My birthday found me mid-jungle at the border of Burma and Thailand. I had a bit of a party, with native monkeys and various vermin celebrating with me. I was just a girl and a backpack, trying to forget about things like passing birthdays.
Gning and Gnung, my two Thai tour guides warned me about the "tiny buffalo" or what the hill tribes termed the “tiny beasts” one must grapple with in order to get from place to place; the masses of slimy black jungle leeches.
"I've done worse", I thought, packing my bag without concern. I had arrived in town by bus, and only an hour later had signed my life over to a hefty fifteen-hour jungle trek to a Karen hill tribe settlement at the crack of dawn the next morning. For two nights, we were sleeping in bamboo huts, walking with bamboo sticks, and eating, you guessed it - bamboo. There would even be a chance of monkey spotting! All of that must surely make up for a small parasite problem, right?
The slippery mud paths on which we walked (or rather, slid) were forged by the Karen tribes of Northern Thailand; the only mode of transport for these people to the nearest town.
Walking was tedious. We could spot the tiny ‘buffalo’ in the path, heads stuck in the mud, tails waggling out waiting for the next sandal to snag onto. We were forced to stop every two minutes to pick them out of our shoes and fling them off into the jungle. Dousing my feet heavily with Deet spray, I hoped the beasts would be inclined to move on to a tastier tourist, but nothing would help, not even boots which only made it harder to spot the buggers.
The only solution is to perpetually pick and fling before they settle in your sole and "Make party in shoe!!" exclaimed Gnung the tour guide, who thought the screaming and cussing tourists were really hilarious.
Hours later, we were in the Karen village, taking in two of the many forms of jungle entertainment; watching the arduous process of rice grinding for our dinner and gathering around a makeshift stove unwinding to a villager playing Thai songs with an old beat up guitar.