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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A treatise on the humble fly (diptera horrifica...)

I know many of you have been waiting – possibly even with bated breath – for the next instalment of our blog. I also realise that we left on somewhat of a cliff hanger (albeit a small cliff – perhaps even just a minor hillock) but, I’m afraid, tales of our wanderings around Kata Tjuta must wait!

Before we go down that road, let me take a side-track for just a few moments and talk about an issue that is frequently swept under the carpet by many of the overly proud travellers we have met on this sun scorched land. That is, the issue of flies. Swarms of teaming black ungodly critters. Urrghk! No sir, I am not a fan – and so I feel an almost evangelic need to bring this scourge out into the open; for everyone who has ever swallowed one of these unholy demon spawn (or three, in my case). Come brothers and sisters – no longer shall this plague be upon our houses. No longer shall we fear to venture forth into the bright light of day. No. No! No, I say; listen to the words I speak upon thee and we shall be free… Free. Free I tells ya! Ahh hah ha haaaaaar!

[ahem – sorry about that…]

…now, many people I talked to before embarking on this journey up north warned me about the flies … but there is no real way to describe the onslaught that accompanies these little blighters. Perhaps I’ve just taken one too many entomology classes and know (all too well) the horrific diseases that these buzzing little vectors carry – not to mention the ins and outs of their putrescent little life cycles. But I am constantly amazed at how some people (probably other folks from up north) simply don’t seem to care about having a few flies dangling off the corner of their mouth, or using their eye lashes as some sort of circus trapeze. However, I for one do not care to have my eyes, nose, ears and various tufts of hair invaded by these miniscule marauders. Actually, that isn’t the full truth. I am very aware that I am not alone in my hatred of these vermin – but most scoff at us with such sensibilities – but no longer! Here were draw a line in the sand! Before the trip I made one of the best investments of my life, namely a fly and mosquito head net. Now, laugh if you wish, but I felt rather smug waltzing around Uluru, Kata Tjuta and the local supermarket… with my slack jawed mouth hanging as open as wide as I pleased – with not so much as a fly’s toe coming near me.

I did, however, have the good grace to remove this bulky adornment whenever I was called upon to appear in a photo to mark this momentous occasion – but, of course,  there had to be one that slipped through… and here it is!!

Oh the relief!

But soon the embarrassment of seeing Dad in a fuzzy cap wore off, as at least one smart and brave member of my family joined my in a world without hacking up the flies that have decided to commit suicide by diving down that gullet of some poor unsuspecting fool. I salute you my little one, come join me in and cast of the shackles of our oppressive fly overlords!

Come join me, my son!

All I can say, it that it sure beats a big floppy hat with a bunch of corks on strings tied to it… but, perhaps, not by much…

Walking around the various breathtaking national parks – I noticed there was a sense of comradery amongst those of us brave enough not to care what others might be thinking of our head adornments – in the service of blissful comfort and a nose free of flies. ‘Howdy’, ‘g’day’, ‘hi, love the net’, would great me as I proudly strolled passed my brethren who had made a life choice that suited their particular vagaries when it came to having flies place their kangaroo poo encrusted feet in our mouths. However, at times, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat split in my decision to align myself with the executioner hood crowd. Mine, I felt, was a tasteful dark green, superfine mesh, the likes of which NASA would surely use if they were faced with similarly trying conditions. One could almost fool oneself into thinking I was David Attenborough on some deep trek into an uncharted patch of the earth. I was all at once connected with my experience of traipsing around some unbelievably gorgeous patch of splendour, but simultaneously able to pull myself away in an instant to recoil into my meshy mantle, my cocoon of breathable air, and peek out of this hidey hole unabated whenever the swarms decided to attack!

And attack they did… By now, I am sure many people reading this think I may have lapsed too far into hyperbola. But, I assure you my friends, No!

For the past two and a half years I have worked no more than a stones throw from a large garbage dump. Strings of fly paper have hung, like strange mantels of death, from the ceiling of my office during the warm, stinky months. But never, no never, have I encountered flies like this. Yea Gods, what has Australia done to incite such a plague of biblical proportions?

…and this is just our backs! [cough, splutter, wheeze….]

Yet, walking along the tourist infested trails – it seems that not everyone had gone for such tasteful head attire. Oh no, I was set aghast many times by the variety of horrifically offending and garish colour choices of other net wearers. Navy blues and dark mauves were almost passable, but bright pink, fluorescent green and multicoloured neon stripes seemed almost irreverent in these calm and naturally colourfully adorned places – if not taking their fly protection choices a little too far. Indeed, the more I saw a litany of gaudy coloured head nets stream by me, I felt less inclined to nod my head in solidarity – and more inclined to think ‘what a plonker’…. particularly as a man sporting a batman logo on his fly head net sauntered pass.

I guess this was how ‘bare facers’ must have viewed me… But, in the end, my smugness prevailed and I sauntered down the path safe in the knowledge that there were no flies on me… and if there were, well, who cares!!

It might be easy, for those of you reading this blog from the comfort of your computer chair or other fly free zone, to scoff and think that this was a cowardly way out of experiencing the Northern Territory. Ahhh, I would reply in retort to these naysayers (probably with my fingers arched in a knowledgably way… yes, even stroking my beard – which was completely free of flies, I might add – looking wise and meaningful and altogether very wind-swept and interesting)… if only it were that easy to escape the flies. Oh yes, if only. Then this might be a much less impressive a feat than it sounds. In reality, it takes more than a little planning and forethought to be a successful wearer of a fly head net. Unless one puts on their net in the car (providing that none of the little blighters have already forced their way in there), one is forced to don their head gear in their domain. That’s right on the very battlefield upon which this war is being fought!  On at least one occasion I’ve miss-timed my application of a head net and have ended up with a dozen or so unwelcome guests hitching a ride with me in a situation reminiscent of some medieval torture device. Flies buzzing around INSIDE the head net – trying their damndest to get OUT! Oh, how Alanis Morissette. (or perhaps more likely Rowan Atkinson) would have a field day on this ironic piece of happenstance…

…By the end of the day, I believe I had developed ninja-level head-net putting-on skills – as I mostly only caught one or two buzzing little critters during a single netting!

But, when it came down to it – no matter how ridiculous I looked, or how far ahead of me Nat and the boys felt they had to walk to avoid the feelings of shame and embarrassment that came with a well-insulated father – I couldn’t help but remind myself of the wise parable Gareth told me before we left Adelaide. While we were staying with Gareth and Rosie, they both told us of their time wandering out of the well-worn tracks of suburbia and into the bush. They relayed how hadn’t walked more than a kilometre, when realised that their hands and arms were more tired than their legs, from swatting flies…

I getcha bro! I getcha…

Bye ‘d bye


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