94—Wo is I

Following on from the complaint about noise (Woe is I) and bearing in mind my wo-ful attempts at learning any Mandarin (wo = I and me), I tell here of my recent attempt to survey a potential hash route.

Our Hare-raiser (he who persuades others to lay trails) had asked me to help himself last weekend, Hash 287, but when we got to the day he’d had a problem just short of the point where he was going to hand over responsibility to me (at the top of a hill), with the result that my trail didn’t get laid or used. Not laid because I prefer to do ‘live’ routes, being 10-20 minutes in front of the herd and saving myself the chore of covering a route twice. The resulting route (that in which I did not help) was fine; it had town and country both and the hill cloud was so low that the climb was really very good.

The problem had been that the undergrowth had over grown the path, so the route was not visible to Hare and would not be visible to Hasher. Also, when working through vegetation, one uses up a lot of flour and runs out. Whatever, I did Hash No. 287 with a load of flour in my pack that didn’t get used and had fun.

Hash 288 was set by the same Hare-raiser, plus another hasher, Horny Medic. They laid a trail up on Laoshan proper (the local big mountain) and we trekked or jogged in some pretty wild country; we swam in a reservoir and in the sea at the end of the run. A really good route.

I’d taken to heart the need for more trails laid plus the message that the trails were overgrown, so on the Thursday before 288—Thursday is the day when I feel like a longer run—I took myself off up Wushan, the bigger hill to the immediate East of where we live. At first, fine; I found a new trail uphill (‘new’, new to me, is good; it means hashers have not used it recently); that trail went past some graves (tombs) and I recognised the route from previous venturing up there. What I had not allowed for was the growth that occurs on paths that are not regularly trafficked. On the top of the first steep climb, so I’m on a ridge but still in heavy tree and bush and grass and bramble growth, I could see where the path went—I’m supposed to be good at this—but it was hard work to follow. More so in singlet and shorts, for the grasses whip around your ankles and eventually break the skin. Nettles are rare in China, but plants with spines are not so uncommon among the undergrowth of the trees. I cleared the first ridge with a bit of back-tracking and considered going back off the hill to try again. By the time I thought about that again, I was nearer a track I know well than I was to where I’d first climbed.

By now I am not comfortable. I have been lifting the knees high to trample grasses and barbs to keep the legs clear. Where the sun reached to shoulder height the growth was always armpit high; where the trees grew higher, the undergrowth occasionally cleared to knee level but often the gaps between the trees allow the growth to rise to well above head height. Thus I often found my head below the height of the bigger leaves

and I’m struggling to make sensible progress. Even with knowing basically where I am, and knowing the lie of the land, I’m finding the path hard to keep to—and, because a path is open ground, with open space above it, growth does tend to fill that space, so actually the going is usually easier a little to one side of the true line of the path.

On the first ridge there is a stretch of something like lavender. Very nice, quite sweet-smelling and attractive to insects. So what, they’re more interested in the plant than in me, so if I don’t disturb them, they will leave me alone. The mosquitoes prefer the days after rain and places where people (and water) are found. I shouldn’t have a problem. Bees, beetles and wasps are a bit bigger than you’re used to in Britain; on this outing I met many bees the size of bumble bees, the wasps were 2-3cm long (so similar in size to the local bee) and there is a very noisy tree beetle of the build of a cockroach, about 3x1cm in plan view. Still, so what? I get eaten when I’m going slowly or stopped, especially when sat with food and drink; here, I’m going as fast as the ground will let me—which, fair to say, is slow; down to 1km/hour in places.

I have been bothered a little by buzzing insects, but, while the sun is on my head that bothering is of the sort that can be written off to collision of interests.

Or collision of insects, actually.

When I get under canopy, it is a different story. I’m still moving at the upper limit of what i cando, running when the vegetation will let me, always pushing the envelope. Either I have clear (clearer) ground and must only battle with the grasses cutting my shins, or I have that greater growth that is bushy and overhead. It is in this latter sort that I come into difficulty.  I become sweatier and sweatier as I stay out; the temperature is well over 33º, the humidity is over 75% and eventually, the flying things realise that the wet conditions they are attracted to are in front of them and not as stationary as a puddle. So I am steadily or even suddenly bothered by insects; the big tree-huggers like to land on me and I brush them off—I have a picture of them on trees somewhere in the files. The huge bug(ger)s decide that landing on me includes settling to bite something—they get brushed off more vigorously. I note that while they landed on my thighs and shoulders, they left alone my lower arms and legs and the head and neck. But the problem was those that landed on my clothes, for I was not so aware of them until they began to bite. Most of the biters were brushed off, but one at my waist bit through all my clothes and one on the buttock did the same—I’m not exactly wearing a lot besides shoes and socks, and both bites go through the overlap of all layers. These feel like that long needle the dentist sometimes threatens you with, saying something about anaesthesia; indeed these two bites feel like the needle has been left in. I am whimpering, thrashing around like a wild thing (well, I am that, too) and fearing that I have at last found something seriously threatening in China (other than Man).

Eventually I reach the high point I have been aimed at; I take what is usually a wide broad track downhill—it is no longer broad and the grasses are making a fine mess of my legs. I lose my way while within sight of my old desk at the last school, discovering that the path I could see all last year from my window is not the major route I had thought, as it leads to a succession of dead-ends (or maybe I failed to find the/a route). I reach home after 2½ hours, about 90 minutes longer than expected. I have a lot of bites—maybe twenty serious ones and two large ones that have swelling covering an area the size of my palm. The scratches go from shorts to socks and do not follow any pattern.

As I write, a full eight days later, my shins have more or less recovered but the skin is patchy. The scratches are faded and my legs look as though I’ve been in the sun (red) when actually they’re brown and its the red of the scratches showing through. My chest still has a range of bites, each now the size of a pea, with an angry yellow patch inside a red circle. The two seriously painful bites look similar now, though I had problems sitting for a couple of days (sitting down and sitting back) and sleep was very difficult that first night. There seems to be no lasting damage; on the other hand the running

has been going very slowly at 4:30 per km not the usual 4:00; I’ve been struggling more than usual to get things done—to persuade myself to do things at all. My temper has not been good. I interpret this collection of symptoms as some reaction to insect bites.

And then there’s possible revenge—look what I found for sale in the supermarket ! They’re not quite the same thing, but they’re close. The things people will eat....

DJS 20120816

I’m told the (top and third) pictured insect is a cicada. I do not know that this is what bit me since the deep bites were behind (back & bum) so I didn’t see it closely or slowly. I see a suitably long proboscis in the top photo, taken the week before, on top of Fushan. Cicadas “do not bite or sting”¹; I do think the two nasty “bites” were cicadas thinking I’m a mobile tree, since their feeding requires then to insert proboscis into tree to suck sap. The bottom pictures are probably larvae of some sort—something pretty large.

1 http://www.cicadamania.com/cicadas/2008/06/28/do-cicadas-bite-or-sting/

gives mixed messages and demonstrates a wonderful lack of <ability to write>. It would appear that some people have no problem handling cicadas, and some have a big problem. I think possibly there are several types, or importantly different conditions for the meeting of person and insect.

Jessie has written similarly, see Bite Me.

© David Scoins 2017