28 January 2006

Royal National Park: Heather's Worst Day Ever

Thursday was Australia Day here, celebrating the landing of the First Fleet. There is some controversy over this holiday, given that many of the Aboriginals consider it a celebration of the beginning of indigenous subjugation. Some even refer to it as "Invasion Day." There is a movement towards focusing the holiday on the Anzacs, Australia and New Zealand veterans, even though there is already an Anzac Day. But it is a national holiday, so Heather had the day off. We decided to visit the Royal National Park and do some bush walking. Heather found about the Coast Trail, which leads to Burning Palms Beach. Along the way, there were several lookouts over the ocean. Heather is pictured at one sipping some water from her new CamelBak (courtesy of her in-laws). Sounds like fun, right? Just wait.
We began walking down the trail, enjoying frequent views of the coast, looking forward to getting to the beach. The trail got really tight, with trees and bushes crowding in. At one point, I noticed a small twig on my shoe. When I flicked it into the brush, I realized it was soft. I wonder...
We kept going along the trail, me in the lead. About twenty minutes later and halfway to Burning Palms, Heather said, "Hey, you have a leech on your shoe! Ha, ha, h--THERE'S A LEECH ON ME! AHHHHHHHHHH!" At that point, the leech on her twisted into her shoe. I took her shoe off, and tried to pull it off of her sock while she kicked wildly. She also noticed more little squirmy leeches all over the ground. We had a momentary crisis of character, but resolved to make it out of there alive. I led again, and Heather watched for leeches. We had to stop periodically so I could pluck one off of us when Heather let me know by screaming at it. We stopped for a breather at a lookout (on a rock formation--no leeches) when a large party came by and asked for directions. We showed them our map, and they asked if we had been to the beach. We said no, we had turned back, and warned them about the leeches. A lady wearing strappy sandals and no socks said, "Leeches? What you have to watch out for are the ticks and the brown snakes."
We got back to dry ground (no leeches) and could finally relax. Heather heard something to her side in the bush, and saw an echidna (also pictured on the five cent coin). A couple came along and were pretty impressed with the spotting. They said they walked out there frequently and had never seen one.
We got off the trail, and had a picnic overlooking the ocean. We thought we had left our bad luck on the trail, but a bird flew over and, um, left a mark on Heather while she was eating, and I got bit by a spider. We had debated walking down a trail to the ocean, but after the spider bite, my decision was made--we went home.
I heard the Wiggles mentioned Australia Day on Thursday. For those of you with little fans, post a comment. I'd like to know what the Wiggles said about it.
And sorry we didn't stop to get a picture of the leeches. Maybe next time.

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