Tuck Your Pants Into Your Socks

Trip Start Dec 31, 2011
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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, April 13, 2012

Preface: Another Australia horror story follows, but I would just like to say beforehand, I write about the bad things because I find them more entertaining.  To be honest, the good definitely outweighs the bad in this chapter of my life and 95% of the time spent here has been delightful.  However, delightfulness makes for boring storytelling, so…

Chapter Vacation One

Easter is quite the holiday in Australia.  There have been chocolate Easter eggs at the grocery stores since we got here in January.  Cadbury completely ignored Valentine's Day.  At any rate, we got a week off for the holiday and I’m dog/house sitting for an American friend-of-a-friend-from-home in a tiny town called Evans Head in New South Wales.  It was recommended by two sources that Ashley and I take a trip to see Minyon Falls.  We were instructed casually that we might consider wearing tennis shoes and long pants tucked into our socks IF we were worried about getting bitten by leeches. 

Our beach house comes with a mini-van, so we fueled up at the petrol station and started on our merry way.  Driving on the wrong side isn’t nearly as difficult as I expected it to be.  Only one near-death experience so far.  The scenery along the road could have been straight from Eastern Washington:  fields and trees, trees and fields.  One odd difference is that the cows all have pet ducks.  I don’t mean, a gaggle of ducks just hanging out next to a herd of cows.  I mean each cow has a duck sidekick.  Exactly paired.  Soul mates. 

We arrived at the top of the waterfall and took pictures at kind of an awkward side angle.  Of course the pictures don’t capture the awesomeness, so use your imagination when viewing.  There was a family of four also taking pictures.  Ashley and I stared at the trail map for a good 5 minutes trying to understand it (future doctors with four completed degrees between us) and finally we just took a picture of it, although I think we thought we had it figured out.  The first 100 feet of the trail was a raised pathway with handrails.  At which Ashley questioned my advice of the morning to change from shorts to pants.  There was a sign about halfway down this user-friendly section that said, "Not suitable for wheelchairs."  We rounded a corner and lo and behold, the family of four with their baby strollers were struggling at the end of the manmade section of pathway.  Now some of you may know my thoughts on baby strollers, but for those of you don’t know, I F@*#ING HATE THEM.  Obviously 'not suitable for wheelchairs’ rules out suitability for strollers and grocery trolleys and all other objects with wheels.  I guess the sign needs to be as specific as the giant red x-circle sign that bans both large dogs AND small dogs from the lovely Nightcap National Park (I just love the names of things around here).     

After a few misdirected attempts at finding the correct trail, we found a trail, which according to map 1, was the only trail.  We hiked along happily, enjoying the rainforest, which reminded me so much of home.  This wasn’t a high traffic trail, so we were more or less alone.  Occasionally, there would be a sign with double-headed arrows, at points where there really was no question as to which way to go.  At the trail’s forks though, no such guidance.  Finally we reached map 2, which didn’t really resemble map 1 at all.  It guided us to another set of breathtaking waterfalls.  Our destination was the base of Minyon falls where we planned to picnic. 

It drizzled rain off and on throughout the day, but we were well prepared with plastic bags for our electronic devices.  We were starting to get hungry and crossed paths with some young boys who had just been swimming at the base of the falls and told us we were about 10 minutes away.   I urged Ashley to wait to eat until we got there.  After scaling some massive rocks, we arrived and I had an overwhelming sense of, for lack of a better term, OM (that thing people say in yoga).  It was astounding, the height, the water, the sound, the pool, the boulders forming the perimeter.  A true, “I cannot believe this amazing, gorgeous place exists in the world and I’m standing in the middle of it,” moment.

Ashley and I selected a flat boulder and we pulled out our crackers and hummus lunch.  The waterfall was creating a fine mist around us, which developed into drizzle, then rain, then torrential downpour.  Ashley pulled out her flimsy yellow umbrella and we faced it towards the wind while we tried to finish our lunch and started to freeze.  Good thing we wore our bikinis under our clothes for a swim in the pool eh?  We abandoned our lunch endeavor and started hiking back.  The rain dissipated, and we thought we were getting close to the car.  There is something called a scribbly gum moth that decorates trees, literally with squiggles.  I’d never heard of them before, but lots of the trees were covered in perfect scribbly lines.    

After another hour or so of hiking, the trail started to get wider and flatter and it acquired handrails.  We were thinking we were almost to the car, and we got to a lookout that closely resembled the one at the top of the waterfall, except…it was on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CANYON looking directly at the waterfall where our car was parked.  Minyon Falls, still sensational and awesome, but now laughing at us!  At that exact moment, it started to downpour again.  Ashley pulled out her yellow umbrella and asked me, “Do real hikers use umbrellas?”  I thought about it for a minute and said, “I think they wear plastic ponchos.”  Obviously, we’re pros at this outdoor stuff. 

Hiked some more, now just wanting to get back to the car, completely ignoring the surrounding beauty.  Ashley’s Amazon–long legs had me jogging to keep pace.  I’d never been quite so happy to see a minivan when we arrived back at the parking lot.  We were joking around about the leeches, which Ashley had nonchalantly been calling slugs all day, and she wanted to take off her shoes to double check for them.  She found one and let out a blood-curdling scream (I hate that adjective, but it fits here).  She then begged me to take off her shoes and socks and check for leeches, with instructions not to tell her if I found one, just to get it off.  She sustained two bites. 

At this juncture, I had worked myself into an uncharacteristic state of panic and disgust.  As Ashley gagged, I removed my own shoes and socks, and one-by-one found four leeches on my ankles and calves.  Pathetic, teenage-city-girl-just-saw-a-mouse screams involuntarily emanated from my larynx.  The leech on my shin was the biggest and s/he (hermaphrodite) was extremely difficult to detach.  Quick biology lesson – leeches secrete an anti-coagulant enzyme, hirudin in their mucus/saliva stuff that causes excessive bleeding.  It can be used as a blood-thinning agent in patients who are allergic to heparin.  Blood streamed out of four holes on my legs.  There were a number of leeches still attached to our shoes, so to be totally rational and in-control of the situation, Ashley and I stripped to our bikinis, stuffed all our clothes in plastic bags and threw them into the back, back seat of the minivan.  I put a plastic bag on the floor under my feet to catch the freely flowing blood and drove home barefoot in my bikini.

When we got home, I pulled the plastic bags out of the back and systematically removed the leeches from the clothes and squashed them under my shoes.  It took my whole body weight and extensive twisting-squashing action to kill them.  Ashley asked me if our blood squirted out of them, from the porch, 100 feet away.  One of the smaller ones I let live for a minute to see how it moved, and it could suction its face to the cement and waggle it’s tail around 360 degrees.  According to wiki, some leeches have a mouth at both ends.  Vomit. 

At this point, I had dried rivers of blood around my ankles and feet, but the shower dissolved the clots and the bleeding started all over again.  Thankfully, as I write this, the bleeding has ceased and I didn’t go into hypovolemic shock.  Feeling sorry for myself, I read Hunger Games last night and I think Katniss may have been worse off with the fireballs, reincarnated killer wolf-mutts and all…but at least she got rejuvenated in the hospital in the end. 
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Comments

Ann Tosomeen on

Silly tourists!! Please talk to me in depth before going to crocodile country!!

Genise on

Next time go for a swim at the beach. Kills all leaches and stops the bleeding, but get out before you attract too many sharks!

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