The land leech and the blue lobster

January 10

I regret not getting a picture of all the blood, but seeing as how it was streaming down the legs of two young female joggers, I could not ask for fear of them thinking I was a bit weird. Sara and I were a couple miles into the Lamington National Park rainforest trail; it was mid morning and misty when we came across the two girls. At first sight, I thought they had fallen down a rough section of trail. At second thought, maybe they’d been attacked! Final thought, their legs were covered with land leeches, so many that they were not bothering to pick them off anymore. Each leech was latched on tight, sucking blood, inflated to the size of an almond. The multitude that had already drank their fill had dropped off, but the injected anticoagulants were still at work in the body and the blood was flowing freely. After our brief encounter, they were off at a jog, heading for civilization to deal with the leeches there.

We had been having our own troubles with the land leech. Insect repellent around the socks, overtopped with our knee length gaiters were a pretty good deterrent. In theory, anyway. It was a constant battle though to keep them off our legs and from crawling up inside our shorts! Every hundred feet or so we’d stop and briskly wipe the sides of our gaiters with our hands; the leeches couldn’t stick to that surface very well. And the ones that conquered the moat and made it over the top to our bare legs, got picked off with the fingers, one at a time. Then we’d speed on down the trail hoping that fewer would hitch hike a ride if you were briskly walking than just standing there. The fun part was trying to get them off your fingers and flicked into the bush while walking down a bumpy trail! The best method seemed to be to roll them gently up, one at a time, into a little ball and flick them deftly between the thumb and first finger. The idea was that the little munitions would sail out into the forest. The reality was that the leech would end up sticking to either your thumb or your finger! Remember that Cat in the Hat story with the red snow? Well, it was kind of like that. The leeches were very hard to efficiently get off your fingers.

When we first realized that our gaiters were swarming with dozens of leeches, I thought that our hike was a lost cause. I didn’t really want to end up like the two girls. Leeches apparently don’t harbor any ill diseases, but their bites do bleed for an hour or so plus the site really itches for days. And the bite seems to leave a bit of a scar that takes a month or more to disappear. These leeches were tiny ones, but Sara has proof that they too were able to puff up with lots of blood and cause a Niagra Falls of blood letting when finished. Our crazy drive however, to see the Lamington blue lobsters, really drove us on, leeches or no leeches. We had also hoped to hear or see the paradise riflebird as well as look over the escarpment and see down into New South Wales and all the way to the sea. These last two things didn’t happen, but hang on, we did finally see the lobsters.

These lobsters are small as far as lobsters go, but when you see one on the trail in the rainforest, it is quite the sight even if they are only 6-7 inches long. They have pretty big claws for their body size and seem to be able to spend a bit of time on land; we saw them both in and out of the stream. And yes, they are blue! I wonder if a bowerbird has ever tried to decorate his bower with a blue lobster? I am sure they would make a mighty fine Cajun creole dish in the authentic New Orleans style. But they are protected and so we let them be. As we headed out we found a bowerbird’s bower in the middle of the rainforest, which was a real bonus. And then to our surprise, along the road we spent some time walking and found three more! One was well established and in the exact same location as one we’d seen up here eight years ago! Bowerbirds can live to be over twenty years old and I’d bet a million rupiahs that he is still alive and building :-)

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