Midges, Sandflies, Mosquitoes and other things with bigger teeth than wings are common all over the world. When I travelled to southern France a few years ago, I often walked to the beech bar over the dunes at dusk with a tornado of high pitched buzzing creatures spinning about my head. When I was minding my own business reading on Aussie Bay recently, anyone watching would have been forgiven for thinking I was into self harm in some way. The number of times I slapped different parts of my legs and arms trying to crush the bloodsucking parasites that had sank their fangs into me, made it seem as if I had a nervous spasm. They’re everywhere. Whilst writing this I am sat in my van, on the shore of Lake Rotoiti near the village of St. Arnaud. Surrounded by mountains and forests, it is a welcome difference to the beach and sea views of the last three weeks. The sun keeps poking it’s face through the clouds like an actor keeps returning to the stage for a cheering audience, always leaving you wanting more. Its just after six pm and that’s the problem, for it is at dusk when they come out to feed.
Earlier today, I was faced with a dilemma. I had bought a new frying pan and was all ready to go and buy bacon, eggs, sausages and all the myriad of other things that can be fried easily on a small gas stove. The problem was, I only wanted one or two of everything, not packets of six. I had become fed up with the dead easy option of just having noodles with every meal, some travellers (and students, for that matter) seem to live entirely on the stuff. I couldn’t store anything into a cool box either, because I hadn’t got one. Everything I have bought except for breakfast cereal has been eaten on the day of purchase, even the milk because you can buy half pints. After dismissing soup, stew, a green salad (they don’t do pre-packed one meal salads, even I don’t want to eat a whole lettuce) I eventually settled on Ravioli. It’s pasta again I know, but a different shape and with meat inside. I’ll just use the fryer another day, at least that doesn’t go off.
It’s nearly seven o’clock now, tea time. My window is open an inch to let air in and so far, none of the little pests has noticed. Somewhere in the trees though; is a lookout, and as soon as I step outside, insect air traffic control will broadcast that a tasty snack is on the move and order the feeding frenzy. It’s simple for them, if it has flesh on it and is not moving around to quickly, then it’s on the menu. Sure enough, as soon as I step foot outside the safety of the van, the entire winged division of nature’s insect world swoops down from the trees. But today there is no meal for them; because since Aussie Bay, I bought a can of the strongest insect repellent and smothered myself in it. I would have been happier if the can came with a tiny battery of anti-midge artillery, but we can’t have it all. Carrying my cooking pots and pans I made my way toward the cooking shelter, and was greeted by warming aromas of cooking food. The gas hob had one space left, which I quickly claimed, placing my pan of water on the flames to boil. As I waited I had chance to see what everyone else was cooking up. On one of the burners; a huge frying pan contained spicy sausages and no end of chopped vegetables, all liberally garnished with olive oil and herbs from little bottles. A second pan contained the inevitable noodles, but to this were added more vegetables and diced meat. Everyone had chopping boards, sharp knives, salt and pepper shakers, Jamie Oliver and a handy waiter in a uniform to ladle it out to them. Some even drank wine from actual wineglasses. Everything came out of a huge cool box, or ‘chilly bin’ as the Kiwis call them. All my stuff came out of a torn carrier bag. I had a packet of Ravioli and a carton of pasta sauce, which I cooked and lovingly served up in a plastic bowl. To wash it all down I had a bottle of Chateau de la Fanta, of 2011 vintage. For pudding, a couple of hard boiled sweets stripped from their wrappings and tossed gracefully into my gob. As I sat and ate, reading the latest from the pen of Jeremy Clarkson, I couldn’t help but think I needed to be a bit more creative. That would mean buying a cool box, which would mean finding a place to keep a cool box in the tiny space I have.
The sun had decided to do one last encore, and finished the show with a spectacular display of colour and shadows over the mountains. I cursed the flat battery in my camera and the single recharge socket on my power inverter (do I want a mobile telephone today in case something goes wrong or nice pictures, if the sun ever comes out?) and trudged back to the van. The midges were giving it one last go before being held back by the repellent, and I smiled because they’ll never learn. Unless I want to be living out of KFC, Subway, Burger King or eating noodles everyday until I go home, I had to go one better than the swarming hordes. I couldn’t go to a proper restaurant every night because I doubt the owner would take kindly to my offer to dance for my food when I eventually ran out of cash, even if I let them choose the music. So it’s simple then. I’ll have to meet up with a group of travelling chefs with a large cool box.
Mini Count:- 14, and things are getting spotty!
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