I was just below the surface and even there I could hear them waiting, plotting, gloating. My respite from the pain all to brief, dictated by the capacity of my lungs mixed with my prowess of not taking the warnings from my brain too seriously. Pretty soon the compelling needs of my body, and my mere existence, forced me skyward. I needed to breathe, to fill my lungs with that all too needed elixir of life, Oxygen. I was prepared mentally as the rush of water passed over my face, I knew it was going to hurt but I had to once more head back into their World in order to continue my existence.
Over the years I’d been to a number of places that held this same characteristic. Belize is not alone in having some of the worst sandflies and mosquito problems known to man, well this man at least. I was on one of the satellite barrier reef islands for a month with a group of engineers from the Remote Imaging Department of National Geographic to help with the placement of an underwater web cam that would feed out to the main website for an interactive boost to their online feature set. My accommodation (above) was spartan, isolated and within spitting distance of the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea, it was perfect. So at face value this should have been the ideal tasking, right? Uhhh, well almost. Yes, aesthetically the location was perfect, Yes I don’t mind the isolation, in fact I welcome that a lot of the time. That water was like a bathtub and the Oceans were alive with life. But all of that meant nothing at 4.30pm, or thereabouts, every day of the week, without fail.
It was as if some magical bell had rung. “White skin, open for business, it’s Chow Time“! And thus what I had christened ‘the maddening’ began. When it commenced it felt like pins and needles, the damned things are so small, which is why the locals call them ‘no see ums’ it was impossible to see where they were going to bite next or indeed where they were crawling on one’s skin. They would drive us mad, we all looked like crazy Tuareg desert nomads as we daily tried new clothing options to try and cause barriers against their voracious onslaught, but to no avail. 4.30pm, on the dot until around 6.30pm we would simply be eaten alive. Electric fans made little difference, even if we did have them turbo boosted and had to tie ourselves to coconut trees if we wanted to stand in front of them! It was nuts, and apparently to this day there is still no solution.
And thus everyday at 4.30pm the team would take to the water. We eventually realised the only respite was to be found below the waters surface. Work stopped and for two hours each afternoon all one could see, if brave enough to be on land, were the frenetic bobbing up and down antics of a group of travellers, engineers and local staff. And I swear I once saw a small dangling insect foot breaking the surface, testing the water, but that could have also been my clouded and maddened imagination.