Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Leeches on Lambs Head

We had previously committed to helping out with a “canoegaine” on Lake Tinaroo on Sunday, and, in order to improve on the all important “drive to activity” ratio, we decided to camp overnight at Davies Creek and hike to the top of the Lamb Range on Monday. The forecast wasn't really that good, but, as I've mentioned before, you can never really tell with Australian weather forecasts what will eventuate. A forecast for “showers” can result in either 1 or 100 mm of rain in 24 hours, and anything in between.

The big granite boulders of Lambs Head

After a rather unpalatable meal at the RSL club in Mareeba – why is every vegetable consumed in Australia a starch? (probably the same reason nearly every Australian has a big wheat belly) - we drove off to find ourselves a campsite as the rain began. It's always difficult f**king around in the rain trying to set up camp, especially when it is also dark, so it's probably no surprise that our nice, flat well drained campsite actually – come morning when we could see properly – turned out to be below a steep slope that turned into a rushing water-course with any precipitation. 

View from one of the Lambs Head boulders
It wasn't raining in the morning, but the forecast for “periods of rain” was fresh in our minds so we skipped breakfast (easy to do with metabolic flexibility from eating a paleo diet) and started the walk right away. I dropped Doug off at the first trail-head (“Ridge track”) and drove another 2.5 km along the road to the second trail-head (“Kahlpahlim Rock track”). These two routes converge about 1 km from the top of the Lamb Range.

My trail was easy to follow and not very steep. I was chugging along making good time when I felt a small pinprick on my ankle and looked down to see a leech on my right ankle. I flicked it off with a stick, and noted another leech on my left ankle, I flicked that leech off, and noticed another leech on my right calf, then another on the left calf, then further up the right leg, the left foot, leeches, leeches everywhere. I pulled up my socks, but, as everyone knows socks are no deterrents to leeches, neither are shoes, gaitors, trousers, or pretty much any other man-made barrier.

View to the west

I plugged along, stopping every so often to flick off a dozen leeches and after somewhat more than an hour I got to the track junction. I vaguely remembered reading something in the guidebook about there being two routes along the final section on the ridge, one higher and one lower, but the exact details evaded me, and, truthfully, all I could think about was getting the hike done and escaping the leeches. Great quantities of leeches can send you a bit crazy.

The QPWS trail is marked with the standard orange triangles so I followed those down past a cleft between two boulders, under a fallen tree, along the base of some large granite boulders and then began the final steep, rooty climb up to a saddle. I ran into, not literally, Doug on this final climb up. I could see he was shocked by the leech situation – his eyes were rolled back in his head in a strange manner and he was stopping every few seconds to frantically flick at this legs, and kept exclaiming “hundreds, there's hundreds of them.” I pushed past and soon came out at some kind of structure in a cleared area. Here I stripped off my shoes and socks and plucked big fat leeches off my feet which were running with blood. When Doug arrived he did the same. We attempted to squash the buggers, but, as you all know, killing leeches without salt is difficult. They are surprisingly resilient.


We snapped a few pictures of the view and then investigated a flagged trail that led off from the tower. This track went down, down, down – at least that is how it looked to us – and we weren't sure that the track did not eventually descend the west side of the range which was nowhere we wanted to go, at least with the leech situation as it was, so we walked back. A short scramble up a steep section of track opposite the tower leads to a good view from the top of another large granite boulder. Looking in the guidebook when I got home, I discovered that the downhill track leads down to a boulder lookout below.

Desperate to escape the leeches (yes, we are sooky) we hightailed it back along the ridge track to the main track junction. Doug went to the left, going down the track I came up, while I went right and went down the track he came up. We both thought we had the better end of the deal. Once I passed the junction I seemed to escape leech terrain as the ridge trail is fairly open, while Doug thought he could go faster through the leech infested terrain I came up as he was going downhill.

On the final rocky ridge

Four hours after starting, I came out a the first track junction and walked down the road until Doug came along with the car. We both plucked ourselves clean of leeches and went off for a swim in Davies Creek.

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