The Great Plague
Trip Start Jul 12, 2012
45Trip End Jun 21, 2013
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A 45-minute bus ride away was Saltos de Petrohue, a large waterfall at the foot of a volcano. As I got off the minibus, I noticed that the people queuing up at the entrance kept making random, jerky movements like they were practising some strange, contemporary dance moves. A flick of the arm here; a full-body spin there… What was it all about? It was most puzzling. That is, until I joined the queue and was beset by huge, aggressive black flies and I started to move in exactly the same way, flapping them away with my hands. The flies looked like a cross between a flying cockroach and a horse-fly. Every now and then, one would land on me, unnoticed, and bite my skin through my t-shirt, a sharp pin-prick
Next stop was Petrohue for some potential hiking. The buses were infrequent, so, as it was only 5km away, I started to walk there. The 35°C sun beat down and the flies were unbearable as I trudged along the dusty track. It brought back to me those family camping holidays in Wales when the wasps were out in force. They were too much for the 5-year-old me to cope with, so I would spend the entire holiday hiding in the car with the windows firmly shut. I could do with a hiding place now, but there wasn’t one… Oh yes there was! Here was the little bus, churning up dust in its wake, but oh what a welcome sight! The driver kindly stopped when I flagged it down and told me that the flies are called 'tavanos’ and that they emerge for only a couple of weeks each year. I was unlucky.
A few minutes later the bus arrived in Petrohue. I had assumed that it would be free of these beasties, but how wrong I was. In fact, it was even worse. As I walked along the beach of black, volcanic sand, up to 50 flies buzzed around me at any one time, invading my personal space and my photos. Hiking aborted, I hopped on the first bus out of there. I found out later that ‘petro’ is another name for a tavano and that Petrohue is famous for these pests that are attracted to the black sand there. Aw, couldn’t someone have told me that earlier?
After such a stressful day, I needed to unwind so I took a late afternoon dip in the lake at Puerto Varas. With a cold beer in hand, I gazed at the volcano in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief that I was free of that buzzing black plague, for now at least.