18.08.2009 - 20.08.2009
When I first arrived in Malawi, i was sitting on a bus coming down the M1 when I got my first glimpses of Lake Malawi. A few minutes later an I could see several thick columns of smoke emanating from the Lake, which didn't look good to me. I asked some locals on the bus what it was, and they told me it was lake flies. I struggled to believe it could be flies, but asking other people over the next few days confirmed that it was.
Now I know that it was.
Back in Nkhata Bay, I somehow managed to spend another week doing not allot. By now I knew a number of people, and there was a good crowd around, and so it hadn't been very difficult to persuade me to stick around to be sociable, a birthday celebration and to watch some cricket (WooHoo! Another Ashes victory!). After a few days, we were sitting there one morning watching as what looked like a deep rain cloud descending over the bay, until we realised that it was the Lake flies again. Malawian Lake flies have a fun life cycle: They are born, blown into shore and die. In their billions of billions.
That evening, we got to experience it properly. Luckily they are not in any way dangerous, and don't bite. But they are annoying as heck. Any kind of light attracts them in hoardes, and even non lit areas get infested. Simple things like talking end up with you having a mouthful of flies. The only drinks worth attempting are bottles, which you can cover the hole with a thumb when not being drunk from, but your drinks are still lumpier than ideal. Food is offered with a lake fly coating – extra protein, if nothing else. They get through the smallest gap, and that includes holes in mosquito nets. Showering is just not worth it. Basically, you just get covered by flies regardless of what you do. It is a strange experience, even for me who has been in sandstorms before – lake flies seem so much intrusive.
I was going to take some pictures of the mess, but somebody else attempted it and their camera died seconds later because of the flies getting into it (similar to when sand gets in a camera), so I decided against it. The following morning, the number of live flies had rapidly diminished, but there was a black layer of dead flies, sometimes over an inch thick covering pretty much everything. Clean up is attempted, and respite gained, but they return the following evening to start the cycle all over again.
The technical term, I believe, is yuk.