Oh to be insectivorous! You would survive well at these latitudes. The diversity and quantity of our six legged cousins is truly astounding. I first noticed the issue on the road to Hedesunda. This highway took us alongside a lake that went on for ten minutes and Big Blue was holding a steady 100kmh. Then all of a sudden her aluminium panelling to the front was hit by a volley of something that I hadn’t seen, her metalwork resounding in strike bursts of noise. My instinct was to duck, thinking there was a maverick Swedish hunter with a semi-automatic reindeer-slayer taking pot shots at passing tourists lurking in the dense roadside vegetation. But Big Blue doesn’t take too kindly to sudden shifts of position, pitching and yawing in protest. So I put my foot down and checked the boy for bullet holes and pressed on.
Then panic as a piercing alarm ripped through the cab as Big Blue started to protest about something. I now had visions of a direct hit on the fuel tank and this was the warning to bale out. As I started to slow her down Oli said “Parking sensors. You are driving too close to the car in front”. This sent me in to double panic mode: there wasn’t a car in front. In fact we hadn’t seen a car for ten minutes. The heat in my brain told me that each and every vehicle had been picked off, one by one, by Mad Sven of the Woods. And now, pulled up next to his domain we were sitting ducks. Or rather, sitting elk.
My head was pounding, my heart was racing. And it is true: the colour of fear is brown. We were under attack and I had to conceal my fear, be brave and get us out of this dangerous situation. There was nothing else to do except summon up all the courage I had. “OK Oli, I want you to go outside and check all round Big Blue for damage” I said, concealing the terror in my wavering voice by offering him a barley sugar from the ration tin. Oblivious to the magnitude of the situation Oli stepped down from the passenger and and did a slow, lazy circuit of Big Blue. I was willing him to hurry up and report back that we were riddled with bullet holes and that we had been extremely lucky to escape with our lives. But no, Oli insisted on doing the full check, even kicking the tyres like a car salesman looking to knock you down your part exchange. “Looks alright to me,” he said, pulling himself back up and in to the passenger seat; “can I have another barley sugar?”.
To be honest, I was relieved Oli had made it back alive, but now it was my turn. I decided I would do a quick recce round the front, as that was where the main attack emanated from. I slid out of the cab, stooping low to keep my hat beneath Big Blue’s roof line; a head shot now would be game over. I got down on my haunches and shuffled round to the headlights, using Big Blue’s vast expanse of bonnet as cover. I looked down to bumper level and then I saw it. The carnage is indelibly imprinted in my memory and will resurface at every nightmare opportunity. There, spread across her bumper was a browny red layer of sludge with exoskeletal appendages poking through at varying intervals. We had hit a huge swarm of gargantuan flies; flies that had breached the anomaly; prehistoric flies of mahoosive proportions. For us Brits, the biggest we get is probably the horse fly, or the hornet. But these things were as big as stag beetles! I swear they were. And they had left a yucky, gooey mess across the front of Big Blue.
To remove the offending articles now required the second act of outstanding bravery for the day. This would require a tactical deployment involving stealth, guile and a strong stomach. “Oli! Get yourself the pack of wet wipes and come down here!”. My little trooper obliged and I had him cleaning the gunge from the parking sensors.
Back in the cab and back on the road we reflected on the ordeal we had just undergone. I am amazed that an insect strike can wipe out your parking sensors and part of the daily routine now is to wash them off. That’s after we’ve ladled on the insect repellant. Apparently, it is a bad year for mosquitos. Even the locals are complaining. The early warm spell and the current damp spell is the perfect combination. The reindeer headed north ages ago.