Friday, June 15, 2012

Leeches

One day during our first few months in Tasmania, I came inside after doing a little gardening to find some blood on the lower leg of my jeans. I rolled down my sock to find a hole in my shin bleeding freely. No sign of a leech, but that's what had done it. It was strange, because it wasn't a particularly damp day, but they were obviously lurking on our front grass where I had been kneeling to weed around a tree.

Exactly the same thing had happened to me a few years ago in Sydney after a night-time bush walk with my Wild Women on Top trek training group - I arrived home with a blood-soaked sock and a leech bite. And one wet morning while training on some stairs near Balmoral Beach in Sydney, I remember flicking some off my fingers after they had managed to climb aboard from the wooden railings. They are very sticky little things.

It seems any warm blood will do for a feed - doesn't have to be human. We once found a 'hairy' fat leech climbing up the inside of the glass door in our lounge room that had clearly fallen off one of our dogs. And only last month poor Gretchen was suddenly frightened of her beanbag dog bed and refused to sit on it. On closer investigation, we found a fat leech wriggling around on it.

Every Tasmanian bush walker has tales of leeches. One of my favourite tales of leeches in Tasmania is in a book by Di Westaway called 'How to prepare for world class treks'. Di is an adventure fitness expert and founder of Wild Women on Top, the amazing trek training organisation I mentioned earlier. She and a few other 'wild women' decided to bathe in a nice private spot along the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain. Standing stark naked on stream banks, one woman screamed as she found leeches crawling around her ankles. On discovering that leeches had crawled onto their clothes, shoes, packs and bodies, they threw on Gore-Tex jackets and fled to the balcony of New Pelion hut to sort out the mess, but ended up shrieking with laughter at the sight of five women wearing only Gore-tex jackets running from leeches.

Leeches still make me go 'ewwww', but after reading the Parks & Wildlife Service page about these fascinating little creatures I am more interested than scared.

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