Tales of a wandering lesbian

Don’t freak out

Sand flies.  Lots of them.  That’s what we found waiting for us on the south island’s West Coast.  We’d been excited to finally see the ocean for a bit, so we pulled over and hopped out at Bruce Bay, the first place the highway runs near the ocean.

It was beautiful.  I trotted toward the restroom (New Zealand is amazing about public restrooms), while Krista snapped a couple of pictures.

Honestly, I don’t remember if I made it.  The bugs were so thick and aggressive that, even with long pants and sleeves, I was being bit.  The both of us bolted for the van, and climbed inside, dusting the buzzing things off of our heads.

I felt Krista stop and I looked up.  She was staring at me.  “Try not to freak out.”

Here’s a free piece of advice:  if you are hoping that someone who is not currently freaking out won’t suddenly begin freaking out, alerting them that there is, in fact, a reason to freak out, will not help your cause.

I looked down toward our laps, and saw probably a hundred sand flies floating, flying and crawling around.

“How am I supposed to not freak out?!  How?!”  I was beginning to unravel.  I am one of those super-fortunate people that attracts biting insects to my lovely sweet blood.  I already had half a dozen welts beginning to form, and now I found myself sitting in a nest of nasties.

Krista began swatting.  Neither of us wanted to open the windows.  They were coated with the flies, too, inside and out.  So we drove.  She swatted and we cracked the windows to try to flush them away from us even inside the van.

“I don’t think we’ll be spending a lot of time on the West Coast,” came Krista’s flat voice.

Eager to reach a stopping point, we headed to the first camp site we had our eye on, Lake Paringa.  It was off the ocean, and up a bit, giving us hope that the fly situation might be a bit more manageable.  When we stepped out of the van, however, it was clear this wouldn’t be our refuge.  At least this time we were a little more prepared.  I managed to take a couple of pictures while running to the back of the van.

I threw up the back hatch and grabbed the hand-broom.  Then I brushed and scraped as many of the flies as possible off of the rear window, trying not to let them fall on me.

With Lake Paringa in our rear view mirrors, we cracked the windows again and pulled the map out of the glove box.  Haast Pass.  That was what was in front of us.  We were tired, but we were not interested in the flies.  Their bites were tiny, but turned quickly into itchy, puffy, red welts.  Not fun.

“Maybe if we get up higher, we won’t have as many.”  Krista was trying to find us a bit of comfort.  “We didn’t see any in Arthur’s Pass.  You up for a drive?”

We wanted to be in Wanaka the next day anyway, which meant driving the pass tonight or tomorrow.  The sooner we were through the bugs, the better, in my mind, so we set off for the pass.  There were several camp sites there.  We’d pick the one away from water and see what happened.

What happened is that we jumped out to make dinner just before sunset.  The flies were few and far between, except for those Krista knocked off the back window from our last stop.

Lulled into a false sense of security, we started cooking, and even pulled out some camp chairs to sit in.  Mistake.  Almost the second we sat down, the flies were on us.  Less interested in our food, than our skin, they tried to find chinks in our armor.

Dinner became a walking affair.  We paced and ate and quickly realized that this was not our refuge, either.  The tourists around us smiled curiously as we threw the stove in the back of the van and headed out again, still tired, and wondering how the others were managing to sit outside.

The drive into the pass was beautiful, marked by towering mountains, shining rivers, and rock-laden waterfalls.

When we reached the next campsite, dusk was falling.  We talked for maybe a minute about driving through to Wanaka, another hour and a half up the road.  But we were done for the day.  Glaciers and sand flies had worn us out.

This site was on a hill, above a river.

The views were spectacular and quiet, but the river meant flies.  We weren’t over the pass quite yet.  It was, however, time for evening tea and games.  I braved the flies to make our tea, pacing quickly, while Krista commandeered a dirty sock to rid the van of our guests.

When I climbed back in with our hot water, I was a little afraid.  “This is the killing sock,” she stated flatly.

“Okay.  Thanks for doing that.  I don’t really like killing things.”  One fly buzzed past my face.  “Ahhhhh! “  She reached over and squished it with her fingers.

“Thanks,” I said again.  These bastards were seriously challenging my feelings about killing living things.

We played a game or two of cribbage and drank our tea.  Then we prepared for bed, climbing under and over the bars that separated the cab from the sleeping area.  We discovered that we could do almost everything we needed in the van, without having to open the door – everything except for peeing, unless we wanted to use the sink.  Finally, we climbed under the covers, shaking the dead carcasses to the edges of the comforter, and turned off our headlamps, which had attracted swarms to the van windows.

“We’ll have breakfast in Wanaka tomorrow?” Krista asked, more confirming than questioning.

“Sounds good.  Be careful if you get up in the night to pee.  Nobody wants those bites.”

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1 comment

1 Big Mama { 01.09.11 at 7:11 am }