On the horizon there was something like fog and I was driving right into it. At first I noticed the occasional locust splashing on the windscreen and I had winced in my seat. The creatures turned into something like scrambled eggs and slid down the windscreen in a gooey, slimy mass. My windscreen washers did their work and cleared the screen, but this was becoming increasingly difficult as the number of smashing locusts increased. What would happen if I ran out of water to clean the windscreen? I thought. And then I noticed the red warning light indicating an overheated radiator. Just now this had to happen, I thought bitterly. Turning into a roadhouse, I quickly parked my car and ran into the restaurant part where I found a man looking worriedly at the darkening sky.
‘My radiator has suddenly overheated and I think I need fresh water.’
The attendant appeared to be amazed at my naive talk and advised me out of the corner of his mouth: ‘Nothing to do with it. You have to brush the locusts off your radiator and you’ll be alright. You’ll still need some water for topping-up’.
He suddenly had a small hand broom in his hand and walked to my car where he brushed an amazing amount of roasted locusts from the radiator – all crispy fried, I thought. After everything was checked - water, petrol and the windscreen was cleaned properly once more - I was about to drive off.
But first, I returned to the service station’s office and bought a small hand broom and felt slightly safer. Returning to my car in a haze of swarming locusts, I had noticed the horizon looking black. All the time the chirping noise and flying whirr of the creatures had been sawing at my nerves. A four wheel drive had pulled up behind me and I asked the farmer who emerged from his heap of scrambled eggs what else one could do in such a situation. He glanced at me in a strange way. Somehow, they all seemed to know how to cope with a situation like that one.
‘Well, you’ve got a small brush or hand broom, I see,’ he pointed at it. ‘You surely need netting in front of your radiator . . .’
‘What’s that?’ I interrupted.
He pointed to his vehicle. ‘What you need is a fibreglass mesh tied in front of your radiator to prevent the bloody locusts from clogging up your radiator.’
I stared at the flywire mesh in front of his radiator – that’s the solution, I thought.
The farmer noticed that I was simple and added ‘Of course you still need to get out of your car occasionally and brush it clean once in a while. Otherwise your radiator may still boil!’
I had thanked him with great relief and gone back into the service station’s office where I bought some flywire mesh and tied it in front of my car’s front grille.
Upon continuing my trip into the ‘black hole’, I learned what fear was. You cannot see the road ahead; your windscreen wiper cannot clean away quickly enough the messy slime that runs down the windscreen. And when you are out of water, and the radiator is hot again, you have to get out and brush away the insects and that’s when they get you. In the stifling heat, they crawl into the car, into your clothes and as quickly as you brush them off, they clog up your mesh again. And all the while, that high pitched chirping is penetrating your brain and you cannot do anything about it!
With my suit clinging wet to my body, shaking and wide eyed with terror, I got through the swarm, headlights blazing. At the next roadhouse, I steadied myself with a strong cup of coffee.
While the mechanic filled up the petrol tank and checked the motor and radiator, he tried to talk to me: ‘So, you’ve been through that swarm already. They are expected here by tomorrow. Then we will have trouble,’ he said with a grim expression. ‘You won’t believe what they eat. There is nothing left wherever they strike!’
‘I thought the Government was spraying their areas to reduce the swarm.’
‘Yeah, but only crown land, me boy!
‘What do you mean? They spray only on government land and across the fence, on private property, nothing is being done? And there is more private land than crown land in some areas. That’s no good.’ I got agitated. ‘The authorities are bragging on the radio about what they are doing to break the plague while they keep breeding on private land.’
He laughed, ‘You’ve just learned a lesson now, haven’t you?’
I swallowed bitterness. ‘Yes, I suppose I just have.’