We’re in the car on the way into the mountains outside of Kandy when David reads the guidebook. It tells us we should bring leach protection for the hike we are about to embark on. It’s too late to turn around.
Knuckle’s Ridge is a range of mountains shaped like their namesake. The start of the hike is in the tea plantation hills. It’s stunning terrain. Our driver is trying to find us a guide and we are haggling for a price. We settle above what we expected to pay.
Our driver and our guide question what we have for leach protection and we point to the bottle of bug spray we’ve brought. It doesn’t take words to realize this won’t suffice. Our guide is a 49-year-old man with three children. He closes his shop to take us up the mountain. He carries an umbrella and is wearing flip-flops. Once the shop is locked, he’s off. I can’t keep his pace. I’m still recovering from an illness and his fitness better than mine.
We’re moving up into the hills through the tea plantations. The ascent through the tea fields is beautiful. The leaves are being harvested. David falls back and the guide and I wait for him to catch up to us. He has had to stop to pick off the first leach that has attached to his legs.
The leeches in this part of Sri Lanka are predators, waiting on the forest floor or on leaves waiting to attach themselves to you. They like to attach to the sides of your shoes and work their way up towards bare legs.
I haven’t realized that David is afraid of leeches until now. He’s meticulous about checking his legs and stops every twenty feet.
Once we’re out of the tea plantations and into the hills the fog rolls in. The trail is tight and there isn’t much to see through the foliage.
The rain comes after we begin our descent from the summit. It’s torrential. The trail has turned into a stream and the rivers we have to fjord are swollen. We are drenched coming down off the mountain.
Near the end of the hike I’ve picked up leeches I didn’t see, and my legs are a bloodbath after they are removed. The leeches have something in them that keeps the wound from clotting.
Back in the car, my legs won’t stop bleeding. I can’t help but think of the French couple we passed earlier on the trail who were camping the night and how uncomfortable they must be in their soaking clothes and bloodied legs.
Despite the carnage, the area of Knuckle’s Range was stunning and a beautiful introduction to the tea plantations of Sri Lanka.