It was 3am and I was suddenly awoken by torrential rain loudly crashing onto the tin roof of my home stay in the small community of Chi Phat. I managed to go back to sleep but when I awoke again at 6am it was still raining, heavily. This didn’t bode well for my upcoming, overnight Chi Phat mountain biking trek in the jungle of the Cardamon Mountains in Western Cambodia.

When I arrived at the community center to start the trek I asked the guide if the trek was doable after all the rain. He insisted it would be ok but that there might be a few leeches as they like the rain. Wait, what? Leeches? Those horrible blood suckers that wriggle on grass blades and tree leaves, jump onto you, and then suck your blood out until their bodies are so fat they fall off again? I have had previous experience with blood sucking vampire bats in the Amazon, but I have never encountered leeches so far.

leech mountain biking2I did my best to leech-proof myself by tucking my socks into my trousers, wearing a long sleeved top, and tucking that into my trousers as well. Not exactly the sexiest look but you have to tuck everything in as although leeches might land on your ankle first, they soon wriggle their way up to your private bits or arm pits as these parts are more veiney and therefore easier to get blood out off (too much information?). Just the thought of these creepy crawlies making their way to body parts I really don’t want them to be on made me cringe, so I pulled my belt as tight as I could, my socks as high as I could, and applied so much leech-spray to my socks that they were dripping wet. But I was soon ready to face those suckers, or so I thought.

chi phat mountain bikingI started the bike ride and as expected the terrain was almost impossible to navigate with my bike. The ground was either so muddy that I just slid through it, landing on my butt a few times, or I was faced with puddles so deep I never knew if I would make it through until I tried it. I tried to peddle through the puddles as fast as I could but they were usually so muddy that I’d just get stuck in the mud which made me fall off my bike so many times I lost count. I was completely soaked through. My trousers were wet, and my hiking boots were filled with water.

puddle chi phat mountain bikingChi Phat Mountain Biking 4The deeper we got into the jungle the wetter the conditions got and that’s when I first heard a scream so loud that I thought something really terrible just happened. My friend discovered a first leech on her sock. Soon after all of us had leeches all over our socks and shoes, trying to make their way to our skin. Just imagine four girls covered in leeches, screaming like, well, little girls, whilst flapping their arms around in a sheer panic and you have a good picture of what we looked like. At first I was scared to touch them and either asked our guide or cook to dispose of them for me but after a while there were just so many that I couldn’t rely on other people all time to get rid of them for me. I started scraping them off with leaves or sticks but after a while I just got so peed off with them that I just used my bare hands to flick them off. Luckily they never got onto my skin apart from twice when they landed on my hands, but I had no major blood-letting damage. Unlike a fellow trekker who wore a tank top and hit a leech on her back which promptly exploded and left her whole back covered in blood. Disgusting!

leech chi phat mountain bikingbikes chi phat mountain biking

When we finally reached our camp for the night I was a hot sweaty mess full of leeches so the first thing I did was clean up in the nearby stream. I put on some dry clothes and hung my wet ones up at camp. I knew they wouldn’t dry completely in the steamy jungle but that was ok, as long as I had some dry clothes for the night. Our cook and my Khmer friends started cooking a delicious meal of fried rice with vegetables, chicken and omelet. It felt so good to be dry and put some food in my tummy that I even didn’t mind the massive worm that was living in our camp, nor the flesh eating plants for that matter. Having slept in a hammock before I knew how to get comfortable and I think I fell asleep in my US Army hammock at about 8pm and slept like a baby. I only woke up occasionally to the sounds of wild cats and gibbons but they were so far in the distance that it didn’t worry me too much.

stream chi phat mountain bikingcooking chi phat mountain bikingeating chi phat mountain bikingchi phat mountain biking guide washing dishesshelter chi phat mountain bikinghammock chi phat mountain bikingflesh eating plants chi phat mountain bikingchi phat mountain biking worm verticalWhen I woke up the next morning I put on my damp clothes again but luckily my body heat soon dried them again so it didn’t feel too bad. The second day was much easier as the ground had dried up a little and it was also mainly downhill, so it was far less exhausting than the first day. I drove past waterfalls, had some fresh coconut from our cook’s garden, took some silly photos, and made it back to Chi Phat community for the afternoon.

chi phat mountain biking relaxing in hammockchi phat mountain biking girls winning posechi phat mountain biking verticalchi phat mountain biking waterfall verticalchi phat mountain biking waterfall Malinchi phat mountain biking waterfallOver the past two days I cycled about 40km through the deep Cambodian jungle, fighting exhaustion, giant worms, flesh-eating plants and leeches, but feeling a great sense of achievement. Bear Grylls would have been proud of me.

