Bloodsuckers

30 May

Autumn is here. The leaves are changing and we have to wear a coat in the evenings (inside.) Yes, the time has come when it is colder inside than out. Most days I try to head to the library to work where I can still feel my fingers and in the evenings, come 5pm, the lights and heating are on. Despite the chill, the days have for the most part been sunny and you can’t complain when it still reaches 22 degrees.

To make the most of this, we met up with some friends of ours for a picnic last Sunday in the Royal National Park. They are a brilliant family with four children so life is never dull. There’s the artistic one; the bookish one; the quieter, balletic, forgetful one; and the cute, cooking-mad one and combined, all a lot of fun, extremely polite and sometimes a bit mad! That’s before you get to the parents.

Royal National Park

We set out on a walk, not sure exactly where we were going but following a track along a river, which was all very pleasant. When the track petered out we stood, looking for options other than doubling back and realised it either meant going for a swim or heading up. Onwards and upwards won the vote so we scrambled up the bank until we came across a flat section, which could vaguely resemble a track.

Uphill scramble

The overgrown ferns, brambles and tree branches, which slapped us in the face every few minutes did not deter us. Neither did the sludge, which squelched underfoot. We were dressed sensibly enough; long trousers, walking boots or sturdy trainers and light tops. Then came Rob, bringing up the rear in shorts, T-shirt and laceless deck shoes. It’s all very well embracing the ‘She’ll be right, mate‘ Australian spirit until I peered at his leg, at the speck of mud, which as I looked, seemed not to be a speck of mud at all but something a little more bulbous, more muscular, oh and… expanding.

“Is that a leech?”

He looked and we all looked and yes, it was definitely a leech and with some difficulty he managed to yank this thing off his leg and that’s when we all looked down and the realisation dawned and a wave of disgusted noises rippled through us. I saw the leech on my trousers, which despite having no blood, had well and truly latched on to my leg and took James and a stick to eventually get it off. My boots had several of them clinging on, which luckily were easier to remove. We each spent a few minutes batting away these blood-sucking parasites with sticks, with fingers, scratching, scraping, pulling, rolling them up and flicking them away. Then Rob, with blood coursing down his shin, took his shoe off and that’s when even he turned a little green at the sight of the feeding frenzy taking place between his toes.

Two of the children had run off so it was mum who dashed off to go and inspect their shoes and socks, while James then got down on his knees and yes, started pulling leeches from our friend’s feet. I expect it is a scene that will remain forever imprinted on my mind. Luckily, despite a couple of sore patches and some fairly bloodied toes, there was no harm done.

Post-leech picninc

We ambled back towards the main path and the river and out of the wet, leech-friendly gloop, and made our way back to a flat, dry area, bordering the water for our picninc. By the time the bread, cheese, dips and biscuits were brought out, we were all laughing about it. James and Rob sank a beer each and no more was said of their intimate foot incident. Australian bushwalking great fun — just remember your boots.

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