Saturday, 18 April 2015

A night in a tent

Last night, we stayed at Pleasant Flats, a Department of Conservation campsite just past the Haast pass, in the middle of mountains.  For $6/person, you get toilets, running water that "you may wish to treat," a picnic table, and a flat bit of grass.  Oh yeah, and sandflies.  These pesky creatures, unknown to North Americans, are smaller than a mosquito and easier to kill, but when they bite, they release a chemical that you may or may not react to.  Depending on your luck, you may or may not get a small red bump and a bit or a lot of swelling.  You may or may not experience infuriating itchiness two days later that keeps you up at night and makes you sleep with your feet and hands outside of the sleeping bag, to expose them to the cooling effects of the chilly air.  This may or may not last up to a week per bite, according to whether your body is capable of handling the coagulant they inject or not.  Michael has been annoyingly more capable than me in this regard.  

We had been warned that Pleasant Flats would be completely sandfly infested, being on the West Coast side of the mountains, but as it is a cool, foggy, rainy day, they are relatively minimal.  When there's a break in the rain and we dash to our tent, the nightly ritual of shining the headlamp against the inside tent wall and smooshing the bugs attracted to the light only results in five or six unsightly smears.  

We read a bit (Michael bicycle maintenance, Yvonne Silas Marner by George Eliot), and then around 9:30pm, call it a night (it gets dark early here!), and fall asleep with the sound of raindrops hitting our tent.  Michael goes to bed with his down jacket and long underwear on, so sometime in the middle of the night, he wakes up because he's too hot.  Then Yvonne wakes up - she'd drunk a cup of hot chocolate before dinner, so now it's on with the boots and the coat and out to pee.  Michael decides he needs to pee too.  Back in the tent, we're on the verge of sleep, when the animal noises begin.  A possum?  We shine a light.  We shake the tent walls.  We make aggressive noises.  We check the bags are closed securely and put away the cookies and chocolate.  We try to sleep, but we are on hyper alert.  Was that him again?  Michael pulls back on his coat and his boots, and stomps around the tent a bit.  Seems to have done the trick.  We've been up for at least an hour now.  Back to sleep.  

In the morning, we find small mouse droppings on our bags, and discover a corner of our 1kg block of cheese has been nibbled.  In some ways, we are looking forward to the end of our adventure.  It will be nice to sleep indoors.  

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