Friday, September 4, 2015

Trek 101 | 3 Things You Can Arm Yourself Against Limatiks

3 Things You Can Arm Yourself Against Limatiks
 Limatiks, Being Prepared vs Being Ready

I've been climbing Philippine mountains for almost 3 years by now, I'm someone you would consider advance when it comes to hiking, but still far from the intermediate level. I've only encountered Limatiks or Forest leeches 3 times on 3 different hiking trips. One of those trips left me a very traumatic experience; this prompted me to read more about these blood sucking parasites and be best prepared to a point of paranoia, lessons learned the hard way by experience.

Limatik will latch on to everything that passes their way, even my trek pole.
A Limatik is basically a leech thriving in forested or terrestrial ecosystems that are known to be continually wet. Though they belong in the same family, we call the leech thriving in freshwater as Linta. These segmented worms are mostly Hematophagous or blood suckers.

Frustrated; I allowed my wounds to bleed hoping it would stop when I am sleeping, but no, a bite in the calf muscle in the middle of a trek ensured this continuous bleeding.

Before I discuss about how to prepare and be ready for Limatiks, let me talk first about some my encounters with them.

I've trek Mt Makiling twice. This well esteemed mountain in Batangas and Laguna has forested trails through and through, and is the nearest mountain in Metro Manila with the known presence of Limatiks. I have heard stories of Limatiks and how vicious they are, it made me curious but did not really prepare for them. Reaching station 10 in the Sipit trail of Makiling from Santo Tomas Batangas I first sighted Limatiks crawling through my river trek pants. Like little stick figures trying to climb your body, they inch their way up looking for an exposed skin to bite. Surprisingly, they were easy to remove with only a finger flick. Reaching station 14 in the trail, they become more and more determined that we all had to watch out for each other. I even caught one hanging in my cheeks, near my left eye, luckily because of the trek exertion; my skin has sheen of sweat that the Limatik is only able to keep its suction but is unable to bite through my skin. This is when I found out that Alcohol base colognes work hurts them but doesn’t deter. I've used my cologne because I didn’t have anything to spray them with, a desperate measure per say.

My next encounter with Limatiks happened in a summertime hike, in Tawangan trail of Mt Pulag National Park, a long trail passing through 9 mountains before reaching the Grasslands of Mt Pulag. It's a pristine Rain Forest trail with many cold springs and water sources. Limatiks were present all throughout that you will certainly regret not being prepared for them. The leeches here were diverse, fat, and vicious. The biggest I've seen can stretch up to 4 inches. Unlike the ones in Makiling though, the Limatiks of Tawangan cannot be removed by a mere finger flick. Once a bite is done, they can latch strongly that even after being sprayed by alcohol they don't let go. I've relied solely on that alcohol spray as most bloggers who had ever written about Limatik attack prevention says that it works. I can conclude from this experience that it will not work all the time. I wear thick soccer socks that go halfway through my calf; it was comforting to know that they can't go through it. By lunch break, I felt itchy in my calf. Imagine me scratching through my pants and finding blood smears. A single vicious Limatik gave me 3 bites just above my socks in my left calf muscle. Were not even halfway through the trail and knowing the location of the bite, you can surmise that these bites bleed continuously for the next 24 hours. Bandages were not working that at some point I gave up looking after the wound, it was frustrating. In this Tawangan trail I obtained a whooping 12 bite counts from different Limatiks; scattered mostly through my wrist, stomach areas just above my trek pants, calf muscles, legs and even my butt.

I caught this one after it bit my wrist under my wrist watch. They prefer to bite on places that you barely notice untill its too late.

Before we go up in arms against Limatiks we have to understand that these leeches are only acting on instinct and that as mountain hikers it is us who are invading their terrestrial ecosystem. Their parasitic nature doesn't give us the right to squish them out of frustration or hurt them with alcohol sprays. 
Being prepared vs being ready. One would ask what is the difference between these 2 against Limatiks. Though they will attempt to latch into our skin, there are proven methods that would actually deter the Limatiks from doing so. Being prepared is doing something beforehand when you know that Limatiks are present in a hiking trip. Being ready is like you have an alcohol to spray to them once they start to attack which usually end up with a bite anyway.