Have you ever had a leech encounter?

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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

28 Thoughts on “Me vs. the leeches – Mountain biking in the Chi Phat jungle

  1. Nice to see that you enjoyed your trek. Leeches makes me shiver I don’t think I would have made it.
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  2. You’re brave, girl! Thereยดs a reason I try to stay away from nature as far as possible ๐Ÿ˜‰ One question though: I am sure looking back it was worth it, but would you do it again?

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    • Tammyonthemove on October 12, 2013 at 11:15 am said:

      I would definitely do it again, but only in the dry season when there are no leeches and the paths are dry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I’m not scared of much when it comes to trekking – maybe snakes – but I’ve ALWAYS been scared shitless of leeches!!! I’m lucky not to have encountered them – our guide in Burma even avoided a popular path as he knew there was some lurking there. I think I would have screamed and cried and fainted. But maybe the guides like watching screaming contests between girl trekkers ๐Ÿ™‚ I commend you for ploughing through and now you will have NO fear when taking on another mountainous terrain!
    Becki | Backpacker Becki recently posted…Osaka, Japan: Brash by Day, Funky by NightMy Profile

  4. Mental note: Don’t go on extended bike tours in Asia during the rainy season!
    Marinela recently posted…Strictly for Men: A Word (or two) on Male StyleMy Profile

  5. Sounds like an amazing trip!

    Leeches aren’t so bad really, they’re disgusting yes but harmless enough! Cover up well and flick off the odd one or two that find their way onto you with the blade of a knife and you’re golden.

    I think that the benefits of travel in the rainy/wet seasons (lusher greenery, more vibrant waterfalls, less tourists and often cheaper) far outweigh a few inconveniences like leeches.
    Michael Huxley recently posted…Why Thailand is the ultimate first time backpacking destination.My Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on October 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm said:

      I agree. Jungles in the rainy season are much prettier actually. I have been to one in the dry season before and the waterfall was a bit pathetic.

  6. Leeches. It sounds like a nightmare. But apparently worth it, after reading through the comments! Thanks for the heads up, I will avoid jungle bike rides during the rainy season or if I must, wear an entire outfit made of plastic.
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  7. This looks awesome. You seem to have had an awesome trip.
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  8. You always have the best travel stories, Tammy. Leeches – yikes! Especially your friend who was covered in blood after slapping one. And that giant worm is hideous! Glad you survived your bike trek!
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm said:

      Me too! That worm was disgusting. I screamed like a girl when it was right next to my feet all of the sudden. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. What a brave girl!!! Even with the rain, it looks like you enjoyed the experience.
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  10. There is nothing with wrong with leeches except for their disgustingness right? They don’t transmit diseases or anything do they?
    This looks like a really cool adventure!
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  11. I would not have coped well with the leeches! Looks like a great hike otherwise
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  12. OMG no way! Leeches freak me out!
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    • Tammyonthemove on November 11, 2013 at 10:13 am said:

      Ha ha, they are quite gross, but you get used to them after a while. And apparently they are used for medicinal purposes too.

  13. Oh wow. You’re amazing. Leeches freak the hell out of me.. Eugh!
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  14. Wow. Those creatures look vicious. I’m surprised you could bike for that long in the Cambodian jungle. I biked for a day in Angkor Wat and my legs were destroyed for like 3 days. I sweared to take a private car service next time!! Haha. You are a pro!!
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    • Tammyonthemove on January 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm said:

      Thanks Alex! Yes, they are nasty little things! I didn’t know there were leeches at Angkor Wat too, but then I visited it in the dry season. I remember loads of mosquitos though. I still have scars on my legs from my two years in Cambodia. ๐Ÿ™‚

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