Many of the places we’re cycling through and camping at are teeming with mosquitoes, ants, spiders and other creepy crawlies, especially during rainy season. I don’t think it’s worse than back home in summer, but back home I wouldn’t be camping outdoors and constantly exposed to them.
Reacting badly to insect bites and stings of any nature, it didn’t take me long to use up my stock of some 30+ anti-histamine tablets. In Mbeya (Tanzania), I tried to replenish my stock, but only got a blank stare from the pharmacist. The word antihistamine didn’t seem to exist in his vocabulary. In Mzuzu (Lilongwe), I was more lucky. Yes, they had antihistamines. However, it wasn’t a trade name I was familiar with, and insect bites were not listed amongst the usage in the instruction leaflet. I got them nevertheless. They didn’t seem to have much of an effect to lessen the itchiness, and so I over-dosed and used up my new package in no time.
As bad luck would have it, the mosquitoes (or ants or whatever caused my recent bites) seem to become more aggressive the further south we go, or at least I seem to react worse and worse. My legs are terribly itchy, so much so that they keep me up at night. Worse than that, I can’t resist scratching and might keep some scar(r)y souvenirs.
This afternoon, on a wonderful downhill that made me break my mental 50km/h speed limit, something hit me hard at my eyebrow, by whatever small odds having made its way through the tiny gap between my helmet and glasses.
Before I knew it, that thing had made its way behind my glasses. Was it a bee, or a wasp, or a beetle? I will never find out, but—believe me—seeing that little black think swirling right in front of my eye freaked me out big time! I fumbled around with my finger trying to prevent disaster. That’s when it stung me—luckily on my brow rather than my eyelid, but pain it caused nevertheless.
Allergic to insect bites, I stopped immediately to assess the damage. My small bike mirror didn’t show me any discernible swelling. So I contented myself with taking two emergency antihistamine tablets that I had made sure to carry within my bike emergency kid, but kept my cortisone for potential worse impact scenarios yet to come.
At camp, no one noticed the sting without me pointing it out. I was surprised and relieved about the mild reaction. Nasty new mosquito (or ant?) bites all around my ankles were more than I could handle that evening. But my relief was premature. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I could barely open my eye—that’s how swollen my eyelid was! At breakfast, everyone would notice my disfigured face.
Luckily, I could get an antihistamine tablet from Helen that would get me through my riding day. However, the scar(r)y damage had been done at my ankles. I will spare you a photo of my legs that are covered all over with red spots by now. I wish I had brought enough antihistamine tablets to last my entire trip!
NB: More standard medication such as painkillers or antidiarrheals have been commonly available throughout Africa.
Stage 57: Petauke – Luangwa Bridge Camp (Zambia), 170km
Road & traffic condition:
Perfect tar road through unspoilt countryside. The hard shoulder has become too narrow to cycle on, but (irresponsible) drivers are few and far between, making for a very pleasant ride.
Perfect while riding, though very humid at camp.
Shepherd’s pie & salad, plus drinks at an overpriced bar at camp.
Towards the end of our ride, we crossed the so-called Luangwa Bridge, very close to the border with Mozambique. Just as we’d also had that in Egypt and Sudan with various Nile bridges, we were advised not to take photos directly at the bridge as the armed soldiers/policemen there wouldn’t tolerate that. Anyway, we had much nicer views of the bridge a few hundred meters further up the road. Not sure what makes that bridge so special, though.
From our camp, we’ve also had a nice view of the Luangwa River as well as Mozambique just across the river.
Insect attacks—am itchy all over.