The Attack of the Leeches

23 Leech Bites. That’s how many I had after a fraught morning’s adventure in one of Kathmandu Valley’s woods.

The aftermath after a 23 Leech Feed Fest on my leg.

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.

One dead leech vomiting up my blood.

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.

Once the blood stopped, the leech sores became apparent.

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…”

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9 thoughts on “The Attack of the Leeches

  1. My fiance and are thinking of going to Nepal for our honeymoon this July, and though I am sometimes into hard-core backpacking, I think this time we would love to avoid major leech attacks. Are the leeches avoidable if you stay out of back country/woods, or are they everywhere?
    Thanks!
    Margie

    1. Hi Margie, leeches are only avoidable when its not raining. I ended up getting attacked by one during the monsoon season even when I stayed on trails, though admittedly the trail did go through a forested section. Unfortunately, the monsoon season in Nepal is June-August, so can’t guarantee you’ll be leech free. Sorry!

  2. Hello Moire!
    Love your blog… Very inspirational! I’m wondering if you are still in Nepal or the Kathmandu area. I am the editor of a local magazine about culture, food, people and places in Nepal. I would love to interview you for the magazine if you are still around!

    Happy running!

    -Leah

  3. Hi Moire,
    Those leeches really feasted on you!! It seems you are enjoying the beauty of the hills in Katmandu!! I hope you are alright, still able to walk, let a lone running!!
    It is over ten years since I saw you. I am still in London. I hope to hear from you soon via fb.
    God bless, xx

    1. Thanks for reminding me about the nettle stings I also got but forgot to mention … gave me huge bumps on my arms and hands. The pain didn’t go away for a whole 24 hours. And to make things worse, I couldn’t find some doc leaves for the life of me to rub away the pain.

      Oh, for the insipid bog lands of Ireland free of leeches and other nasty things…

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