Besides being a really neat word to ask someone to spell, this fly common now to Sub-Saharan Africa is not something you want to have bump into you. Interestingly, fossilized tsetse flies have been found in 34 million year old rock beds in Colorado, USA. However, the ones we are interested in hang out in wooded areas in the Serengeti and are attracted to things that move… This lithe horse-fly-esque bug started its reign of terror in colonial times, decimating livestock populations and having a knock-on effect of making farming downright impossible. It is with a sense of biological irony that we actually owe a debt of gratitude to the little fly as it allowed the great savannas to escape man-made agricultural activities, ultimately securing the land for the wildebeest, zebras, lions, and all their friends to roam.
My personal relationship with the Tsetse fly began about 2 weeks prior to departure. In a ‘what to pack’ email we were encouraged by a Ms. Katherine Cunliffe not to wear black or navy blue as the Tsetse was attracted to these colors. I envisioned Ms. Cunliffe to be a middle-aged matriarch who might be prone to being overly protective on people’s first time in the Serengeti. However, as I re-read this instruction my eyes narrowed and I tilted my head… what a weird coincidence as I only own black and royal blue workout kit… I focused on the rest of the email to which i found my packing complied with… to a ‘T’.
I then promptly googled navy blue and royal blue. It appears whilst close on the Pantone nomenclature these were two different and distinct shades of blue. And please note, the colors that the caring Ms. Cunliffe suggested we wear- browns, greens and tans- are just not on my color-wheel. I could either risk the wrath of the Tsetse or look washed out and tired. Life is all about choices.
You can imagine my furrowed brow once again when Ms.Cunliffe sent a last email just hours prior to my departure where she again mentioned this color-wise Tsetse fly. I wrote a quick note back, to the effect of, “I have a friend who might only own black and royal blue colors to run in, what should I tell me friend”? There was a prompt and encouraging reply… “I wear black at times and you should be OK”.
That was soooooo what I wanted to hear- even if she did not mention blue…
As we drove across the savannah from the airport I noticed these 2 meter by 2 meter ‘flags’ hanging every half mile or so from the trees in the wooded areas. How cool I thought those are my favorite colors…
You can imagine the incredibly polite, because I was surrounded by wonderfully thoughtful people, but perplexed looks I received when I appeared in my running attire every morning… or for that matter any sartorial set-up I wore during my entire time in the Serengeti. I believe there was more than one internal eye-roll elicited everytime I emerged from my tent…
Everyone come close for a picture with your living tsetse fly trap! Day 1 outfit above and Day two below.
Here I am in a non-run outfit… still rocking the Tsetse trap look. And for those of my endurance horse friends here we are with a flat and the elephants are in the distance – way cooler than changing it on the Geo Wash Bridge 😉 And now, it would not be the end of the post if I did not give you something fun to ponder. Here is a video from Day 1 so you can see how a day might move along. This is early on as we are still a bit together. And FYI on that day I did NOT receive a bite from the Tsetse fly, despite what should have been a dream match-up. However, a certain super star multi-day African race goddess did get a love bite from our dear friend.
POST SCRIPT: The only Tsetse fly that got in the way of my trip is this guy who flew through my picture of the Cheetah moments before she took off on her chase!