A Russian summertime brings with it glorious hot, sunny days, ‘white nights’ of almost no darkness, swimming in rivers and al fresco drinking and dining in cities. Unfortunately for wild campers it brings something else; a deluge of winged camp invaders in a variety of invertebrate forms. Pulling up to what from the inside of the car looks like an idyllic site has become a lottery as to what will be the flying organism of choice that evening. The ubiquitous mosquito makes a guaranteed appearance but at varying intensities; at times we have been met by hordes of the blood-sucking beasts and literally dived from the car, hastily putting up the roof tent then a mad scramble up the ladder, swatting at bare ankles and ‘battening down the hatches’ with skilful zipping action. The eternal daylight means it’s a constant aerial attack so come morning the ‘mozzy dance’ is performed in reverse, complete with air swiping, leg whacking and face wafting.
Could it get worse? Absolutely… giant horse flies swoop from the sky at another pitch, relentlessly dive-bombing and occasionally inflicting a painful bite. Large size isn’t always an airborne insects best advantage, tiny midges swarm in their thousands; their minute proportions allowing them to squeeze through the tents window mesh and land stealthily to nip unnoticed.
In contrast, we have arrived at tranquil countryside meadows to be greeted by more graceful, beautiful (and harmless) winged creatures in the form of butterflies, moths and crickets in a stunning variety of shapes and colours. One white butterfly aggregates in huge numbers, making even roadside rubbish piles aesthetically pleasing. When camping on the banks of the River Volga we encountered magnificent dragon flies and witnessed the metamorphosis of mayflies en-masse, leaving their ghostly white, fragile cases in their hundreds on one side of the roof tent as they emerged swiftly into fully-formed winged adults.
As with many things encountered during travelling in strange new countries, patience increases and (one of us) has started to learn that unleashing a tirade of profanities in the direction of any mini-beast is futile. As we cross into Asia from the European side of Russia we are ready to face whatever new life forms are out there (with an insect field guide in one hand and a raised flip-flop in the other).