Our goal yesterday was a nice remote lake called Rotoroa (not the geyser-town “Rotorua” if you followed our last posts, we are now in the South Island! Don’t worry, we also get very confused with the names here…). Starting from Tapawera, the day was on small gravel roads with a hot and heavy weather across some inland valley – with the usual daily ascents/descents/climbs – lunch a bit later than usual in a town on the map that did not exist in the reality (unless an abandoned bridge counts as a village).
Things were starting to get suspicious during our picnic with a few insects starting to play with the leg-hairs… insects usually don’t bother us when it’s really hot weather. But okay, feet on the bench and problem solved to enjoy the marmite-sandwich (yes, I kind of got to enjoy “Marmite” … still not the “Vegemite” though!). 20 more kilometers with temperatures rising and muggy atmosphere, the bike literally stuck to the road with melted asphalt (our tires probably left some “C&C and their three wheels were here” marks in the tar all along that stretch of road), our water breaks were becoming more frequent, the road always climbing and the kilometers going slower and slower…
We finally reach Rotoroa at 4pm … 3 … 2 … 1 … 0! About 3 seconds after the town sign a huge storm with downpours of rain of hail fall on us – luckily this is the entrance of the “Nelson Lakes NP” and trees hundreds of years old haven’t been logged here. They will offer us a perfect protection for the next 20min.
Things now get very suspicious… the tree cover protects us from the rain, but it appears that insects here also don’t like rain… so we get to enjoy the trees with an ever-increasing number of six legged creatures. A spread of some recommended insect repellent all over us and we feel that it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Time to pitch up the tent and the camp, it looks like everyone is either inside the cars, RVs or deep in the tents. Things are still tolerable (we’ve already had mosquitoes and other annoying flying beasts previously). It takes a bit of time to disassemble everything and build the camp… time that sandflies take to launch a call throughout the forest: “we may have some prey tonight!” (think of the calls of trees from the Lord of the Rings…). Some people with engine vehicles are leaving the campground – very unusual in the late afternoon, where the next campground is over an hour drive away. The number of sandflies always increases – I’m starting to go nuts outside. Sandflies don’t just fly around you or lick your sweat (we have a lot of that juice…), they bite – don’t even hide their attack like mosquitoes, somehow go through the clothes and any type of skin, cut a piece of body, make you bleed, and leave you a toxin that will itch for three days. It seems that they love me – with already tens of bites from the previous days.
Back to the campground, where there’s only a local dude – the alcoholic-smoker version of John Rambo walking around with shorts and truck-driver-style-T-shirt – he is welcoming any new arrivals by “welcome to hell, hahahaha!”. Somehow, he’s invented some type of anti-insect-shield around him because he doesn’t appear to be affected at all… We are now finishing the camp with thousands (seriously!) of sandflies launching continuous attacks. Rambo is nearby, looking at us and proud to have some type of dinosaur-teeth-resistant-skin.
We had read that sandflies don’t like water, so next idea is: swim in the lake. That works pretty well, and we are considering the idea to sleep underwater with a straw. We don’t have a straw, so another time maybe. The campground is now under constant sandflies-fire. We have a target to enter the tent in less than 2,5s (for two people): almost reached. We managed in that time to let only about 50 sandflies in the tent. We are fairly happy, because there are about 10 times as many, outside on the net. The fight in the 2 m³ starts, murder after murder, we get some bites, but by squashing the flies against the netting, the quantity slowly lowers… until we think we are done… and tens more appear from behind a bag. The struggle continues, we check every single seal of the tent because we have doubts that there could be a hole somewhere that would give the flying creatures an advantage. Tent finally cleaned!
But it’s time to eat… shit, we only have noodles and that seems impossible to eat without boiling water outside the tent… we put on all possible clothes (waterproof snow gloves included). Only the eyes are not protected. Guess what, the fight is now focusing on the face and eyes. Dinner ready, we jump back in the tent, still the 50 sandflies to kill (plus the ten extras from somewhere behind the bags): the tent ground becomes covered with cadavers. No dish-cleaning tonight, no teeth brushing, it’s too extreme to get out! We still have John Rambo in his chair and minimal clothes watching a Sylvester Stallone movie outside! I freak-out and try to do a brainstorming on how to not go to the bathroom at dusk… “No, I do not need to pee, I am the master of my body, I can control that bladder…”. Damn it, I must go! Sprint across the volatiles, sprint back, the 25 murders in the tent (I improved the jumping into the tent from 2,5s to 1,1s). And the entire night with a crazy noise of flying insects all around the area. One sandfly is quiet, 50 zillion are making a noise that makes anyone insane. The night is perfect though, nobody dares to drive or go out to do any noise.
7am, time to wake up … same nightmare outside the tent, there are hundred insects already in position to come in – we do as much as possible from the inside of the tent and manage an incredible packing and departure in 15 minutes (versus 1,5h usually). As we ride by Lake Rotoroa, I tell Cassie “take as many pictures as you can, because I will never ever come back here”, we have a big climb to start the day, but we forget to take water in the rush – doesn’t matter, I prefer thirst over that.
The first kilometer out of Rotoroa is at high pace to try to distance the beasts, and we are happy to have survived the last 12h of sandflies siege!