Wear Protective Clothing
By protective clothing means leggings and form fitting dri fit tops. Note that Limatiks will try to find an expose skin where it can bite. They can also crawl under loose garments which can make them undetected until its too late. Mt Pulag guide Rangers and porters usually wear rubber boots when trekking, its a lot more effective in keeping their feet dry and deter the Limatik from crawling in their feet.

Skin Applications
Whatever deters mosquito's from biting also works against limatiks. This doesn't necessarily require Off Lotion. Any other skin liniments works too, if you are a fan of them. One of my Trek buddy in Tawangan used a tiger balm, the one you can buy off the shelves of a drugstore. I don't like applying Off Lotion to my skin because it feels hot and its like my skin is encased in something that it cant breathe through. Oils work but they are greasy. There are oil base skin products that will work best like the Johnson's baby creamy oil. The texture that lotions and oils leave behind makes it difficult for Limatiks to land a bite, but the smell deters them from latching on in the first place.

Eye Drops
There are occasions wherein Limatiks are able to latch on through the eyes, inside the ears or inside the nose. These are some of the most unluckiest Limatic bite a hiker would ever have. When it happens, especially in the eyes, eye drops works just like an alcohol have been sprayed against Limatiks. A bite inside the nose would be inconvenient as well. A trek buddy had describe the experience of a Limatik biting inside her nose. She just thought that she's having a nasal clogging. Two days after the trek, a blood clot came out of her nose and that was when she realise that she had a Limatik hitch hiker inside her nose.

Tawangan Trail of Mt Pulag is mostly like this. A constantly wet ecosystem with many bushes and trails covered by plant growth.

Reaching the Junior Pulag site like a casualty. In here, I have two blood stains in my shirt, just above my pants. I've switch my wrist watch from left to right to expose the bite and allow it to clot, you can see the dot in my left hand where the Limatik bite landed. The most prominent of all is the bandage in my left Calf, this is where I got three bites just above my socks.

In the summit of Mt Pulag, too cold to complain about anything.

I noticed that Limatiks were present starting from this station in Sipit Trail, for Mt Makiling Sto Tomas-Los Banos Traverse.

My friend/trek buddy was shrieking when she noticed a number of Limatiks crawling in her legs, but she eventually got used to them.


It was humbling, after a tiring long trek and a pleasant sleep, I woke up inside my tent in Mt Pulag saddle camp site realising that my some parts of my pants are hard because of dried blood. Too excited to trek Mt Pulag again, I've only prepared myself for the biting cold that this National Park is known for. Don’t make the blunder of treating Limatiks as an afterthought hazard of the trail, they sure are a nuisance but if you are prepared against their attack, the inconvenience can be lessened.

I also realised that its irrational to be afraid of these creatures. I'm curious in fact, knowing the fragile ecosystem that our rain forest have, how are they able to survive the harsh and rapidly changing environment baffles me, but that's another topic for the to learn. For now, I urge you my dear reader to be fascinated instead of afraid.

 I caught this one crawling in my face. Luckily, its a small one and is unable to break a bite in my skin due to a sheen of sweat.

Francis Balgos has declared himself a champion of weekend travel warriors, of call center agents who have less time for themselves, he feels everyone of you who has desires to be at two places at the same time, to see the world in their own eyes, to live fully at the best of their years. ...

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  1. Thanks to this...very informative and helpful, in preparation for my upcoming first ever limatik zoned climb hehehe...iba na naghahanda ika mo nga sir hehe

  2. anu pwding ipahid sa katawan para d dumikit yan limatik sa 22 kasi mag makiling kami , ayaw ko sana bec. of limatik hehe


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