The Leech and Blister Road Show

Muang Mai Travel Blog

 › entry 74 of 115 › view all entries
The diddy leech on my ankle. Burn you mother!
After about another hour of tramping through Laos mud and with no sign of the jeep as yet, we came to a river crossing. Here there was a stilted hut with no walls but a thatched roof under which we could shelter from the rain and rest for a while. Unfortunately, the ladder up into the hut was missing the bottom two rungs. Naomi and Javi decided to continue walking whilst the rest of us eyed up the dry space of the hut.

An aged local man, obviously the keeper of the narrow bridge across the river, shuffled round to us with some twine and deftly tied on two short bamboo poles to be used as rungs. The old man smiled broadly, accepted our thanks and then disappeared, only to return five minutes later with a bottle of cold tea for us. After more thanks we shared around the strange tasting liquid, along with more sticky rice, and then discovered that we had attracted some unwanted guests.
A festival of green - rice paddies and rainy hills.

Three of the five of us had leeches attached to our legs. Mine was mercifully small and had somehow penetrated a thick walking sock to affix itself to my ankle. Apparently, you aren't supposed to just rip leeches off your skin as they can leave teeth behind to infect the wound. However, like the rest of the animal kingdom, they aren't big fans of flame. We took turns with Hiro's lighter and burned them, along with a few leg hairs, until they chose to loose their grip and drop onto the wooden boards of the hut's floor. I stomped on mine several times, leeches are amazingly tough little sods to kill, then Iodined the small bite it had left on my ankle.

I then turned my attention to running repairs of my heel which was now host to a large, raw-looking blister caused by the rubbing of my walking shoe.
The road - not conducive to wheeled travel - or any travel in fact.
I'd never had problems before but realised that it was probably a self-inflicted problem. When I was a kid my mum always told me off for being too lazy to untie my shoelaces when taking off or putting on trainers. Instead I would jam each foot into a trainer and wriggle it around until it was, eventually, on properly. This technique led to the backs of my trainers being crushed down, shortening their useful lives. I'm ashamed to admit that my walking shoes have received the same treatment recently and it has meant that the material at the back of my right shoe has been crushed sufficiently that it now rubs the heel of my foot constantly.
I had little choice but to bandage the heel as best I could and carefully put the shoe back on, pulling the laces tight to reduce the rubbing as much as possible.
Almost there! Well, as it turns out about 2 hours to go but hey - any sign is positive...
It was still bloody painful; but that's what happens when you don't listen to your mum's advice! Listen and learn dear readers. Whilst we were thinking about moving on, the jeep returned, headed for the river crossing. They stopped to see if we wanted a lift now; the insanity seemed to have caught hold inside of all of us now however and we told them we would walk. God knows why - maybe just a sense of bloody mindedness and a misplaced though that Muang Mai couldn't be that far - could it? And so we set off again, at first walking together, then drifting apart as I pushed on harder, the only way I know how to walk long distances in bad conditions.        

I pushed everything else out of my mind and tried to enter what I call the Walker's Zone. This is a place inside your head that, if you can reach it, places your body on autopilot, numbing the discomfort passed on by aching leg muscles, painful blisters and shoulders protesting from the weight of a full backpack and a daypack slung on the front (pregnant snail stylee). Staying in the Zone means that no matter what is happening in the world beyond the confines of your head, you remain pretty oblivious to it and think about nothing much. It's kind of like becoming Boris Johnson but thankfully only for a short period.

The Zone carried me through the rest of the walk as I became increasingly exhausted, time and again praying that Muang Mai would be just over the next hill, only to be disappointed. The route became flatter as we descended from the mountains but this meant the roads were saturated with water. They were transformed into a porridge of glooping mud slurry that sucked in my shoes with each laboured step and was reluctant to release them again for the next. And then, finally, I saw the sign for Muang Mai and punched the air in an unashamed imitation of Rocky.

As I reached the swift running river that marked the entrance to Muang Mai proper a hefty truck rolled past me and splashed into the water. I saw Ophelie waving at me from the back of it and, without halting to remove shoes and socks, I stepped into the cold rushing water. Once across and now walking with a slosh, Ken and Hiro helped me up into the truck and we drove for about five minutes to a guest house. The others had been picked up a good hour previously. It seemed that, from the landslide, I had covered about 25km despite rain, backpacks, leech, mud and blister. I don't recall feeling as physically tired since trekking in Torres del Paine back in Chile.

At the guesthouse I forgot about the hot shower and fluffy towels (neither of which existed in the guesthouse anyway) dragged my shoes and socks off my feet and collapsed onto a bed. We were in Laos now, time to do as the Lao do: no rush - everything could wait a while...      
Saladin79 says:
Toothpaste eh? I'll bear that in mind for next time - cheers for the tip!
Posted on: Sep 09, 2008
mybu84 says:
we had a huge problem with leeches in Malaysian Taman Negara. Had no lighter, so simply tore them off, which was stupid. But afterwards we were told that toothpaste is as affective as fire, but mercifull to your leg hair. It really works. :):)the only problem is to have toothpaste handy.
Posted on: Aug 25, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
The diddy leech on my ankle. Burn …
The diddy leech on my ankle. Burn…
A festival of green - rice paddies…
A festival of green - rice paddie…
The road - not conducive to wheele…
The road - not conducive to wheel…
Almost there! Well, as it turns ou…
Almost there! Well, as it turns o…
Muang Mai
photo by: Saladin79