Charlotte Halligan gets to grips with the blood-sucking fiends in the world's oldest rainforest.
I have learned something new: leeches move like ‘Slinkys.’ And when they sense you approaching they stand to attention and wave backwards and forwards like a finger beckoning you toward them.
They don't look like the large slimy slugs that TV has led me to believe. Instead they are nimble and lithe; they are contortionists that can climb, wriggle, and burrow, finding any and all means possible to break through the barrier of your clothes to the feast beneath.
If you're lucky, the first realization of a leech attack is when you look down and see a circular blood stain spreading outwards on your clothes, meaning the leech has come and gone. If you are less fortunate, you will actually find one of the little bloodsuckers latched on, its black body pulsating with your heartbeat as it gorges itself on your vital fluid. When this happens you are faced with three options:
1. You can pull the sucker off. This is not advised, as they have a vice like grip and tend to leave teeth behind to get infected.
2. You can be compassionate, let the little guy have his fill and drop off naturally, and then squish him as he crawls away.
3. You can burn it off, although this carries the inevitable risk of singed leg hairs.
I learned all these fascinating facts during a 14 kilometer, 2 day hike through the world’s oldest rainforest in Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia.
The best laid plans...
It seemed like a good idea at the time. We were going to start the day with a relatively easy hike to the top of Bukit Teresek, enjoy the view and have some lunch before trekking across the river on the Yong trail. Once we were there we would set up camp in a hide and stay awake, silently watching for the jungle's inhabitant deer, monkeys and tigers.