24 July 2011

the pox

I am fairly certain that I have never in my life had as many mosquito bites as I do right now, not even in South Sudan* where I bundled in a raincoat in the heat at night to avoid the mosquitoes that bit me through my jeans. The mosquitoes yesterday bit me through my clothes, too, including on my butt. THROUGH MY PANTS. (The mosquitoes in South Sudan bit me through my jeans. Similarly stubborn. Although they only came out at night.)

I didn't bring insect repellent, of course. Only wimps bring insect repellent. I don't even bring it to Africa, except to South Sudan, because when I was in Nairobi on the way there, my coworker told me that it was an absolute necessity.

I bought some 100% DEET in Nairobi and took it with me to South Sudan, where I applied it on several occasions and found that mosquitoes seemed to view it primarily as a marinade for the delicacy of my blood. Yum. Literally the only thing that worked was to have a mosquito-impermeable barrier between me and the blood-thirsty little suckers.

The mosquitoes on the trail yesterday had the same persistence. My friend T. and I ran into exactly one other person on the entire 5+ mile hike (I think everyone else had gotten the memo about the strange fact of hordes of mosquitoes in the normally insect-free Pacific Northwest), and that person had insect repellent and shared it with us. It didn't help. The mosquitoes feasted, unnoticing. Or perhaps enjoying the extra flavoring.

Only wimps bring insect repellent, but yesterday I was (metaphorically) curled up in a little ball on the trail, sobbing for some insect repellent.

Not actually, of course. What do you think I am?

We climbed up a snow-slope until it got too steep and slippery (I dropped both of my water bottles half-way up, when they fell out of the side pockets of my new backpack, and watched them slide faster and faster down the hill until they hit rocks; we rescued them on the way down), and then we climbed through the trees to the left, the slope so steep that I clung to bushes and trees to pull myself up.

From the top, we could see mountains:

(Hey! It's me! I have no photo of the mountain without me, and this one is at least somewhat identity-obscuring. Unless you know me. I think I am trying not to fall into the crevices between sharp rocks. Not visible: hundreds of chomping mosquitoes.)

On the way down, I hurled myself downward, over and over, in the direction of stable-looking trees that could break my fall. The only other option was to slide all the way down on my ass, and that seemed like a painful proposition. Too many splinters.

But it was this bad, mosquito-wise: we sat down for lunch at the top, were driven off by mosquitoes, and ended up sitting on the rocks in the middle of the snow field to get away from them. They still followed us there, but once we killed off all the ones that had migrated with us, no new ones seemed to be able to find us in the middle of the snow. So we sat there in the snow, in July, eating lunch.

The snow was actually much easier to descend than the mud, and after we ate lunch on it, I put on my rain pants and slid down the snow.

Plus: my brand new hiking boots made it the entire trip without pain or raw skin (I rarely get blisters - it goes straight to raw).

Minus: hundreds of mosquito bites.

Plus: mosquito bites don't itch me as much as they do some people.

Minus: I look like I have the pox.

(I didn't worry overly much about the mosquitoes because the bonus of living this far north is the lack of malaria and dengue fever, until my dad asked this afternoon, "Do the mosquitoes there carry West Nile virus or anything?" There is always something.)

* Interesting tidbit: with the split between Sudan and South Sudan, I have added a new country to my list without going to a new country. I was in Sudan, when South Sudan was part of it, and I was in South Sudan, except that at the time it happened to be part of Sudan. Obviously there are many far greater ramifications to South Sudan becoming an independent country, but I do find it kind of interesting that I can now put both Sudan and South Sudan on my list of countries visited, while actually only having been, back in 2007, to one country.

No comments: