Sunday, March 06, 2011

Where the wild things are: part three

In my socks mainly. And spilling my blood. Yup, leeches and lots of them. I was in Lamington National Park yesterday with Smithy and four other women from our walking group. The original idea was to camp Friday night, tackle the 20km Ships Stern Circuit on Saturday then return to Brisbane on Sunday. Well, the unending rain on Friday nixed the camping idea for Smithy and I and we decided to head down to Binna Burra very early in the morning to meet the others, who had decided to camp, but in the tent huts that are on site at the camping ground.

We knew there would be leeches. We just didn't expect legions of them. We'd have a dozen each creeping up our boots every time we stopped to admire the view or to look at the pretty fungi growing on picturesque mossy tree trunks. Flicking the leeches off became an exercise in futility as three more would be sneaking up the back of your boots whilst you were triumphantly removing the one trying to lodge itself in your bootlaces. I ended up deciding to leave the one leech that had succeeded in latching on to me and let it fall off in its own time once it had feasted on me. A good theory, but of course, my blood ran into my sock and became a beacon for others. Eventually, I gave up trying to dislodge the little beasties that had burrowed into my socks. I figured there were more of them than me and trying to rid myself of them was a losing battle and detracting from the otherwise very enjoyable day we were having. If they got through my socks, well good luck to them. I'd deal with them at the end of our hike. For the rest, I'd remove any that landed on bare skin. This was a much more successful technique as they were easier to spot and flick off as they hadn't had time to sink their little teeth in to me. A few did still manage to get through my defences. Someone spotted two on my neck and very niftily got rid of them for me and after experiencing what felt like a bite on my bum, I had to ask Smithy to check my buttock where, yes, a leech was trying to settle in for a feed. Towards the end of the hike I noticed blood streaming down my thigh from under my shorts and realised a leech must have had a good ol' time there until it got full and fell off. I must have been a right sight to the few walkers we encountered. Blood trickling down my leg and neck and with blood-soaked socks! My leech count for the day - 11 very itchy welts on my ankles, thigh, neck and *cough* bum. I think it's the aftereffects that are the worst thing about leeches. The idea of them doesn't creep me out nearly as much as walking into cobwebs does. Arrgh! I hate that! But boy, do those leech bites itch. It's driving me mad trying not to scratch at the moment!

Not all the wildlife we encountered yesterday - pademelons, skinks, bush mice - was as unpleasant as the leeches.  Oh, except for the snake. It was only a little thing, no longer than 10cm, but boy was it aggressive! Smithy must have disturbed it as she passed by and it coiled and wriggled and lunged about in the middle of the track looking for something to attack. I backed off from its rearing head, waiting for it to settle and slither off. But it wouldn't. The others soon caught up and thankfully, one woman had a big stick. We all stood behind her as she carefully hooked the snake on the end of the stick and flung it into the scrub alongside the track. We all rushed along the path as the little snake reared about amongst the ferns. I could just imagine it saying "Who did that? Where are you! Come back here and fight!" 

You can just see the little snake - head raised in a striking pose at about 8 o'clock from the passionfruit.
Photograph courtesy of Christine Easton

We completed the hike in just under 6 1/2 hours, which was pretty damned good going, if you ask me, and we rewarded ourselves with delicious mugs of coffee from the Binna Burra Teahouse before setting off for the long drive home and much-deserved hot showers