‘I zapped a mozzie in the van, and lost my eyebrows’

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Grey nomads in a Hamilton Retreat
Grant and Sue now travel in a Hamilton Retreat towed by a LandCruiser.

While most grey nomads have got a story or two to share about how a mozzie invasion wrecked what should have been a pleasant campsite evening, very few can claim it nearly blew them up!

Grant and Sue Ottewill are among those that can.

“A few years ago on a return trip from Darwin we stopped on the Gorrie Airstrip for a night,” said Grant. “Well, we got attacked by mozzies and other bugs and used one of those tennis racquet-shaped high-voltage zappers to swipe them … with some success.”

However, after a while, the buzzing invasion became so severe that the couple had to ‘surrender’ and they retreated inside the van.

“A fair few followed us in so I first used the racquet and then sprayed inside the van with fly spray,” Grant said. “Well, I then went and used the racquet which sparks when a bug is zapped and that spark ignited the fly spray in the van with a huge whoosh.”

Grant said it was actually like being in an explosion as a flash of flame filled the van.

“I lost part of my eyebrows and my hair and it burnt the skin and left me with a red forehead,” he said. “It’s lucky I wear glasses, so my eyes were safe … be wary though, that fly spray from an aerosol can is flammable.”

Although it has now been more than a decade since the incident and Grant’s hair and eyebrows have grown back and his skin has fully recovered, he can still recall the ‘blast’ like it was yesterday.

“I have to admit we had had a couple of drinks at the time so, as soon as the initial shock wore off, I just started laughing,” said Grant. “Sue saw the funny side of it, too, and so did her friend who had come into the van … but I suppose it could have been a lot worse.”

Back then, Grant and Sue travelled in a Regent caravan and the ‘explosion’ left a black mark on the roof of the van, which luckily just wiped off. Nowadays, the couple, who are in their early 70s, travel in a Hamilton Retreat with all mod cons and they tow it with a 100 Series LandCruiser.

They have been travelling up the Stuart Highway to Darwin from their Adelaide home since 2005, and are normally away for a total of five or six months as they get home down the east coast.

“We generally meet up with the same people year after year when we camp in Darwin,” said Grant. “We just love the friendships and the relaxed atmosphere there.”

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 situation has meant the couple are missing out on their annual northern adventure this year … and a major health scare meant they also missed out in 2019.

“Sue was actually diagnosed with lung cancer, but she has had treatment and that is very much in remission now,” said Grant. “After a couple of years of missing out, we are very much gearing up to get north again as soon as we can next year.”

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3 Responses to ‘I zapped a mozzie in the van, and lost my eyebrows’

  1. We were camping on the beach in Queensland in the 70s with an old army tent that looked like a gazebo. It had wooden poles and no floor. At 2 in the morning a massive storm swept in off the ocean and there was an almighty whoosh. I looked up from the army cot and could see stars before the rain poured down. My older brother was scrambling around on his knees looking for his false teeth and the tent had vanished. We quickly ran around and jammed camping gear into the FJ Holden and slept in the car for the rest of the night. Looking back it was one of the best trips we ever had and have had many a laugh about it.

  2. I’m one of those people that thinks if these things didn’t happen we would have nothing to talk about!!

    • After playing in a golf comp at Jabiru many a celebration was had after the event. Weary and tired golfers retired late in the evening to their respective camps. Four blokes rolled their swags inside a bottomless tent…at 3am the pop up sprinkler arose in the middle of the tent and thoroghly soaked the sleepers. One bloke woke later to remark….”geez the wet seasons come early..big storm last nite”

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