Yesterday afternoon I felt something smooth and cool wriggling around my belly button, so I lifted up my shirt. There was a big leech, maybe 4 cm long, loping along like an inchworm on my tummy. I thought, "Oh, that's good. It hasn't started sucking yet." but then I noticed the still-bleeding round spot on my skin, and the blood on the top edge of my pants. The leech had, in fact, just finished eating. They use an anti-coagulant, so the wound tends to bleed for a while.
Some of the leeches here hurt when they bite, but mine was stealthy. These are not the aquatic leeches familiar to those of us in Canada, but are terrestrial. They inch along on the ground or vegetation, reaching out for something, someone, to latch onto.
Here's a little one on a log, just reaching upward. I had just been sitting there, and it could probably smell me, and so it reached, waving blindly: "I know he must be here somewhere". Edy has named the terrestrial leeches her number one annoyance on this trip (mine, I will mention in a later post). She's had 12 on her; I've had 9; Alex stopped counting.
We encountered these leeches at Camp 1, a beautiful spot we've been at for the last 4 days. It's a 3 hour hike away from Park Headquarters. Despite the leeches, we will remember Camp 1 fondly. I will mention three highlights. First, of course, the jumping spiders. Lots of species, including some new to us. Here is one that surprised us, a long flat one from tree trunks (salticid geeks: probably a baviine).
Of course, we can't help but notice other forest life. On the forest floor, peeking out from between the dead leaves, are gelatinous masses I call "eyeballs of the forest". They're about eyeball size, clear jelly on the outside with a white mass visible within.
Andy Laman, the local guide helping us, tells us that this is a fungus, and the jelly protects the mushroom within until it is ready to emerge. He says that if you're thirsty, you can consume the jelly. We didn't try.
But what we might remember most about Camp 1 is the bathing facility -- a pool in a clear mountain stream tumbling over rocks, in the midst of the rainforest. We'd be bathing in the cool water, look up to the stunning strength and peace of the forest and stream, and think: Amazing. This is Borneo.
Previously in this series:
Text and images © W. Maddison, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY)