Monday, 24 August 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Sand Fly Wars

Pancake Creek, Qld

24/8/2015  Sand Fly Wars

In my past life as a transport company supervisor in Port Hedland, I fought a war with the dreaded sand fly… and lost. The little blighters seemed to be able to out flank any barrier I put up, sneaking up when I least expect them, applying shock and awe tactics on my body parts and my nerves.

So after crossing the Tropic of Capricorn and entering the tropics of Australia I had some trepidation about entering sand fly territory, with good reason.

I fact it was with some genuine fear that I ventured ashore the tidal flats at Fraser Island. I had long pants, long sleeves, hat, socks and reef shoes on in preparation. I also chose a path to walk along on higher ground and tried not to stand still at any time.

It wasn’t enough. I arrived back on board Easy Tiger sure that I had outsmarted these pin head sized pests. An hour or so later I had an irresistible urge to scratch behind my knees. On inspection the sure sign of little red welts like pimples started to appear. Sand flies had attacked.

Seems I had been attacked either through my pants or, the mini s.o.b's had sent scouting parties up the leg of my trousers.

The next night they sent in a battalion. I woke up in the middle of the night with an overpowering need to scratch the skin off my calfs, behind my knees and one arm up to the elbow.

I defended with a double dose of antihistamine tablets, lying in bed trying to will myself not to scratch the areas of their incursion.

The next day we retreated. We left Garry’s anchorage and didn’t get off the boat until safely in neutral territory of Bundaberg. Here I rebuilt my defenses.

Vitamin B was supposed to make sand flies uninterested in you. So each morning I down the huge brown tablet.  Turning my pee fluorescent yellow is the only noticeable difference so far.

Tea Tree oil mixed with lemongrass oil is applied to any bare skin several times a day to keep them at bay. This makes my skin nice, slippery and shiny.

Bushman’s Super Turbo Boosted Ultra Supreme bug repellent was purchased as a last resort. I haven’t used this yet as I am not sure my organs will cope with such a high level of chemical applied to my skin.

Applying anti septic cream that has a mild anesthetic to the red welts as they appear was supposed to reduce the itching. Nope. The only difference with this one was to by my bank account.

Dettol hand wash had kept the barricades up a little better during the previous war, and bathing the red welts in straight Dettol bought some relief from the itching.

Over a hundred dollars poorer for the experience, we ventured out of Bundaberg.

Our sailing around Australia adventures aboard Easy Tiger brought us to Pancake Creek this week. Pancake Creek is between Bundaberg and Gladstone in Queensland.

Not what one would imagine form the name, Pancake creek is  a quite wide body of shallow water. We managed to follow the deepest channel for a couple of nautical miles until we came across a sandy bottomed lagoon formed by drying sand banks a hundred or so metres from a pretty little beach.

The whole scene was really picture perfect. There was even a splattering of palm trees on the beach. There has to be a downside to everything. Ying and yang, cause and effect, action and reaction.  One had to assume with good reason that the enemy would be close by.

So after getting the dinghy off, ready for a beach landing, I popped another vitamin B horse sized tablet. I coated my body in Tea Tree and Lemongrass. I applied a liberal dose of Aerogard. I put Antispetic ointment on the few remaining itch sites. I coated my arms in Dettol handwash, then believing I was in total sand fly camouflage we headed to the beach for a stroll.

No sooner had we landed and tied up the dinghy, Leanne started slapping her legs saying that she was being bitten.  Oh my god… run, was my first thought. I was attacked and had at least a hundred nasty little pimple welts on my body at Garry’s anchorage. Leanne; had none. Not one. So, if she was already under attack I must have been swamped.

I don’t know what I did to the sand fly gods. When I was a kid I did set fire to many an ants’ nest.  Are they related? Is this revenge for past actions on my part? Why else would these miniscule marauders seek me out?

I did brave it out. I didn’t run. I manned up and we enjoyed an hour or so on the beach at Pancake creek. I even agreed to the half hour dinghy ride around the mangroves “exploring”, knowing that I was a sitting duck for any sand fly within 200 metres. I did draw the line when Leanne suggested we skinnydip in what was a beautiful little secluded bay we found.

It was a nervous wait until night fell. Had the preventatives worked? I was still slippery from the Tea Tree /Lemongrass oil and smelled like the operating theatre of a hospital from the Dettol.

Then my hopes were dashed when I found myself scratching my arm while reading. Didn’t even realize I was doing it until it was too late. All over my arms and legs red dots began appearing and urging me to scratch them like a crazy computer game. Game over. Sand flies win in straight sets. Thank you linesmen, thank you ball boys!

I spent all night tossing and turning, scratching and rubbing. Several applications of special cream were made during the night to no avail. The itchiness of sand flies attack is incredible. When you do relent and scratch the feeling of scratching is almost erotic.

The term attack is what I prefer to use rather than the actual action that the sand fly uses to cause this overwhelming reaction. I have been told that they actually inject their urine into your skin. Not a nice thought.

We won’t be scared off by crocodiles, or beaten off by the threat of sharks or worried away by box jellyfish. At least most of those would kill you off quick smart. No, it may well be that I am driven out of northern Australia by a miniature pest that keeps peeing on me and making me want to tear my skin off spot by spot.

Beach Landing at Pancake Creek

Sand Fly bait...

Among the Palm Trees...the enemy lurks!
And she still has not one bite!!!

Oh Oh! Sunset. Prime Sand Fly time.

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