An Indian Right of Passage: Travellers Diarrhoea

Whether you’ve been sick to your stomach on a 18 hour bus ride through the night, having to stop the bus driver every 45 minutes so you can shit and vomit on the side of the road, or you simply ate that masala curd curry that you KNEW the second you saw it would make you sick, therefore spending the next week confined to the bed sheets of your hotel room… We have all been there.

As travellers, we open our mouths to an exotic array of substance that can cause conflict with our bowels. But what is one to do?
When we bid farewell to our home country and take off on a trip around the world, we are saying; “Yes, give me all you got world. I can handle this!”
Unfortunately, sometimes that means that our guts will get the better of us and in a sudden moment from sitting with friends being perfectly fine to then bolting upwards in a form of shock and racing for the closest bathroom is something we must be prepared for.

As women we like to shy away from this taboo yet natural daily manner. We grow up hiding such things from boys we like or men we date. But as a traveler, traveling with a boyfriend, I can assure you, that sooner or later you WILL have no choice but to shy away, politely tell your boyfriend you need the loo (the loo that is a mere 3 meters away from the bed), proudly walk in, close the door, and merely pretend that your boyfriend/girlfriend is deaf, if not just for those 2-5 minutes you may be in there for.

Although me and my boyfriend lived together in Australia before we left to travel Asia, we had a routine and a home that allowed ourselves to quietly slip away from one another without a word, and proudly return a few minutes later triumphed from our safely separated rooms.

And even so, Australia is NOT Asia… The chilli, the copious amounts of liquid, the delicious but later dreaded curries that we consume in Asia is somewhat more risky for your bowels then a fresh salad or the vegemite toast you might consume at home.

Five days ago, me and my boyfriend arrived in India’s Dharamshala, a charming mountain town, late in the evening. After a 6 hour bus ride that approached our destination at 10pm, we were starving.
We checked into our room and set out for a quick late dinner.
Because we had decided to stay further up the mountain to take in the morning views, we were not surrounded by all the buzzing restaurants of the main town. We had 3 options to choose from for dinner that night… We chose the most western looking one and ordered a couple of plain curries.
Tip: When visiting the Bhagsu area of Dharamshala, do NOT eat from the “Bob Marley restaurant”.

When the waiter approached us and set our food down onto the table, I looked at my “Veg Masala” curry and thought to myself that it looked quite different to any other Veg Masala I had eaten in India. This, as well as the fact that our food took less than 3 minutes to come out after us ordering it made me a little skeptical… But hungry Nat is a Nat that contaminated food should NOT meet, because when it comes down to it, when I’m THAT hungry, I will shove whatever is put in front of me, into my mouth.

Zac dug in and I half reluctantly had a few spoonfuls of this watery, funky looking curry. This curry that is usually quite dry and plentiful of vegetables, was a pool of creamy liquid crap.
I sat there and waited for Zac to finish. He looked up and saw an almost full bowl, thank god he was to full to fill himself with the rest of my sickening food.

We walked home and thought not much of the situation.
In the morning we woke up to wonderful mountainous views, a delicious feast for the eyes! We were so excited to explore the area. We wasted no time.
We walked down into what is known as the main town, Mclaeod Ganj, to a cafe our friend had recommended for coffee and cake.

It was quite a delight to be in a part of India where you can breathe, and I mean REALLY breathe… Up in the mountain air. A lot of lower India in consumed by pollution and traffic,  a musky void fills your lungs and despite loving what India has to offer, this is something that obviously does not resonate with me. But up at 1500 meters, life is fresher.
After spending the day exploring we headed back to our hotel room, the day though uneventful was filled with hope for our future endeavours for the coming week in Dharamshala…

And then, it began. It must have been midnight the first time I awoke in the night, running to the bathroom with cramps worser than what that of my period has brought me in the past.
And there I stayed a halfway point between my side of the bed and that dreadful toilet. All. Night. Long.

Six times I had to get up and run that night, with a mere 4 hours sleep that surrounded me around 4am. I woke up at 9AM to Zac asking me “What happened last night?”…
My boyfriend is quite a vivid sleeper and if things are erupting around him I’m sure it can alter his consciousness.. he probably thought we were under attack. However, I assured him only I was, by a bug or a nasty parasite.

This lasted for 4 full days of agony, the sweats, the chills, the begging for my mum. My poor boyfriend… The amount of times I sent him out for foods to replenish my hunger that I had one bite off and then realised I couldn’t stomach, ugh! Countless!

I am the WORST at being sick, I nag, I whine, I go over every little detail of what food I ate and how I could have avoided this life-hacking experience, and on top of all that, like I mentioned above, I beg for my mother.
Every time I get sick my darling boyfriend doesn’t know what has hit him, and he curses and wishes that it was HIM that had gotten sick instead, because, well, I’m a pain in the ass.

For 4 days I was locked in a room overlooking luscious, promiscuous mountains. Showing off their euphoric green pine trees and classy rocky edges.
Our laptop become my best friend… No scratch that. NETFLIX became my best friend.
Over these four days I made my poor boyfriend endure through both 1 and 2 of the Sex and the City movies and endless episodes of Gossip Girl. He drew the line when I put on “Mamma Mia”… watched 20 minutes of it and then recoiled to switching it off and turning on a documentary.

My hair got in a matt of mess, my side of the bed was splattered in crumbs of rice cakes and apple cores, and I was messaging my mother from the laptop, awaiting the sympathy that was sure to follow the messages I sent.

On day 3 I decided to visit a doctor who put me on antibiotics and some other magical little blue pill that seems to have worked wonders.

When I woke up on the fifth morning (today) I felt… well normal. “Could this be?” I thought to myself, “I don’t remember what normal even feels like!”… (I should have been an actress).

Now after 4 days, copious toilet rolls, and endless times of my boyfriend trying to force electrolytes down my throat, I am better.
Better. But to scared to eat anything so much that any local Indian restaurants have to offer, thus limiting my options… I have there fore resorted to the local Pizza Hut, watermelon juice, and the magnums and cornettos that I have to walk 20 minutes down the road for.

After being so sick for only FOUR days, I am so happy to have my health back, and to be a healthy person in general!

I believe there was no real moral to this story… Other than sharing my bowel movements with half the people I know and embarrassing my self relating to this “taboo” topic. But fuck it, who gives a shit? No pun intended.

After writing and re-reading this I guess I have a new appreciation for my boyfriend, for holding my hand and staying inside watching girly movies when he could be outside enjoying what Dharamshala has to offer.

Finally, ladies and gents, if and when you do travel to these beautiful, eloquently portrayed countries, remember that, life is not like Instagram. We do not get to take a photo of the pretty street and cut out the rubbish and the dirt. It’s still there, so wash your hands, be weary and trust ya gut. Ha!




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