Clearly, I had made some wrong turns in my planning for this trip…

By tdf, January 3, 2023

(in response to a chum from the motherland offering playful sympathy for the bites and itches of vampiric winged little fangs seeking sustenance)

…and as for the mozzies, bastards they are, no doubt,  yet there are worse and they appear in one of my favourite natural realms here, the beach. The more wild I hunt the great ocean waves and steady roar of ancient times unabated, the more likely I am to find them. They are the March flies aka Horse Flies aka C**t Flies.

Horse-fly - Wikipedia

I have been many times chased from beaches by these beasts. Even my former valkyrie queen, not one to scare easy or even scare at all, was forced to turn tail and scarper with those wondrously formed thighs destined for a day on the sand powering back to the car just as we had found a quiet spot for my birthday many moons ago. You see, my friend, these winged savages are beyond belligerent…They cannot be swatted away. Any resistance to their eagerness to know you more intimately is met with increased frenzy. Towels, baseball bats, flamethrowers all fail to curb their enthusiasm. Their teeth are big, sharp, hideous. Their capacity to both evade and withstand the most vicious of defensive efforts is remarkable as it is depressing.

Shack Bay (Inverloch): All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

Brings to mind Shack Bay…the last trip made of any real joy and adventure on my MT09 a few years back now. My lair was incredible, so spacious, high up in a one road township far removed from the bay calmness, over looking treetops then ocean as far as the eye can see… my days spent charging along the winding coastal roads, stopping at hideway niches of paradise, and in plenty I scurried down the wooden steps through the bush, found nobody else present so made bed of fine white sand, began scribbling, stripped to as nature maybe intended, and roamed wild naked free like a baby tarzan, beating my old chest! Until…those fuckers appeared. When they find you, and generally the first announcement of their appearance on the scene is sharp pain, the experience is not akin to a mozzie bite. More like a pair of tiny scissors pushed into the flesh working their way deep, with no warning, and even when you notice and jump startled with fright they do not leave…not in the slightest…their purchase is ALL IN…the game is only just beginning.

Most people would like to avoid being feasted on by adult march flies while on the beach. There’s no simple fix, alas. These flies can easily see polarised light  and dark colours contrasting with sand and vegetation. Their painful bites can penetrate light fabrics.

Heavier fabrics, including rashies and stinger suits, can provide some protection. And if that fails, try wearing stripes. Recent studies suggest march flies are baffled by vertical stripes, which is one reason zebras are coloured as they are.

Insect repellents with DEET can provide some reprieve, though the flies are so fast they can zoom in for a nip before being repelled

Such trite advice offered in that overview. Personal experience suggests nothing short of full body armour, flares to distract, industrial strength vacuum cleaner or carpet bombing, is what I would advise to those poor souls afflicted by such terrible circumstances.

Shack Bay was the one private realm of solace and magical beauty of wilderness where the land meets the ocean exploding with blue water, wild waves, lush rain forest, sand light as feathers feeling to my fingertips like it would linger then float back down when thrown in the air, in short a wonderland in which I could truly enjoy myself. Not only did those damn bloodsuckers haunt me at most steps beyond, I also had the misfortune to happen upon another desolate seeming beauty spot…a local aboriginal chap speaking to the water in the not too distant vicinity was as it transpired, rather amped up from the recent Australia Day ‘celebrations’ and got it all too quickly into his shaved head with axes and other sinister images tattooed on his scalp, that I was somehow a distant relation of Captain Cook, had the look of a boxer (I suppose at an outlandish leap, to some maniacal eyes I could pass for a 40 year old former flyweight who had long swapped steroids for hard liquor, raw steak for bacon and eggs daily!) and threatened with earnest keenness to cut out my kidneys and hang them from a tree…‘just you and me!‘ was his war cry soon after his interrogation, speech of the crimes of my ‘people’ subsided. He proved, thankfully a little more receptive to been swatted at with my bike helmet, at least long enough for me to make a swift exit. It wasn’t the best of days. 

Ahhh ‘soppy pom’ the aussies would say. Yet they would be as valuable offering such response as the old guy who ran the cabins miles away from the nearest town and any possible holiday joy in Vanuatu, where I had studiously concluded would be my shangri-la. I was wrong…

His dog, ‘smiley’ was the highlight. Gorgeous temperament, bounding fluffy hound, a respite from the constant attack from all angles at all hours, even seconds, by the local wildlife. His master, the old boy, seemed like he had stepped out of the aussie classic Wake in Fright, somehow emerged in some tropical hinterland airbnb routine for those who like life ‘off the beaten track’. All those pictures from well intentioned friends of an island paradise who had recommended this island escape were quickly wiped from my memories and expectations as the jungle taxi took me, well…deeper into the jungle than assumed. The track off the main road, 8km in length, had the look and feel of a recent B52 bombing (maybe they were seeking March flies?) deep crater after crater. Even in a car it was a dangerous, miserable journey. On my quad bike, it was a daily exercise of the ridiculous. 

No photo description available.

