Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Meet the tsetse flies

We headed north from Ziwa and almost immediately took a wrong turning, well actually we stayed on the main road when we should have turned off towards the small town Masindi. Luckily there are another couple of turnings and we got there in the end.  Murchison Falls NP is quite well sign posted - if nowhere else is.

It takes about an hour to reach the park gate from Masindi, but another 2 hours from there to the Paraa ferry   crossing over the Nile.  The first hour or so passed through some very dense tropical forest with spider webs high above the road, with massive spiders hanging like bats above the car.  As the forest opens up a bit the car becomes a tsetse fly magnet - at times there are up to 20 flies clinging to the bonnet of the car.

Because it is so hot we had been travelling with the car windows down, which means the vehicle is soon full of madly buzzing and biting insects.  They are attracted to moving vehicles and dark colours.  We're both dressed in dark blue, in a dark green car. Great.  We closed the windows up to try to prevent the flies getting in, but we were soon cooking, eventually we worked out that having the windows right down helped get them back out again.  Plus a wee squirt of doom every now and then to get our own back

The further we go into the park the worse the roads become - it is obvious that there has been some seriously heavy rain and the murram roads simply wash away.  We are regularly passed by other vehicles which seem to be impervious to the damage they must be doing to their suspensions and their spines.

Tsetse flies have to be taken seriously - they transmit the disease trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness which can be fatal if untreated.  Our insect repellent which is DEET based doesn't seem to ward against them. Apparently pyrethrum works better - you can buy clothes specially impregnated with this from Craghoppers.

Swotting the flies is very hard - they are incredibly fast and we only manage to squash one in an hour of trying- much more effective is sweeping them out the open windows using the map.  All in all it is a fairly stressful hour as the driving is pretty difficult, the temp is going up and up and the fly bites are pretty painful.

They are easy identify - look a bit like a large house fly, very like a Scottish cleg and they are the only things that attack a vehicle moving at 50mph.

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