This morning I picked this little beast off my leg. If you look closely, you can see a chunk of my white flesh in its jaws. It is an ixodid or hard bodied tick, a parasitic arachnid.

I’ve had tick borne fever twice in Africa. Apparently there are 13 different strains in Swaziland, and catching one doesn’t give you much, if any, protection against the others. Let’s hope I don’t get ill over Christmas. These ticks prefer to suck blood from cattle, but if a juicy human walks past, well, why not?

Ann and I were looking for somewhere to tramp in the hills near Malkerns. The dirt track led to a cattle grid with a chain across it and a guard. I stopped the car and greeted him warmly. He smiled and asked where we were going. I told him we wanted to walk. “Where to?” he asked. “Just a stroll in the hills over there,” I said. “Nowhere in particular.” “Ooohhh, you’ll never get there,” he said. “We’ll be coming back, don’t worry. Send out a search party if we are not back by nightfall.” This made him really worried. Swazis don’t always get my sense of humour.


Hiking in the hills isn’t popular in Swaziland. My translator at the clinic regards it as “extreme sports”. The guard watched wistfully as we tramped off down the hill. He must have thought we were completely daft. Why walk when you’ve got a car? What’s the point of walking when you are going nowhere? Aish!

By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.

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