Rafflesia and Leeches

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , West Sumatra,
Monday, April 26, 2010

I don't really care about flowers. I especially don't care enough to go hiking a couple hours into dense jungles and wading through rivers to see one. But the Rafflesia is famous, and we had an afternoon free to wander around somewhere. Might as well be toward a flower.

The guide told us there WAS a flower but that it was blablja. I didn't catch it. But the area looked pretty and we had already driven our motorbike out, so I just nodded and said okay. We then started our hour-long hike into the jungle. The first few minutes were beautiful. We hiked along the edge of a valley and had great views. But soon, we were in the undergrowth, slipping through the mud and ducking tree branches. It wasn't relaxing or scenic, but it was exotic. It had an Indiana Jones feel to it, and who doesn't want to be Indiana Jones.

We eventually arrived at a steep incline that our guide pointed at excitedly. There was the Rafflesia. 20 feet away. Blossom unopened. Big for a flower, but not mesmerizing. He was nice enough to help us get closer to take a couple of photos, so we did. But the real experience was getting there and back. Actually, the REAL experience was after we got back.

I'm not a complete sissy, but I'm also not an alligator wrestling/I want to swim with piranhas kind of guy either. I grew up in the desert. The volume and strangeness of creatures in the tropical jungles can be unnerving. Especially when a few of them have latched on to me and are siphoning my blood as they gorge and enlarge themselves at my expense.

Lindsey was amazingly chill about finding leeches on her and blood all over her socks. I guess that's the East Texas in her. She's used to swamps and critters. We don't have that stuff in El Paso. If we were ever attacked by an army of cacti, I'd be a champ. But I thought the leeches were pretty disgusting. On her. When I found them on me, I thought I was going to pass out.

We had seen a leech on the ground while we were hiking. They're so small and harmless looking. They look like an inch-long piece of spaghetti. But after an hour on my leg, the one on my calf was fat and wobbly and menacing. It looked like it was the size of my thumb. I'm sure it wasn't, but it was the size of someone's thumb, and I was lightheaded with disgust.

Our guide helped me pull several of them off my legs and ankles, all while I'm shooting video and taking pictures because I'm also fascinated by the whole ordeal. The kids gathered around us were fascinated by my squeamishness at something that seems perfectly normal to them. But as our guide killed the leech, and my blood spread out across the concrete, all I could think was, "I need that blood! It's supposed to be inside me!" But I didn't really need it. It was extra.

So we sat down in a very nice woman's house, trying to stop the bleeding (the leeches release anticoagulants, so you bleed pretty freely for quite a while). She served us special coffee called Kopi Luwak. It's supposed to be exotic and tasty because the coffee beans have been eaten by civet cats and then excreted. Their intestines apparently give it some extra deliciousness. Don't have to tell me twice! Of course having passed through an animal's bowels would make it exceptionally savory.

We had our fecal coffee, bled profusely, and rested from the hike. Then we went back to the hotel to enjoy hot showers and reflect on an odd afternoon. Good times.

HD video of our guide killing my leech:


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Christy on

Lovely. So much for dinner.

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