Tag Archive | Tsetse fly

Tsetse Flies – Steve’s 2-cents

It’s sooooo easy for my dearest wife Carolyn to barely mention the tsetse flies. Easy when you have a piece of bait along to attract the flies away from you, my dearest Carolyn!!!

I’m not an Africa expert, but apparently, with the wilds of African wildlife come the flies. But the two parts are important: wilds AND African wildlife. Less wild areas have tsetse fly control, so you can go to less wild areas and not put up with the flies. If there is wildlife and true wilderness, there will likely be tsetse flies. But apparently the flies around wildlife seldom carry sleeping sickness. It’s the flies around cattle that carry the sickness.

Sickness or not, the tsetse flies were a big problem that impacted the pleasure of my trip. If I stepped out of Rover mid-day I was swarmed with literally a hundred big biting flies. My legs were covered with scabs. The itch was really incredible, especially in the middle of the night. Little worked to dissuade the flies other than to travel with the windows rolled up, air conditioner on, and avoid being out of the car other than morning and nights. Long pants and long sleeves helped, but I’m a shorts and flip-flops kinda guy.

Thirty percent DEET did nothing. I think 100-percent DEET did work but as some will know, 100-percent DEET is disgusting and literally melts paint, plastic, and some clothing.

We heard rumor that the Australians had a product that worked. If anyone knows of it, please post or email.

In retrospect: Tsetse flies were never in towns or rural areas. Flies were the worst, by far, in Kafue. Less near rivers. Flies were bad in the woods, less in the open (bad everywhere, except near rivers, in Kafue). They are attracted to black and blue and movement. When we drove along, scores of flies would be attracted to Rover and they would lay in ambush for us to step out.

So the dilemma is: Do you want the WILDS of AFRICAN WILDLIFE, complete with tsetse flies, or do you want the more civilized areas?

If it is any guide to how much the flies will bother you, mosquitoes are also attracted to me, and not to my dear wife Carolyn, who brings me along as BAIT to keep the bugs off her!

River Peace

As we approached Kaingu, we came upon the camp’s tsetse fly control stop. The 3-step directions were posted on a pole with a small lidded wooden box fastened to the pole. Step 1: Stop your vehicle and turn off the engine. Step 2: Wait 5 minutes. Step 3: Spray your vehicle with the can of Doom, located inside the wooden box. I’m not sure that we waited the whole 5 minutes – we were anxious to get out of the hot car and kill tsetse flies!

Just a little further down the track, we reached the main building at Kaingu Lodge. Here we had decided to stay in the lodge expecting that we might be ready for safari camp service, showers, drinks and bed. A demur woman with twinkly eyes greeted us when we arrived, inviting us to relax and have a drink. Anticipating our arrival, the cook had set aside cold plates with empanadas (or whatever they are called in Zambia). We knew that the Heinnekens would not be at the camp during our stay. But, we didn’t realize that we would be the only guests for the next two nights, which meant we got the full attention and care of the staff.

A sloping walkway from the dining area leads to a spacious deck overlooking the Kafue River. It was lovely to just sit and watch the river flow by. Vervet monkeys kept their eyes on us, or rather, our stuff, and a bush buck grazed on the lawn. The quiet was a welcome change from the rattling rover ride.

Soon, our host Egbert arrived. A young Dutch man, he was quite energetic, and clearly happy to be working at Kaingu. We were shown to our chalet – no camping for the next two days – also overlooking the river. After washing off the road dust and filling up the laundry basket, we relaxed on our chalet deck as the river floated by.

In the Park

We’re here! Our gravel road has turned into a single vehicle track, and the dry weather allows us to drive the more scenic road along the river and the eastern edge of the park. We’re anxious to start spotting wildlife – it’s one of the biggest reasons we are here.

As we cruise north, we do spot some birds and animals. But, as we leave the last human settlements, we find that the most abundant wildlife are tsetse flies. They are persistent, voracious, and hard to kill. I got a few bites, but they found Steve irresistible. We quickly retreated behind rolled up windows and air conditioning, spending the next few kilometers smashing the flies trapped in the car. Simply smacking them only stuns them, so that they drop to the floor to regain their senses enough to bite feet and ankles. Smashing, crushing and stomping are required. They are relatively slow-moving as far as flies go, and we discovered that our field guides and journals worked best as fly swatters.

We arrived at Nanzhila Plains Safari Camp about mid afternoon. We were greeted by our hostess, Ruth, who urged us to abandon our fly-riddled vehicle for the boma, overlooking a dambo, and miraculously fly-free. It’s hot outside of the air conditioning and the cold drink Ruth offers goes down easily.

In quick succession, we see the arrival of Ruth’s husband, Brad, and then Vivienne and Tom Heineken, our would-be hosts at our next camp, Kaingu. Tom and Viv are traveling to Johannesburg, and stopped at Nanzhila Plains on their way out of Kafue. They asked if we could deliver a key and 20 liters of petrol when we travel to Kaingu in three days. We agreed, becoming part of the bush delivery network.

Soon after, two British couples arrived, having traveled south to spend the night in Nanzhila’s chalets. They were also self-driving, but it was clear that at least half of their group were having serious problems with tsetse fly bites. We were told that if we stay out of the trees we should be able to stay out of the flies. That seemed to be true as we watched a pair of waddled cranes dance their courting dance and the kingfishers hunt at the edge of the dambo.

The big news of the camp was that a pair of lions had been through the previous night, walking right through the camp. Just what I worried about most: trying to cook and eat dinner at dusk, only to have lions stroll into the area – oh boy!

We headed over to our campsite as the sun was beginning to sink into the horizon. Steve wanted to go out driving again. But, I took one look at the lion tracks all over our campsite and decided I’d rather get all the cooking and bucket showering done before dark.

The camp staff built a fire and put on a bucket of water to warm for our showers. I rummaged through all the camping gear, trying to find things I needed, looking back over my shoulder every 10-15 seconds. We had a simple dinner: potatoes wrapped in foil and tucked in the coals, green beans and onions in a small cast iron casserole, and two steaks. Steve showered while I put things together, and I showered while Steve grilled the steaks.

It was dark when we finished, and Steve napped in his camp chair while I cleaned up and washed dishes. By now, I had somewhat relaxed, possibly aided by my pre-dinner gin and tonic. There were other campers in the two adjoining sites, so I hoped that all the activity would keep the lions away – if they were even still in the area.

I hoped for lions after we were safely tucked into our rooftop tent. Steve woke me sometime later that night from a dead sleep to the neighborly howling of a hyena. I was awake the rest of the night, listening for critters prowling under our tent.