23 Leech Bites. That’s how many I had after a fraught morning’s adventure in one of Kathmandu Valley’s woods.
I had gone looking for a trail to bring the Hash runners along, in the area just off Champadevi Ridge.
There was a small trail through the forest that went up and over the hill into the next valley that was of particular appeal. So I forged my way up, beating back the nettles with a stick, sliding backwards on the wet mud from the morning’s monsoon rain. In the end, I gave up. The trail was too steep and too overgrown to bring 30 short clad runners along. I went around the mountain instead.
It was only when I got back home that I realised what else had been lurking in the undergrowth. Hundreds of leeches apparently, of which 23 of them had latched their teeth into me. I hadn’t felt them as they had realised an anaesthetic into my system so that they’d go unnoticed whilst they fed.
Some had already eaten their fill and dropped off. Others were still clinging on for dear life. Once I had picked them all off, my legs started flowing with fresh blood. Leeches secrete an anti-clotting enzyme, hirudin, into their host’s blood stream. I looked like some horror film extra, the blood oozing out from every wound for what ended up lasting over three hours. It didn’t hurt though. It just looked totally gruesome and gross.
To get my revenge, I stuck a knife in the leeches that were crawling away at speed along my kitchen floor. But no matter if I even cut the b**tards in two, they still kept wiggling away. Then I remembered the key to killing them…. Salt. Out came the salt cellar and I doused them with the stuff. I watched them regurgitate all my dear blood onto my clean floor. They then shrivelled up and died.
Trousers have covered up my sores for the last seven days. The itching that comes with such sores wasn’t too bad. I had no infections as some people warned me of. One Nepali suggested I was lucky to have had so much ‘bad blood’ sucked out of me, true Blackadder style.
But one thing I’ve learnt is that in Kathmandu, at monsoon time, “if you go down to the woods, you’re sure of a big surprise…”