Attack of the Sandflies!

Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
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Trip End Apr 02, 2014


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, December 13, 2013

Sandflies.  Contrary to the name, sandflies are not particularly associated with the sand.  In fact, they appear to be everywhere!  And they are annoying as hell!  Imagine your typical mosquito... except these guys are smaller: smaller body size; smaller wings that don't "buzz" when they fly close to your ears; and they do not have that needle-like device with which to bite you.  But these little buggers bite!  Oh, boy, do they ever!  And they bite hard.  Their bite often leaves a little pinprick of blood, and like a mosquito bite, becomes itchy soon after being bitten.  Sandfly bites, however, last longer and remain itchy longer than mosquito bites.

As I said, these sandflies seem to be everywhere: they're on the beach at sea level, grassy hills, sub-alpine tussock downs, alpine crags, thick rainforest, and everything in between.  And where there is one, there are hundreds - if not thousands!

Fortunately, a decent breeze (or good-paced movement) seems to be enough to keep them at bay.  Similarly, as long as you remain clothed and covered, you should be able to avoid being bitten.  These little nasties don't seem to have the ability to bite thru clothing (even something think like polyester workout gear).  But as soon as there is exposed skin, be prepared.

Many of the New Zealanders that we talked to joked that Nelson Lakes National Park is the place where the sandflies are bred.... and from there, they radiate outwards to the rest of the country.  I will admit that they sandflies in Nelson Lakes were brutal!  However, since then, I've come across a number of other locales which are just as, if not moreso, infested with the bug.  These include a few campgrounds north of Christchurch, as well as most of Stewart Island!

Imagine this: you are standing around camp being swarmed by the sandflies.  Like I said earlier, if you stay covered up, you shouldn't have too much of a problem... But imagine looking down at your pant leg and seeing anywhere from 20 to 70 flies on one leg.  They constantly swarm around your head, to the point where you start to wonder if something is wrong with your eyes, as you constantly see these tiny black dots appearing and then disappearing in your vision.  Going to the bathroom in a backcountry toilet offers no escape.  The other morning I got up and in the few moments that I took to attend to the call of nature I received 7 sandfly bites on my behind!

Eventually you decide to retreat to your tent to escape the onslaught of harassment, only to realize that in the 15 seconds it took you to unzip your tent door and crawl inside, you let in a bunch of the flies.  You then have to spend the next... I don't know - however long it takes ... 10?  15 minutes squishing sandflies against the wall of your tent.  The brothers, Shaun and I counted how many sandflies each killed inside his tent and I think Kris was the winner, with something like 48 kills!  On top of that, you can hear the sandflies that are trapped between the walls/roof of the tent pitter-pattering and they try to get through the tent material... almost like a steady, light rain.
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