Bloodsucking Bastards: Leeches and a Jungle Trip In Thailand.
Above Photo: A monitor lizard outside our tent one morning.
On a research trip whilst writing my Vietnam War/Backpacker crossover novel BACK, we spent a few nights in Khao Yai jungle in Thailand, mid-rainy season. Although it didn’t much matter to me whether it rained or not, believe me, it rained.
I was mostly interested in the jungle mushroom situation (magic and otherwise) on this trip, as they’re relevant to the plot of BACK when some stupid up-to-no-good British backpacker eats one.
I always like the thought that three and a half hours outside Bangkok is one of the most extensive, accessible, triple-canopy jungles in Asia, where (if you believe the rangers) tigers still roam. If you believe the results of extensive photo trapping over the past six years, there aren’t any. They seem to have crossed the road into the less disturbed Thap Lan National Park, where numbers have been steadily growing, which is still good news for Thailand.
We got to see porcupines, Indian civets, gibbons, hornbills, many monitor lizards, snakes big and small, deadly and harmless, and a rich variety of insects.
We also got to fight with leeches, which attacked us mob-handed in the rainy jungle.
One night I went out to look at fireflies, and to listen to the night sounds of the jungle, sensibly tucking my jeans into my socks. I got back to my sleeping bag and soon felt tell-tale movement on my midriff. I grabbed a flashlight and found two of the bloodsucking bastards had climbed up my leg and gone in at the first sign of exposed skin.
There’s something deeply disturbing about finding leeches on you especially in a tent, late at night, but nothing could prevent me from taking a photo before I got rid of my invaders.
Because it was rainy season, the rivers and waterfalls were full.
My favourite waterfall is the spectacular 50 metre fall of Haew Narok, which I was able to incorporate into the plot of BACK, and which I would use as a location if I can get the screenplay made. In 1992, rangers found eight dead elephants at the bottom. They’d blindly followed each other over the top.
A couple of years ago I also visited it in the dry season, and this is what the same falls looked like then:
On the long walk to see Haew Narok, I noticed these beautiful mushrooms growing on a rotting log. You rarely see any colours in the jungle other than greens, blacks browns, or the reds and yellows of dying leaves, so these really stood out.
- And finally, I was impressed to see this Bamboo viper. They are aggressive and deadly poisonous, but to come across this one resting on a branch, a safe distance away, was one of the high spots of the trip. Again, by a strange coincidence, this snake is also relevant to the ill-fated backpacker jungle trek I describe in BACK.
- For POWs left behind in Laos, see:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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