The Leech and Blister Road Show
Muang Mai Travel Blog› entry 74 of 115 › view all entries
August 12th, 2008 – by: Saladin79
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.
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.
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.
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...
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