That Dreaded Whine

May 27, 2011

I woke up before the sunrise in a national park in northern Thailand. The air was thick and calm and my clothes were drenched in sweat. I hiked up into the hills and found a small clearing. I set up my microphone to capture the songs of the varied species of birds that were greeting the morning.

Later, back in my tent, I put my earphones on and listened to the recording. Beautiful. But the chirps and trilling were suddenly interupted by a loud, high-pitched buzz. I instinctively swapped at my head. Then I realized the sound was a recorded one. A mosquito landing on and taking off from my microphone. It sent chills up my spine. Even now, when I listen to this recording the birds' songs disappear once my nemesis calls out.

That high-pitched whine is annoying at least and terrifying at most, in malarial areas of the world. I suppose we are genetically engineered to respond to that awful sound.

That dreaded whine

I'd spend many more nights sleeping out under the stars if it weren't for the whine of this bloodsucker. Our tent is more often a refuge from mosquitoes than from inclement weather. Our nightly routine on a bike trip is to zip up the tent and then do the "headlamp search" for any and all mosquitoes. Not until we declare the "all clear" can I sleep soundly.

But more often than not, one intruder has hidden away. And it is only when dreams are approaching that my sleeping-bag-cocooned bliss is shattered by that dreaded whine.


Photo and audio by Willie Weir



SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at



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