Feedin’ Leeches

July 15, 2012
Pete told us that, despite what we may have read, there was nothing in the rainforest that could hurt us. There were wait-a-while vines with curved hooks that would snag you if you weren’t careful– but these are easy to see if you are paying attention. And it’s ok to grab onto trees and vines to steady yourself over a muddy spot or stream crossing, but don’t grab the lawyer cane with its dense possum-deterring spines that protect its growing tips. He also gave us step by step instructions for testing the edibility of forest fruits (First, rub a little on your inner wrist and wait 20 mins. If no ill effect, then run some on the mucous membrane of your lip. Wait another 20 minutes. Still no problem? Chew a little and spit it out. Wait another 20 minutes. Don’t feel sick yet? Swallow a small piece. Wait three hours. Still ok? Good to go). And he told us that feeding leeches is good karma — the leech won’t need to feed again for a year!– so, if you get one, just wait until it drops off. Especially if it’s on your eyeball. In that case, definitely don’t pull it off because it can damage your cornea. We laughed and didn’t get any leeches on our walk with Pete. And Pete took us to a lovely swimming hole, turned our tongues blue chewing small (edible!) fruits from a tree, and showed us a creeping beach vine (a succulent Convolvulus) with sap that had a topical analgesic for H’s bug bites.

Sunday afternoon, after some beach combing, we decided to hike the lower part of the Manjal Jimalji rainforest trail. The trail took us through a sea of waist-high ferns, then along and across a stream, and steeply up into the vining, twining, epiphyte-rich forest. The trail turned left over a log, and got a bit muddled. As we looked for the right path, a man crashed down the trail right up to us, startling himself. He had an urgent look in his eyes: How far to the stream?  I gotta get these fuckin’ leeches off me. His legs were bloody. They had started early and reached the top, but there was no view with all the cloud cover.  You’ll see Christine behind me… And he crashed on down the trail. A few minutes later we did see Christine. You’re not going to the top now, are you? No, we explained, just hiking this lower bit. Good. And don’t worry – the leeches don’t start until higher. And she continued down the trail.

We continued up another steep section of trail and paused at the top. That’s when I found the leech firmly attached to my ankle. A moment of revulsion. But Pete said good luck for me, right? Oh! There’s another moving on my foot. Quick get it! Oh! there’s one burrowing through Henry’s sock! Then we see them:  leeches rearing their heads out of the leaf litter, waving around, and inch-worming towards our warm and carbon-dioxide emitting bodies.  Gah! Must keep moving! The light is getting low, so we head back down the trail, no stopping to chat or the leeches rear up and crawl our way.   Back at the stream, relief. We rinse our feet and inspect ourselves. My now-engorged ankle leech falls off.  H has the unpleasant revelation of a leech on his bits, luckily it has not yet attached and is easily removed. As I sit on a streamside rock putting my shoes back on– gah! — more leechy friends wave toward us from the streamside rocks. Get moving!

Back at the car, a thorough inspection reveals another leechy friend on the back of my knee. I cover it with a plastic cup while we drive to dinner in Port Douglas. Leechie falls off before dinner, and now I have Leechie in a small yogurt container.

I’m not sure what to do with Leechie. For now, our new pet is traveling with us.

2 Responses to “Feedin’ Leeches”

  1. (0v0) Says:

    They sound *cute*.

    Especially when they wave.

  2. Pete Says:

    Hilarious — no wonder I enjoyed your company