Everyone is familiar with measles, mumps, rubella and the like. These are minor, mostly childhood infections that are well under medical control and no longer a real threat to anyone with reasonable access to medical care. So, forget about those. Africa faces bigger challenges from bugs; from really small bugs to the somewhat larger.
The bite of the mosquito can transmit Plasmodium falciparum and cause malaria. The bite of the tstetse fly can transmit Trypanosoma brucei and cause sleeping sickness. The bite of a meercat can transmit the Lyssavirus that causes rabies. Tramping on a rusty nail can result in an infection with Clostridium tetani and cause tetanus. The list is endless and the threats diverse, and each infection is costly to treat.
But none is as costly as the infection with Peregrinatio cimex. Spread through exposure to the magnificent scenery; the blue skies by day and the star-filled skies at night; the wonderful assortment of animals and the incredibly diverse people, Peregrinatio cimex is deadly. Although physically painless, it eats up the family budget rapidly and is no respecter of pension funds, college funds or any other jealously hoarded sum of money identified for some well-conceived, all-important objective. For Peregrinatio cimex is the Travel Bug.
Just a single bite from the P. cimex causes itchy feet and restless legs; the need to keep moving on to see and experience new things. The need to see what is over the next hill, across the next river, down that interesting looking track. The need to visit places just because they have fascinating names, or because you heard mention of them sometime in the dim and distant past. Glazed eyes at the thought of work, clearing instantly at the sight of a road map of some exotic clime. The bite of the Travel Bug is largely incurable, and although sufferers may concede that it is nice to return home after a trip, a relapse is inevitable and they will soon feel compelled to move on, forever bemoaning the shortage of time and money.
A bite by the Travel Bug will lead to all manner of new experiences, including exposure to more bugs. Some of the larger bugs that will be encountered are interesting and less destructive than those referred to in the first paragraph; some are even large enough to be photographed. Let’s look at a few.
Here we have the fierce-looking (but harmless) Koringkriek, or Armoured Ground Cricket. In some areas of Namibia there are armies of these wandering on the paths at certain times of the year, migrations may be seen crossing the road, many losing their lives under the rolling rubber of passing vehicles.
Then there are scorpions. These little creatures have tails that curve up over their backs and their poison is potent enough to ruin a holiday. It is always advisable to wear closed shoes after dark when they are most active.
And the infamous camel spider. This nasty little beast has a number of aliases because it isn’t really a spider at all, but a solifigud (a rather awkward name which apparently means ‘escaping from the sun’). Also known as a sun spider or wind scorpion, this is not a gogga to mess with. It moves very quickly and often appears to run after someone walking in the sun, although what it is really doing is looking for shade. We were terrorized by camel spiders on Christmas night at Khamkirri on the Orange River (and it wasn’t only the ladies who were climbing on chairs!)
This first picture is of a female camel spider –
The male is much smaller and has a very ferocious-looking face. Love the red hair!!!
On a larger scale and perfectly harmless, but a bit alarming to find climbing on your chair is the Turner’s Tubercled Gecko (not a bug per se but it falls into the creepy crawlie class).
In fact folding camping chairs seem to be magnets for bugs. Put a hand on this hairy caterpillar and you could spend the next hour getting rid of its prickly hairs.
For those with a scientific bent, the binomial Peregrinatio cimex derives from the Latin “Peregrinatio” meaning “travel” and the Latin “cimex” meaning “bug”. The Travel Bug. Of course it doesn’t really exist (as if you thought it did!), but doesn’t it make a wonderful excuse for all those rather expensive and pointless excursions?