Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Daintree Rainforest Hike, Part II

Reception had mentioned that we should wear insect repellent on the hike, including down our socks, to help with the leeches, my husband said. I asked whether the local leeches were aquatic or terrestrial and he said he didn't know, they didn't mention that. After a long time hiking in the water it seemed clear they were not aquatic.

It took a long time to get to the waterfall - three hours at least. When we finally reached it, it really was spectacular and well worth the effort. Photos can't capture it. There were three tiers, and it went up so high and so far it was hard to believe. The photo here is of just the top two tiers. When we were at the bottom we decided to get out of the creek bed and climb very steeply on land to get to the second level and have lunch there. We did, and that was great, but I noticed a leech on the trail moving towards me quickly, like a little red inchworm. I thought I avoided him/her/it, and maybe I did.

We had lunch, crackers and cheese and chocolate, and enjoyed the solitude and the privacy. It was the very best type of hike - far from anywhere, no encounters with other human beings, effort required but for a payoff/reward I considered worthwhile. So everything was fine, until I moved my leg and saw blood on the rock - and then a very, very fat leech limping away. Out of habit I took a photo as when in a strange place I always try to get a photo of anything that bites me just in case there is a problem, so it can be identified later.

I've never had a leech, though I was paranoid about getting them throughout Madagascar. My first made me almost throw up. I don't know why it's so gross, it just is!

Hiking down was alot harder, and by the time we started it was around 2:30 I would guess. It's winter there and it gets dark by 6 so I was worried we'd lose our light. I took almost no photos or breaks and tried to hurry. Footing was harder to see and the climb down was trickier so I fell a lot more than on the way up. At one point I had something in my shoe, but that was not unusual as leaves, etc. got in often in the water, so I waited awhile to get it out. When I did, I am sorry to say I learned it was a second leech, this one had been squished when half full. Again, nearly sick. I was so grossed out it was overwhelming.

We pressed on and gradually lost our light. I wasn't sure at all where to exit the riverbed to hike back through the forest to our lodge. I was thinking of that show "I shouldn't be alive!" where someone always does something dumb and nearly dies - and sometimes does lose limbs or their buddies don't make it. I wondered how we'd stay out there - I was in a swimsuit and crocs and I had no flashlight and it was getting cold. I was worried, I admit. My husband, who I have never seen worried on a hike, also seemed worried, and that didn't help.

Luckily, through some what seems to me near magical sense of direction, he found the place we were supposed to get out. So we walked quickly in the blackness through the rainforest on the narrow trail, past the bush pig diggings we saw on the way in, past the fallen trees and the weird fruits that fall on the ground and look like giant purple peanut M&Ms. We made it back safely.

And then we found the leeches. We each picked up a few on the trail back, and eeeeewwwwww is all I can say!!! We got back at 6:30pm having left at 10am. The hotel never checked on us and who knows if they would have. In the end it was a great adventure we'll always remember, and in some ways it was my favorite part of the trip. It was one of the best non-wildlife experiences and by far our best hike together yet, in my view.

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