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Attack of the zombie flies

Niokola Koba Park

We lose the guide the next day. Although we’d paid for two days and this turns into less than 24 hours we are very happy. We will forge ahead solo! Life is much more exciting and scary without a guide, I tell you. We’d planned a few potential routes but the guide had told us they weren’t passable at this time of year. Because of the river? The river Gambia runs through the park. No, because the grass is too high. Grass, what grass. We aren’t afraid of grass. We veer off what was already a beaten path onto a path that didn’t look like it had been beaten in many years. Goal: reach the river Gambia and camp.

We are being stalked! Tormented! There are flies everywhere. Crazed zombie flies out for our flesh! I’m serious. We could no longer drive with the windows down. Even a few seconds with the doors open and the flies would swarm in and feed on us, tearing chunks from our flesh with razor sharp hypodermic syringes protruding from their evil little faces. Biting us through our clothes, as if we were the last food source left on earth. Zombie flies because no matter how frantically I whacked them to death they would arise again. A final mortal blow and they would explode in blood, our blood, all over the car.

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Unfortunately we had to stop often and leave the protection of the car. The guide wasn’t kidding about the grass. It towered over us, thick, like wheat on steroids, and ferns and branches bashing our windows, tearing deep groves into the side of the Land Cruiser. We stopped to assess slopes that had crumbled over time, could we make it down? More importantly, could we make it back up? Causeways disintegrated, would we plummet sideways into the river? We made good use of the skid plate that day, protecting the engine and transmission; precarious the fuel tank with no such shield. ┬áPassing an abandoned vehicle did not increase our confidence level.

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Each time we opened the doors a new swarm of flies would attack us. For whatever reason this invisible track existed in the GPS (why are we surprised) and without it we were completely blind with the 8 foot grass blocking our way. Sometime the grass was so thick I feared even the 4×4 might not be able to push through it. I was terrified. For all we knew we could be heading off the edge of a cliff with each foot we crawled forward! But Rick said “trust me, trust me”. Did I trust him? Absolutely not. But he had set the river Gambia as our new mission, like a quest from an RPG game, so I wanted the satisfaction of getting there.

But alas, it was not to be. Eventually we got wedged into a rut deeper than our car wheel and teetered at a 45 degree angle until we were able to extract ourselves backwards. Meaning I had to get out and direct at the mercy of the zombie flies. They were absolutely vicious and Rick was no better off as he needed to have the window down to hear me. Our only option besides retreat was to push ahead on foot to see if the terrain was passable, with dozens more killer fly bites incurred every foot, aiming for our ears and faces with ferocious zeal. Despite my wimp-like status I think this situation would be untenable for even the toughest of travelers. Think the movie ‘The Birds’ by Hitchcock, but replace birds with killer flies. It was as if they possessed such hatred for the human race and had focused the entirety of their wrath on our juicy, blood filled bodies.

So sadly we turned back, several pints of blood lighter with road debris so high up the windscreen we were forced to stop to clear it so we could see. The Landcruiser had done us proud but even two tons of heavy metal is no match for 4 foot gouges and beastly hell spawned insects. Plus, we were a fifth of the way there and realized it had taken us 3 hours to go 17 kilometers / 10 miles. But no matter. We found a wonderful place to camp, sans flies, with baboons running in front of us as we traversed uneven ground (elephant footprints) to find a hideaway to avoid being spotted by the park gendarmerie. There’s nothing like camping in the middle of nowhere in a place you probably aren’t supposed to be, with the probability that you might be the first people ever to be there, birds singing in the background, to make you really enjoy the experience. A thoroughly relaxing meal and sleep.

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Look closely…

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