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Camping Misadventures – The One with the Leeches

Camping Misadventures – The One with the Leeches

The One with the Leeches

ANGHARAD THOMPSON REES

A camping misadventure essay

A flock of golden crested cockatoos took flight from the forest canopy, squawking in fear. A blood curdling scream continued below them, the type you hear in a spooky wood in a Hollywood movie. It’s the sound that scratches the insides of your bones if you are unlucky enough to hear it. And scratch my bones it did, for this was no Hollywood movie and the scream belonged to me.

Now, I’ve kept this story quiet for some time for a couple of reasons…

One, I would hate to scare anybody from the idea of camping if they have not yet been. It truly is one of the most beautiful joys in my life and I’d never forgive myself if one faux pas on my part were to frighten others off for life.

Secondly, I am mortally embarrassed by the whole affair. For reasons you’ll discover if you were to read on. So, where was I? Oh, that’s right…

“Wander Often

Wander Always.”

It was stunning, this campsite. Burrowed within the mountains of New South Wales with the promise of a waterfall made a trip inland even more appealing. We, The Fella and I, found a great spot under the blue spotted gums. Birds sang, butterflies frolicked, wallabies bounded. Actually, there were no wallabies, but I did see some wallaby poo so I’m sure they had bounded through at some stage…

 “Let’s go find the waterfall,” The Fella said, and off we went, with our Gopro, our swimmers and a whole load of adventurous spirit tucked into our back pockets. And as you can see, the waterfall was utterly beatific.

 

“I can’t wait for morning!” I squealed, “I’m so going to shower under the waterfall!”

You see, it was evening by the time we pitched up and just a little bit cool so the promise of a beer around the campfire was mighty appealing. So the shower would wait, and what a glorious way it would be to wake up! We made our way up the mountain towards our camp.

“Let’s walk down this track,” suggested The Fella (note, this was his suggestion, not mine). “If we follow the track up, we can reach the top of the waterfall.”

And like a lamb to slaughter, I followed…

“Like a lamb to slaughter, I followed.”

This is the point where I need to share with you my choice of clothing for this expedition. I had a pair of beachy shorts that almost, but not quite, covered my butt cheeks, a small vest – or singlet as we call them here in Australia – that did little to cover up my modesty, and a pair of thongs, sandals, flip-flops, what ever you call the type of footwear in your country that is completely inappropriate for anything other than walking along a beach.

 

It started out all well and good. The track was beautiful, lush and green and brimming with wildlife. At some point, the ground began to get a little marshy and sloppy mud started oozing between my toes. But that’s okay; I’m a roughty-toughty Welsh bird. I can handle muddy feet (in fact, coming form Wales, it’s quite necessary).

And then The Fella murmured something about something and I paid no attention, because I do that sometimes. I was probably thinking about unicorns and fairies and how this lovely forest could inspire a new story for my children’s book collection. I should have listened.

“Oh F*@k,” said The Fella eloquently, “We’ve got to get out of here.”

But it was too late; we were already ambushed. From every direction, from the ground, from the branches at head height, everywhere, the dirty, little suckers reached out for us, sniffing out our blood to quench their thirst.

This was leech city.

“Frozen with fear, I was, with leeches sucking the life out of me.”

“My scant beach clothing did nothing to protect me, obviously, and I mentioned the thongs upon me feet, right? Well, you know that bit of skin between your big and second toe? There, right there I suffered my first ever leech attack. I would love to say that I was cool and calm and dealt with this situation like any seasoned camper would. But I didn’t. Instead, I screamed like the four year old girl I once was when my toy pony was stolen by the horrible boy next door.

It went something like, “GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF” on loop, getting louder and louder with each repeat. And off it came to be replaced by another and another and anther and you know in the movies when the stupid girl in the scary wood is being chased by something quite unsavoury and she just stands there like a lemon? And you’re like, “Run, you stupid girl, run to safety!” Well now I understand why she doesn’t move.

Frozen with fear, I was – like a lemon – with leeches sucking the life out of me.

Like a swooning lady of the Jane Austine persuasion, I was too faint of heart to run for my life and instead agreed to participate in a piggyback from The Fella. On he galloped, leeches hooking themselves onto his trainers and shirtsleeves. On I screamed, as I continued to see the blighters reach out for me on the branches as they whipped past my face and my galloping steed.

“Faster!” I yelled.

The Fella said something I couldn’t quite make out in the fright of it all, but it sounded something like ‘for buck’s sake.’

Eventually, with panting heart and heaving chest (and one almost broken back), we made it out of Leech city and onto a dry path, but I would not dismount my steed and urged him on all the more. We passed a family of four dressed in wellies and all over body protection (smug little know-it-alls). Now, I wouldn’t like to say that the little boys laughed (having heard my screams and all) as I rode by. But they did.

Many, many, many hours and beers later, I very nearly saw the funny side.

I didn’t take my waterfall shower the following morning…

How to get rid of leeches!

Here, this is something I wish I had read before my experience. Perhaps wth this knowledge I wouldn’t not have been quite a scaredy-pants!

Burke's Backyard

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