Zulu’s. Fousands of em. They’re everywhere

Under the bow of a palm.

24th November 2022

Isla Tigres, San Blas, Panama – Sabudupored, San Blas, Panama via Nargana, San Blas, Panama

“You’re only meant to blow the bloody doors off”, “Not a lot of people know that”*. Michael Caine has had some classic lines in some classic movies. Having left the remote eastern San Blas, a line from his 1964 blockbuster has rung in our ears. “Zulu’s. Fousands of em. They’re everywhere”.

The first ‘Zulu’s’ that we saw weren’t a mighty spear armed army intent of overthrowing the British empire, they were an infestation of tiny bugs that were intent on taking over Ruffian where they threatened to ravage her stores and make life impossible. We had weevils!**

They’d clearly colonised part of the boat and were now in the process of looking for new fertile lands to conquer. Iain had found a single critter, on a reconnaissance mission, scoping out the saloon cushions and their intentions were cemented as Fiona came across one. As she was slowing waking from her slumber with the sounds of lapping waves and the smell of coffee drawing her from bed, had one wandered over the sheets, along her forearm and into places where weevils have no place in being and certainly no place in colonising.

We feared the hot spot for these critters’ civilisation was our cupboard full of dry stores which is rammed with rice, pasta, lentils, beans and all things that weevils find delectable. As we emptied the kilos and kilos of food, each packet was forensically examined and pack after pack was crawling with the little bugs. We could see them partying in pasta, rustling in rice and scuttling in the sugar.

Our vengeance was complete as we sprayed the cupboard with chemical weapons, wiped them down with vinegar and then scooped the casualties up by the clothful. Having seen the size of their civilisation we were sure that they would have some satellite villages and, knowing a single weevil can quickly become a horde, we widened our search.

All the cupboards on the starboard side of Ruffian were given the same eradication treatment. Surfaces that are usually spotless were crawling with life and these were quickly converted to corpses. We worked our way away from the stores cupboard and their tell-tale traces slowly disappeared. We’d won this battle, but were not in a war and the fighting will continue until the last of our foes has been defeated.

The other ‘Zulu’s’ we saw were boats. Since arriving in Panama, apart from the boats in our little impromptu flotilla, we’d seen the grand total of 1 other yacht. Our AIS had been strangely silent, we’d not seen any sails on the horizon and they’d not been hiding in protected anchorages (as we’d been into them all!). Rounding the corner into the ‘touristy’ part of the San Blas, starting at Nargana, we counted a total of 12 masts. They sat in the town anchorage, they nestled behind islands and hid behind reefs. It was like we’d entered another world.

This new world offered us luxuries that we’d not seen in weeks. Fresh fruit and vegetables lined the shelves of the shop, eggs sat in their nests by the dozen and there was even a petrol station the likes of which we’d never seen before. In the place of a big tank there was a big blue barrel and instead of using a pump to get the fuel out, we just rolled it up a little slope and siphoned it out.

With chores complete we took to our usual task of negotiating reefs, nosing our way through poorly charted areas and this time we had another challenge, anchoring around the Zulu’s that were scattered across the bays. Not wanting this challenge we found our very own desert island complete with our very own reef where we could snorkel in the clear waters of the San Blas that all these other boats had been attracted to.

Even with Zulu’s everywhere this next part of the San Blas looks sensational. Gone is the feeling of being unique and having whole horizons to ourselves, but now we have the company of fishies, the company of other humans, and with a little luck we’ll win the war against the little Zulu devils that have tried to infect Ruffian.

* For fans of 1990’s sketch shows there is also “My name is Michael Caine and I am a nosy neighbour.”

** Weevils are long nosed dark brown beetles, about 3mm long, that lay eggs in rice, pasta and flour, when conditions are right, i.e. the nice warm moist weather in the tropics, these eggs will hatch and start the whole process again, a female weevil will lay 300 eggs in her lifetime.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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