UA-31290512-1

Friday, February 19, 2016

New Zealand’s Vampires – Pests in Paradise


Nelson Lakes, New Zealand’s South Island.  This deceptively placid spot marks the point of first sandy fly invasion on Journey’s hapless land-lubbing crew.
Imagine a calm pewter-colored lake.  Gaze across its mirrored surface as you stand on its sandy bank. In the misty light, pieces of sky, rolling hills, and forest green foliage glimmer in the lake’s reflection. 

Cue to what actually happened. 

It began the same way, then ….


River adjoining Nelson Lake, New Zealand’s South Island.
Photographically, I found it irresistible. Wayne wisely stayed
in the car and indulged me while I took a quick snap.
I covered up, opened and closed the car doors quickly.
A bit scantily dressed, Wayne in his t-shirt, jeans and crocs, me in a strappy dress  stepped out of our nice toasty car to take in the stunning view at Nelson Lakes in New Zealand's lovely South Island.….

Add a little instrumental music (click here for that)….

Next, here's what unfolded (click here for video of that)….

BAM!





Placard about the sand fly at Milford Sound's Visitor Center area.
Drives home the point these rapacious pests aren't new
to New Zealand.  I envied the pioneer woman in the
vintage photo's protective veil netting.

Now you have a sense for how we felt about our introduction to “Namu” (the Maori’s affectionate-sounding name for) what's more commonly known as sand flies, black flies,  West Coast sand flies (click here for more info on New Zealand's sand flies)....

Unlike the earth-bound Godzilla, these thirsty thick winged fuggers descended upon us in cloud form.





Call these pests what you will – I call them vampires bitches in paradise.  New Zealand’s sand flies are bloodsuckers, like mosquitoes.  Also like mosquitoes, only the females suck blood.

Waggish item found on the Haast Pass backpacker lodge bulletin board.
Apparently I am not alone -- a piker even --  in dramatizing
the voraciousness of New Zealand's sand flies.
Some varieties bite in dry areas; others in wet ones.  While the mosquitoes tend to bite most between dusk and dawn, namu nips during the day, and particularly in calm cloudy weather, they feast throughout the day.

Unlike mosquitoes, sand flies offer no buzzing warning.  They just descend and bite.  For us and others we’ve talked to, we find these bites itch fiercely for a couple weeks, generally far longer than a mosquito bite, which annoys for a few days to a week and a half.

We ran quickly for cover.  The cloud followed right inside our car, just as happy to enjoy a captive buffet.  We rocketed off, opening our windows, later realizing that move simply sent the sand flies temporarily down to the floor and back toward our closed rear hatch.  Once the gravitational forces stopped, the moving feast (and we were the unwitting hosts) resumed. 

Then we figured out if we popped our wagon’s rear hatch open and drove we’d leave most of them behind.  The trick was not to lose our gear in the mean time, and close the hatch before we became dinner for a fresh invasion.

Bad as the sand flies were, the mosquitoes in Denali Alaska’s Wonder Lake win our prize for most prolific.  They entered the tour bus (no car driving allowed in most of Denali) like a hailstorm.  There’s a reason native Alaskans call ‘em the state bird. 

Nor were the sand flies as bad as the ones that convinced even Mr. I-am-not-a-morning-person Wayne to hit the trail in Yellowstone’s Shoshone Lake at first light, as we hotfooted out of there two days early to escape the beastly blanket of hungry mosquitoes.

Still, sand flies suck, both literally and figuratively.


Wayne’s non-biting strategy is to douse himself in deet.  It keeps the bugs off him, but repels me, too.  As the food preparer who doesn’t want to spice our food with deet, I cover up with clothing instead and use less effective yet less poisonous repellents, like citronella based ones.  Mostly my hands get bitten, typically when I’m preparing supper.

If I could land anywhere, New Zealand's a pretty nifty destination.  On that the sand flies and I agree.  The Maori explanation for the reason for "Namu's" existence might amuse you; we find it apt....


When Hine-nui-te-po, the goddess of death inspected his work [Milford Sound], he feared humans would be so entranced by it beauty they would forget their mortality.  So he introduced Te Namu to remind them not to linger. – placard at Milford Sound Visitor Center.

"Home" for Journey at the moment; Riverside Marina in
Whangarei, New Zealand.  We are in an apartment while we
take the boat apart a bit and before we put her back together.
Location Location
This is a recent retrospective of our month-long New Zealand road trip, which started from North Islands, North Island, leaving Whangarei, January 10, 2016, all the way down to Bluff, New Zealand’s Southernmost South Island mainland point. We encountered sand flies only on South Island.  Nearly two weeks passed since we returned to Whangarei from our road trip, on February 7, 2016.  We've moved to Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17) for ~4 weeks of much-needed intensive boat work before we resume cruising.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).