Indeed, as advertised, the property did lead onto the ocean! However, some evil swine had lured or placed sea urchins with spikes of 1-2m all around the shoreline in between the coral. I wouldn’t call it bravery, more animal instinct, that caused me to navigate through the horrors the first afternoon after I arrived, as two nubile french women were rather game, and I couldn’t ‘let the side down’. After their departure however, which strangely came the very next day, I couldn’t bring myself to run the gauntlet again. 

There was indeed a pool, and yet the trip from my cabin to the pool gave way to further ‘niggles’ as the beetles were upon me as soon as I opened the door and revealed a new target for their bloodsport. So determined, to find me, crawl on me, perhaps eat me, these thick set ‘Christmas’ creatures would swarm and chase, as I ran to the pool, from beneath the surface I would look up and see them landing, drowning above me, such was their desperation to be near and dear…the same crowd ruined the daily buffet which the owner generously conjured from local fruits and cereals and juice galore. A true feast! And yet did he not wonder ever why his guests, few and far between as we were, rarely ate a damn bite? This was not down to humility, humbleness but basic survival instinct. For add to the christmas beetles; 8 inch hornets, clouds of killer wasps, bees as large as small human infants…It was a tall order for me to manage to run into the kitchen, towel over my head, grab milk, bread, cereal and dive left and right zigzag to make it back to my cabin for respite.

Rotten luck, some might say. Though it got worse…Keen to enjoy in the night, the sea breeze, cool, refreshing, the sounds of the jungle to inspire my staccato tappety tap on the laptop to continue threads of novel drafts gathering virtual dust since my last chance to remove all obligations beyond delving into strange new realms as I supped russian firewater, I was quickly introduced to the rhino beetles. They would come out of nowhere, attracted like all other appalling creatures to the lighthouse I was promoting in the dark, right above my head. Toxic coils burning a perimeter around me proved futile. They were large, flew in a bumbling flight path and probably meant me no harm, yet I challenge you to show me a man who can write in peace when harangued by repeated visitations of these monsters? Alongside the huntsmen in my cabin, and plagues of mosquitoes and the odd 20cm hornet missed the call for bedtime and still eager for mischief…

Rhinoceros beetle on person's hand

It came as scant consolation and zero surprise to learn the next day that as disheartened as I was to find the frenchies departing, a national state of emergency had been declared, due to those same rhino beetles.

Not wanting to become victim to a potential plague of coconut rhinoceros beetles, President Obed Tallis declared a state of emergency and deployed authorities to set up restriction zones around infected areas.

Soft I may be. Though when a state deploys the military, placing checkpoints of jeeps with guns and machete wielding soldiers across the island, in order to wage war against an infinite army of horned invaders, I felt somehow vindicated in my ever more gritty despair and vague defiance, also rather deflated. 

back to the grisly old chap who it turns out had lived in the outback in Australia, as a teacher, my connections to Wake in Fright showed my senses remained sound and in tune. Which counted for nowt, when I saw him cradling his left paw, covered in bandages, quite mummified. After pleasantries were exchanged, mainly as I wanted to see Smiley, just to connect with something, anything good in this world which meant me no harm, he had asked me of the pool and snorkelling, listened to my woe of the ‘minor gripes’ with the constant onslaught set against my every step, then laughed sly with that ‘soft pom eh! They wont hurt you!’ quip. Which did very little to assuage my heightened, sleep deprived wild eyed growing rage, though must be polite, show compassion, at the worst and best of times…asking of his hand, assuming some repairs had gone not quite as expected, he told me that he had been attacked by hornets in the garden, the wound has swollen, was infected, local doctors said too horrid to lance, talked vaguely of necrosis, maybe even overtures of amputation…he was making plans to fly to Australia to see a specialist. I just nodded, grimly, looked to the hound for support which was far from forthcoming, his trademark smile long vanished.

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I suspect you can understand, if not relate to my growing unease at my situation. Which I did try to improve with trips to where those staying in 5 star hotels with personal slaves to attend their every need were to be found, with a day trip by canoe to a local island providing at least opportunity to feel more like myself…crystal clear waters, lush forest, guided tour by a feral native, flirting with briefly visiting sustainability professionals en route to a conference, with whom I snorkelled in endlessly deep waters, marvellous vibrant colours of the plant life dancing graceful in the moon symphony of the tides, lengthy sea snakes to be admired not engaged, a glorious range of aliens existing in the depths of weird faces, shapes, movements…and more bemused than appalled to find not one of the group able to make any sense of my sporadic rantings of leading a Hades existence just 25km away from their own luxurious penthouses. Though this did add a tinge of regret, late in the trip as this excursion came, for what stopped me accepting defeat, plundering more gold to join them in a different world entirely, one of joy and relaxation, of comfort and every pleasure on tap at all hours, I could not confirm. Perhaps the young swashbuckling cock-sure adventurer of yesteryear, who traipsed in many an alien and testing clime across the planet was sneering from the shadows of the old days? Or possibly, I admit far less likely, I was guided more by some mutant muddled take-away from Voltaire’s Candide…that had leeched onto my essence, courtesy of the cruel jester guiding my path, who has long been amused from throwing me hither and thither, grinning to eyes crying with laughter, as I lurch from catastrophe to catastrophe.

Clearly, I had made some wrong turns in my planning for this trip.

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