Monday, November 24, 2008

Could be Worse

Kibbas, Sabah, Malaysia

It has always pissed me off when people say that something is the worst thing in the world, or that things couldn’t be worse. Things could always be worse. If you think they couldn’t, then you suffer from an extreme lack of imagination.

How about this: You borrow a friend’s expensive car and you accidentally crash it into someone else’s even more expensive car. You find out your friend didn’t have insurance. It couldn’t be worse!

Yes it could. All of the above could be true, plus you get kicked in the balls.

And what could be worse than that? All of that, plus you have rectal cancer.

Worse than that? The accident, the ball-kicking, the cancer, plus someone at the police department decides to frame you for possession of child pornography, and you get crabs from a public toilet seat.

You get the idea.

Well, we were in Danum Valley doing some hiking. The Danum Valley is an area of primary growth lowland jungle. The lowlands happen to be where palm-oil palm trees flourish, and it also tends to be the part of the jungle that is easiest to log, so there isn’t a lot of old-growth lowland jungle left in Sabah. The Danum Valley is a completely protected area surrounded by a forestry reserve, where only selective logging is allowed. It’s a pretty special place. The jungle there is amazing.

There are about two problems with hiking in the jungle like that. The first is mud; the second is leeches.

The problem with the mud is that you get muddy and it's slippery, so sometimes you fall. I fell a couple of times. I chose to travel with lightweight boots instead of good boots, so my grips weren’t the best. Going downhill, it was tough to keep my feet under myself, and I fell, hurt my ass a bit and mildly wrenched one shoulder. I also got filthier, but we were pretty filthy with mud and sweat anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. It could be worse.

The problem with leeches is that they like to suck your blood. You can try to protect yourself; for example, you can wear two pairs of socks and tuck your pants into your socks, but at best you’ll just reduce the number of leech bites you get. Given enough time, the leeches will burrow through both pairs of socks and even through your pants and they'll get your blood. If a leech gets your blood flowing, then it won’t clot for at least half an hour after you’ve pulled it off, and you’ll have blood streaming down your leg, or whatever part of you got bit. But it’s not like they’re poisonous or something. It could be worse.

To combat the leeches, we brought along five hearty Dusun — two rangers from the park, plus Linda and her two brothers. Actually, the rangers were park rangers and not really guides, so they weren’t interested in our leech battles, and Linda wasn’t particularly brave that way either, but Jerry Paul and Hillosky were leech warriors. They were better than anyone else at pulling leeches off and calmly depositing them on a nearby tree (rather than panicking and wildly flinging them into the bush like I did) and they kept a vigilant watch on our boots and pant legs for creeping invaders. So we had a lot of help fighting our leeches. It wasn't that bad.

I found that when we were descending muddy hills, I started to get more leeches on my upper body. One of them came when I fell while going downhill. I put my hand down to break my fall, and when I stood up, I had a leech stuck to the palm of my left hand. I pulled it off with my right hand, and then it bit my right hand. Then I pulled it off with my left hand, and it bit me there again, too. Finally, I managed to fling it in the bush. I also started getting leeches on my arms. I think it was because struggling to stay standing, I was grabbing onto trees and picking up leeches from the trees.

Then I felt something strange on my belly. I pulled up my t-shirt and found a leech sucking my blood an inch from my belly button. I don't know how the hell it got under my shirt, but there it was. I pulled at it, and it wouldn’t come off. It was a tiger leech, with an orange racing stripe — they’re tenacious little fellers. I pulled again and my belly fat pulled outward and it still wouldn’t let go. I must have been yelling, because Hillosky ran over to help and with his leech-pulling fingers he got a good grip near the leech’s head (if leeches have heads) and tugged him off.

But he was gone. It could have been worse. I told everyone that if the leech had actually been inside my bellybutton, I would have really freaked out. I didn’t know what I’d do. I can’t stand putting my own finger in my bellybutton, never mind have a foreign body penetrate it. It could easily have been worse.

Half an hour later, climbing another hill, I felt something strange on my belly again. This time it was worse. Was it a leech in my bellybutton? No! It was something worse! But what could be worse than a leech in your bellybutton?

Two leeches in your bellybutton!

I’m not even kidding. There was a tiger leech and one of the little reddish-brown ones tangled around each other, sucking the blood out of the indentation where I got my food and oxygen from back when I was gestating. I pulled at them, but they wouldn’t let go.

I must have screamed like a girl, because Hillosky ran up the hill to help me. He reached in there with his long, leech-pulling fingers and pulled them out, one at a time, together with a few of my belly-hairs.

But hey, it could have been worse. There could have been three.

Then we saw a bunch of stuff, did a bunch of driving, got back to Kibbas, went to a Dusun wedding and had a bunch of fun. Ho hum.

THURSDAY: We climb Kinabalu!

1 comment:

  1. hahahaha... remind me of when a leech got into my bellybutton. that was back in 2003 when i was at danum with linda's sister, jolivia.