Khao Sok National Park, Thailand 2010

We enthusiastically signed up for a full day of trekking through the national park, which supposedly contains wild bears, tigers and elephants, not to mention thousands of rare plant species. When I asked the guide what the protocol was if we came across a bear he simply laughed and carried on walking which made me ever so slightly uneasy, but it transpired that bears would be the least of our worries. I had set out for the walk in my sensible heavy duty sandals, thinking that these would be perfect for the terrain. For the first thirty minutes we trekked up a sheer slope, to a breathtaking viewpoint over the misty mountains. Around half an hour later the incline showed no sign of relenting, and it was at this point that our Thai guide asked us if we knew about the leeches. "Leeches, oh yes we know about leeches, we don't want any of those thanks" was our dismissive response. We knew there was such a thing as leeches, but never in our wildest dreams did we imagine what was to come. A few minutes later, to my utter horror, the guide stopped to pull one of the slimy vampires from his leg. He then turned and pointed to my foot and exclaimed, with a big smile on his face, "Oh! Many leeches!". I would love to say that I handled the situation calmly and gracefully but that would be a lie. I looked down and shrieked with horror as I saw the big black bloodsuckers climbing up my sandals and onto my feet. I kicked my shoes off and jumped, shrieking into my companionís arms. Luckily I had put a pair of emergency trainers into my backpack which I hurriedly changed into. I felt exhausted from the uphill trekking but at this point we were told "we keep moving, if we stop, they come. They no like mosquito spray, they no like smoking". Panic was setting in. As we looked at the ground we could see hundreds of leeches wriggling towards us through the wet leaves, standing on one end and extending their shiny, muscular bodies. I unscrewed my bottle of mosquito repellant and emptied it all into my shoes, lit two cigarettes and proceeded to power walk, cigarettes in mouth, for the rest of the 12 kilometer trek. It was my idea of hell, every few minutes stopping to pick the predatory parasites off our shoes to prevent them climbing up our legs. They were everywhere. Incidentally we didn't see any bears.

H Edwards

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