Tabano Dance (Bardas Blancas, Argentina)

I hate tabanos.  I mean, I hate tabanos.  It’s not a mere dislike of those critters; it’s an all-out odious hate.  But they sure love me.

Many years ago when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras, I went to a remote village in the Moskitia to give a workshop.  We arrived late in the day and climbed straight into bed.

The following morning I awoke early and lay in bed for a few minutes before getting ready. I watched as a fluorescent green fly buzzed around my head a few times, then came in for a landing on my upper lip.

It didn’t take me long to reach up and brush it away, but in that split second it had done its damage.

Within twenty minutes, my lower lip was no longer visible, hidden beneath a massively swollen upper lip.  Twenty minutes after that the entire left side of my face was a grotesque deformed mass and my eye was swollen shut.

I had been introduced to tabanos.

Since that time, I’ve lived in fear of those flies. When I see that fluorescent green head coming, I take cover.  (Lest you think tabanos are a Central American scourge, let me assure you that isn’t the case – they have them in Connecticut too.  They call them greenheads.)

A few days ago I was introduced to another fly – a whitish-gray fly about the size of a small horsefly. Where they bit me on my leg, a massive itchy welt appeared.  My finger swelled to twice its normal size after one found it.  I quickly learned to glance down at my legs every minute or so while cycling to try and avoid a severe bite.

So this afternoon we dashed into a tiny store to drink some juice and escape the flies that had been swarming.

“I hate these flies!” I exclaimed to the owner of the store.

“We call them tabanos,” he said.  “They bite hard.”

No kidding.

All evening, we did the tabano dance as the flies swarmed around our legs. I danced as I cooked polenta with zucchini for dinner.  John and the boys danced as they set up the tents.

But I couldn’t dance as I peed behind a bush and ended up with five massive itchy welts on my bum.

Have I mentioned how much I hate tabanos?

Kilometers today:  66
Kilometers to date:  24665

Riding a dirt segment


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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2 Responses to Tabano Dance (Bardas Blancas, Argentina)

  1. Daniel Leaño December 26, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    Tabanos are on the high valleys and low lands of Bolivia, I saw them in the Yungas of La Paz , they are very acid and you feel them when they just touch you.
    No, was never bitten by a tabano fly yet but I heard they are extremely itchy, good luck!

  2. Ken December 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    First there was ‘How to Sh&* in the Woods’, and now you will be able to write ‘How to Pee in Tobano Country’. (Or how not to, form the sound of things)

    See, good will come of this!

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