Close encounters

Skimming old photos, I came to this one, featuring a beetle. I’d taken it seven years ago on a walk through an unspoilt wildlife sanctuary an hour north of Shillong. It was my first visit to this wet, wild, and wonderful part of India. I had a rough plan in mind for a day’s walk of about five kilometers through forest. Permits were needed, but that worked out quickly. As I was getting that, I learnt that the kind of walk I’d planned was not going to work; instead I had to walk with a ranger. Twenty minutes into the walk I stopped to take the photo that you see here.

Big mistake! As soon as I stopped, a mass of leeches found me. With the ranger’s help, I tried to pick a couple off my arms. But then I found several more under my shirt. The ranger then pointed out blood on my trousers. That’s when I noticed that he kept flicking off leeches with a sickle as he talked. He wore shorts, a tee, and slippers, and kept a close watch on his skin. This was my first encounter with leeches, and it hadn’t gone well. The ranger suggested cutting the walk short. At least I got a couple of nice photos out of it!

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