodles with hot sauce and soy sauce. On the side we were given pickles and yogurt which was washed down with instant coffee…what a treat!

a person sitting in front of a yurt

It started out so nice.

a man lying on a bed

The battlefield

Battle Lines are Drawn

After dinner we retired to our yurt to play rummy and escape the cold. The first hour or so was fine until a spider the size of my palm (just a slight exaggeration) rappelled onto our bed. In the creepiest manner possible it sprinted for a dark corner.

I shrieked in terror and smashed him with a shoe. At that moment we got the strange feeling of being watched. A scan of the yurt revealed my biggest fear materialized and I got chills. It was infested by (this is a conservative estimate) hundreds of these creepy crawlies.

Apparently, the arachnids were nocturnal because where there had been none before there were now countless 8-legged beasties. There were several spider varieties of different colors, size and hairiness. They were scuttling on the floor, in corners, on the other beds and on the ceiling. The closest town was miles away and the outside temperature was in the 30s. For all intents and purposes, we were captive. I was absolutely terrified.

a close-up of a spider

This was one of the cute ones.

The Arachnid War

The arachnid war commenced over the next several hours. Spiders would charge out of dark corners or drop from the ceiling and we would swat or squash the advancing crawlers. They would seemingly retreat, regroup and hit us again. It was like the movie “Kill Bill” with Lianne and I employing our ninja skills and standing back to back as the spider corpses piled up.

After several hours the attacking spider numbers started to dwindle. We squeezed onto one of the single beds and wrapped ourselves like burritos for protection. We spent the entire night (sleeping is not an appropriate term) taking periodic three-minute naps and jolting awake to check for enemy intruders. As the sun rose, we stepped out of the yurt like survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

We were greeted by our Mongolian hosts, “How was sleep?”  We lied in unison, “Okay.” After breakfast and four cups of coffee we went to explore the national park and fulfilled Lianne’s second Mongolian dream. We rode camels. I must say it was a much more pleasant experience than her first idea.

a man sitting in front of a table with food in a pot

Just happy to have survived the night.

a woman riding a camel

Lianne got her camel ride in…


Do you keep a travel journal? Have you had any “scary” encounters like this in your travel? Let us know in the comments below!

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