Tag Archives: Trekking

Mossies v Sandflies…war of the insects

1 Oct

There’s a war going on.

It is between Mossies and Sandflies.

One side will win.

The reward will be the exclusive right to bite humans in the future.

I have to pick one side to support.

And I’m going for the mossies.

But why…aren’t mossies cruel biting insects who show no mercy to their victims? No that’s the sandflies..mossies are actually really nice and here’s why:-

1. Mossies are really fair.  They make this delightful little humming sound when they are around giving you advance notice that they are about to attack and allowing you a chance to get on some repellent or to get your weapons ready to attack them…

Sandflies take you by ambush…no noise, no notice…no chance to get your weapons out..who could call this a fair fight?

2.  Mossies are kind enough (and big enough) to let you see them..they are a moving target but you have a chance to take them out..

Sandflies are tiny. They are called “no see ums”.  You have no chance to take them out as you can’t see them.

3. Mossies tend to strike at night.  This gives you the day free to enjoy the scenery before the fight begins.. you can even work up to covering your body with that ill smelling repellent.

Sandflies don’t let you enjoy the scenery…they strike at any time…

4. With a mossie you only need to put the repellent on uncovered areas…

Sandflies get you everywhere…they even attack through clothes..no defences can stop these beasts.

5.  Mossies don’t have access to your travel schedule. 

Sandflies have access to your travel schedule. They have a central database of travellers´itineraries updated around the clock.  They knew that I was going on many night buses…they used this weakness against me to target the areas most difficult to scratch on a night bus, that is, bum, and top of thighs at back..mean, mean, mean…

6. Mossie bites are nice and soft and mushy.

Sandfly bites are like having a marble under your skin…a huge marble.

7. Mossies have the decency to only trigger one of your senses at a time when they bite you – the itch sense.

Sandflies trigger not only the itch sense but also the pain sense..these bites really hurt.

8. Mossie bites will trouble you for maybe a few days and don’t usually leave a lasting memory of their contact with your skin.

Sandfly bites are like gobstopper size marbles for weeks …thereafter they leave nice scars on your skin reminding you of the attack (as if you could forget it!).

9.  Now if you’re going to be bitten it might as well be by a good-looking specimen.  Mossies are at least attractive when seen close up with their pretty long legs and little bodies…

Sandflies are both ugly and mean looking..the worst of combinations.

10. Mossies have been kind enough to allow an industry to be built up with products to repel them…this industry includes creams, potions, coils, even nets…yes every now and again they eat so much of the repellents that they become immune to its powers but that’s just to keep us all on our toes..

Sandflies have prevented the development of anti-sandfly weapons. How they have done this I am not sure but they have been very effective at it.

11. Mossies publish their combat areas so you know where they’re going to be. This then allows you to use an anti-mossie product.

Sandflies keep their combat areas secret. And they go to areas you would never expect like Huaraz in the North of Peru. I mean who would have thought that they would make their way, with their crampons and ice axes, to peaks of almost 5,000 metres? This is just plain ambush. And anyway even if you knew where they were there are no anti-sandfly measures you can use.

And that’s why in the war of the Mossies v Sandflies, I am supporting the Mossies.


El Infiernillo – translates as “little hell” and describes this hike

16 Jul

When I thought of the things I might do on this trip burning lama dung at 4,000 metres while in a mountain refuge taking care of a travel companion suffering from altitude sickness was not on the list.

Incredibly I managed to tick this off during the hike up El Infiernillo. Funny how some translations are just perfect. “Little hell” was exactly what this hike was like. And a little hell without even a map to know how long the pain might last.

We got the bus from Tafi to the start of the hike, a climb of around 1,300 metres.

There were warnings signs immediately that this hike was not going to work out well.

Even the bus driver thought it a ridiculous idea..

I mean it is always funny when the bus driver asks you, more than once, and with an incredulous expression, why you want to get off the bus at a particular place, here El Infiernillo and the start of the hike. “El Infiernillo, El Infiernillo” he said a few times. “Now why would you want to get off there, there is nothing there”. He then asked us to describe where we wanted to get off. We had visions, totally unrealistic of there being a shop or maybe even an office where we could collect a map of the route and get some pointers on the hike. This was utterly ridiculous. There was nada (nothing) except a closed ranch and a local family setting up their pottery stall. We got off anyhow, looked around and then decided to try to get some local knowledge about the hike.

So, Marco decided to ask the man of the family for some directions about the hike. Now maybe it is just me but I sometimes have the impression that Spanish must use the most words of all time to say, well, very little.

I say this because I quite often find that conversations that take several long minutes in Spanish and involve much nodding and shaking of the head then translate to a mere few sentences in English…seems strange to me…anyway Marco chatted for ages to the man….then translated it back as “we go this way and there is a small house you can stay in”.

Getting directions for the hike

Getting directions for the hike

With that we set off..

Our progress was slow.

Hiking El Infiernillo

Hiking El Infiernillo

We had been told there would be water on route. On the way up all we could find was frozen streams which we tried in vain to melt in our camping cups and which, when melted involved eating the grass which was frozen into it. We reached water almost at the top of the first hill which must have been at about 4000m. By this point Lieke was feeling quite unwell, I think caused by the altitude.

We had some lunch there and a rest and then headed on. About half an hour later we reached the “casanita” or”small house”.

Now I was feeling quite buoyant that we had somewhere to stay. There was even some straw on the floor to give some insulation. The place had a door of sorts and there was a place in the corner where it seemed that others had made a fire. Lieke and I quickly set about gathering twigs and whatever else we could find for a fire, including some lama dung. First attempts at burning some dried roots did not go too well as they filled the refuge with so much smoke you could not breathe. But we did manage to get a nice fire going with some wood we found around.

It was at this point that Marco started to feel rather unwell. One minute he was fine, the next he was gripping his head and saying he could not stand the pain. Lieke and I were quite worried as he would not respond to us. By this point we were at 4,000 metres, it was blowing a gale and we had to decide whether to try to get down the mountain before darkness (it was not far from dark) or whether to weather the storm in the refuge. We decided on the latter as by this point Marco was sound asleep.

We cooked some pasta on the fire, having run out of wood we had to use some lama dung to burn which, as it was so dry, worked quite well. Marco bolstered a bit and had some pasta. I then had the idea that we could attach the outer of the tent across the door of the refuge which had gaping holes and through which the wind was whistling. This was probably not the best of ideas. The whole night the tent shivered violently in the wind making it sound as if, at any point, the refuge might have lift off. Spent a very cold night in my sleeping bag at 4,000 metres listening to the incessant wind and wishing that it would be light.

The next morning we got up, had a quick breakfast and a team meeting at which we decided to abandon the idea of making it to Cerro Negro. We packed up quickly and headed down the mountain.

At the base the family were still selling pottery. Marco had another long conversation in Spanish with the woman of the family selling pottery.

This translated as “she said there was a lot of wind in this area and you call the wind in the Andes La Puna”.

It was one of those hikes that it was nice to get back from. And I suppose the moral is never do a hike where the start of it translates as “little hell”!!!!!

The Refuge

The Refuge

Lieke collecting stuff for the fire

Lieke collecting stuff for the fire

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