We were in search of Beach Access. We thought we had found it…
It had to be right. Sure there was a locked gate and no beach access sign, but according to the map it was the correct spot and there was clearly a trail. The rickety old gate was probably just a relic of some kind. An artifact the caravan park felt some affection for and was unwilling to part with. After all, if it was intended to keep out the general public it wouldn’t have the attractive grassy knoll beside it luring tourists onto the mildly overgrown path it guarded.
As we set out, we could hear the roar of the ocean on our right. Sure it was girded by gum trees and thick brush but, we knew it was there; Emerald Beach, the final destination on our Dubbo to Byron Bay Caravan of Courage. We trudged along through the occasional puddle of mud and stagnant water in our summer flip flops eagerly anticipating the imminent waves that would refresh them.
We walked and walked and walked…and walked…and yet the droning sound of waves was abating making the path we chose increasingly questionable. The quality of the trail was diminishing as well, making the beach seem less and less accessible with each step. Wildlife also started to emerge as a concern.
In the distance Mike spotted a striking and vaguely menacing wild kangaroo blocking our path. It glared at us as if to say, “You shall not pass!” before jumping into the bush. He was big. Not like the kangaroos at the zoo. He was clearly eating more than Koala Park cheerios.
We felt like we were on the discovery channel. Not in a good way. The kangaroo was a reminder of sorts. A warning that we were in a notoriously wild and dangerous land. He was a symbol of what could go wrong. Like a gazelle on the discovery channel. They don’t do specials on gazelles. They do specials on the lions that eat the gazelles.
“You know, this is probably the wrong country in which to take the road less traveled,” I said. Mike laughed in agreement, having been skeptical of our judgment from the start.
We turned around and begin our hike back to camp, this time motivated by a quiet fear rather than the spirit of adventure and anticipation we had set out with. It was a good thing we headed back too because Chaylee no longer wanted to walk on her own. Even when I held her she complained that her feet were bothering her. I hadn’t realized how far we had actually trekked into the bush until I was forced to carry the complaining toddler. We were approaching “the gate”. The gate which no longer seemed like a mere monument but a well placed deterrent.
As we emerged from the “the trail” Kenna called out curiously,”Mom? Dad? What’s on the back of my leg? It looks like a worm?” Mike had his hands full having relieved me from kid courier duty. It would be up to me to handle the worm, or dirt, or whatever it was.
I approached her sun kissed calf and batted at the culprit gently, assuming it would submit without a fight. But it did not come off. I begin to slap at it wildly this time with vocals. It wouldn’t come off. Kenna started to panic as I relentlessly beat her leg silly. I just wanted it off!!! I wailed and swatted at the little bastard like I was in a cat fight. If it had hair, I would have pulled it! Anything to get it off my girl. It finally succumbed and fell to the ground, leaving a trail of blood behind. Her blood.
A better woman would have consoled her daughter. A better mother would have offered her a hug. Instead I just stared blankly at the lifeblood trickling down her little leg and cried out in horror, “THEY”RE BLOOD SUCKING LEEEEEECHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“What? Blood? I’m bleeding? What? Blood Sucking? What?” Kenna’s eyes begin to fill with tears. She was looking to me for comfort and found only hysteria. I was no use to her or any of us.
Meanwhile, Mike began frantically searching for the sinister little suckers. Having remembered Chaylee’s declared discomfort, he took off her shoe. At least four leeches had attached themselves to her fleshy little appendage. I broke down. All I could hear was her sweet little voice…”Mommy, my foot is boddering me. Mommy, my foot is boddering me.”
I was out of the running for Mother of the Year.
They were everywhere. On our legs, in between our toes, feeding on us like we were the other white meat. Mike was bent in nervous, uncontrollable laughter frantically searching for foes as his wife, his partner, spun the children into a frenzy. The other campers did not appear moved by our plight. Or perhaps they were afraid of the crazy lady who was tossing shoes and expendable apparel into the air with abandon in search of black vampire worms.
We finally made it back to Maui (our camper) where more carnage ensued. Mike, God Bless Him, had the presence of mind to methodically search each one of us we before entered the camper so as not to let the leeches into our lair. Unfortunately, one particularly persistent leech made it through the blockade by hiding out on the bottom of my foot. Upon discovering the stow away I, as is customary, began to flail and swipe at my foot recklessly and with no regard for where the flying leech would land. Mike gently chastised me like a 911 operator trying to calm a panicked caller. I took a deep breath and attempted to recapture my maternal instincts. But, my confidence as a caregiver was dismantled once again when we found another leech on the back of Chaylee’s knee. I recognized this one. He was the the free loading sycophant that used my ped to pry his way into our caravan. That means it was me and my savage fear that led to her discomfort. I embraced her and whispered apologies and affection in her ear. Somehow, she held no grudge.
When it was all said and done, we sat on at the caravan kitchen table, emotionally drained, half naked and covered in band-aids. Finally…it had gotten funny.
WORDS OF THE DAY
noun:- a free loader, or one who lives of the good graces of another.
# she’ll be apples
misc:- everything will be OK, there is no need to worry.
# clod hoppers
noun:- your feet
“Once we get the spongers off our clod hoppers she’ll be apples.”
AUSSIE TRIVIA/LEECH FACTS
POLL: How would you respond to a leech situation?
SHOUT OUT: My hilarious friend CK pointed out that living in Australia is like being in a video game. Level 1- Driving on the wrong side of the road.
Level 2- Huntsmen Spiders
Level 3- Blue Bottle Jellyfish
Level 4- Rip tides
Level 5- Blood sucking leeches
FAMILY FUN FACT: A leech wasn’t the only sponger I picked up on our journey. Shortly after arriving home, I discovered that I was hosting yet another free loader. That’s right. In a surprise twist we are expecting our third Pasley offspring.
Was this planned? No
How far along? I am fifteen weeks
Where will the baby be born- Sydney
Are you going to find out if it is a boy or a girl? Yes
Do I need a hug? Yes