We were on the hunt for cheetah and wild dogs. We had heard that they had been seen in the miombo woodland area just on the periphery of the Plains towards Musanza. We were staying at Busanga Bush Camp so it is not a far drive down to Musanza. Depending on what you see and what you stop for, it takes just about an hour and a half at game drive speed. There are patches of the forest area that are known to be thick with tsetse flies. You don’t actually realize that you are getting into one of these pockets until you get a bite that makes you levitate off your seat and slap the part of your body that has just been bitten. And then you start to anticipate the next bite. You take on the persona of the Exterminator and start looking around with cunning and evil intent to try and obliterate the beastly fly bugs. But let me tell you something… they are actually indestructible. Unless you dismember them, decapitate them and break up their body parts, they just recover from the impact of the smack you give them and annoyingly fly off again! And anyhow, being a yogi and practicing ahimsa (no-harm), I cannot kill a fly. It wouldn’t really make an impact of any significance in any event. I just flick them off and hope they go bite Mike or somebody else next.
You can take some precautions though. Besides having a mental resolve to come to live in peace and harmony with all creatures great and small, you can avoid wearing dark clothing like navy blue or black. You can also try and button up the cuffs of your sleeves and close any openings into your clothing. I actually had one fly into my shirt and down my left arm. With my right hand I pinched it and got Mike to open my cuff then, I let go and the beast flew out my sleeve!
But they are not that bad really. The guides in Busanga have a plan for dealing with them. They have a metal tin that is stuffed with elephant dung and they light the dung and the smoke keeps most of the tsetse population away. This is great while you are driving but when you stop you get completely engulfed in elephant dung smoke that blocks out the sighting that you have stopped for. So it is a toss-up: you can choose to have the elephant dung smoke which works somewhat, or you just slap yourself silly, wear light coloured long sleeved buttoned up clothing and just deal with it. We actually bumped into a lady in one of other Wilderness vehicles and she had a jungle netting over her tilly hat, face and shoulders. Makes for an interesting outfit, but if you don’t like Tsetse flies, you not going to worry about that.
I had a long discussion with our guide Isaac who told me exactly the serious business of elephant dung cultivation and how the guides all cultivate their elephant dung so that it is dry enough to burn properly for long drives. When the tourist season starts just towards the end of the wet season this is a problem and they go to great pains to make sure that they always have enough dry elephant dung. And he was telling me that there have been instances of elephant dung theft within the ranks. In such instances grown men can be heard wailing and calling out: “Where’s my dung? Who’s got my dung?!”
Anyway, the good news is that we did find the cheetah amongst the clouds of elephant dung. It was just a very brief sighting though. Not owing to the dung, but to the fact that he had finished feeding off his kill and was making off deeper into tsetse country. Such a magical sighting – worth fighting the tsetse for.
We also found the wild dogs. A pack of nine dogs, adults and pups. We found them at a waterhole and then we had such fun following them because they were hunting. We watched them take a baby impala for the pups to eat. Again, I feel so conflicted and sorry for the baby impala but glad that the baby dogs have had something to eat. I am not sure I will ever come to terms with that actually.