Pooping My Way Through India

Conquering India, one toilet stop at a time

Ashley Peterson
Jul 24, 2019 · 5 min read
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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

If you think there’s such a thing as TMI, perhaps you should move along to the next article. If you’re happy to embrace grossness in all its glory, read on.

A few years ago I was planning a solo backpacking trip to India. I was already an experienced traveler, so I thought I had a pretty good idea what I was doing. I knew how to be careful with food, and I’d already been exposed to some rather funky toilet situations.

However, I knew that India’s gastrointestinal wrangling potential needed to be treated with some serious respect. This was the big leagues.

I decided to take the Dukoral vaccine, which helps to protect against enterotoxigenic E.coli. In the past I’d written it off as a waste of money, but I had enough respect for the powers of India that I was willing to part with my money.

I also stocked up on pills galore: antibiotic, anti-nauseant, and two anti-diarrheals. I had toilet paper galore. I thought I was prepared.

At the end of my second day in New Delhi, I had some paneer tikka for dinner at the hotel restaurant. This hotel was a big step up from my usual standard of accommodation while traveling, so I felt pretty comfortable eating there.

Several hours later, I was woken up by an intense need for the toilet. I thanked my lucky stars that a) I had my own bathroom, and b) I had a Western style toilet.

I became extremely well acquainted with that toilet. Sometimes, it came down to that dilemma that no one ever wants to face:

I ran out of bottled water during the middle of the night, so I stumbled down to the front desk in my skimpy pyjamas woke up the security guard who was asleep in his chair, and begged for a bottle of water. He thought I was drunk, but even so he was willing to oblige.

By the next morning, my bathroom was a toxic waste dump. When I hesitantly ventured out, I left a large tip for whatever poor soul had to make the disaster area presentable again. I may be gross, but at least I try to be polite about it.

I found some Gatorade in a shop and chugged a few bottles, along with an antibiotic and some other drugs. Onwards and upwards!

The next few days passed with nothing more than mild discomfort — a temporary lull to make me think India was going to just chill out and let me be.

I was starting to feel nauseated even before I got on the overnight train to Agra. I was in a top bunk, which I had booked ahead of time to minimize any random groping. What I hadn’t bargained for when I was prebooking back in my comfortable Canada was how much of a challenge it would be to haul my somewhat sizeable booty up to said top bunk. Throw in feeling unwell and it was quite the exertion. Once I made it up, I popped my motion sickness pill and hoped for the oblivion of sleep sooner rather than later.

Then the train started moving, and lo and behold I started barfing. I was dizzy and didn’t think I could make it down from my bunk, so I was left with only two choices: throw up all over myself, or aim for the floor. It seemed like a fairly simple choice, so I just let ‘er rip straight down onto the floor. Afterwards, a few people walked by and looked suitably disgusted as they leapt over my pool of vomit, but I figured that was the least of my problems.

Eventually I fell asleep, and by the time I woke up, some poor soul who probably made 2 cents a day had cleaned it all up.

There was train fun of a different kind on the overnight train from Agra to Varanasi. While I was asleep, someone went into my backpack and stole everything other than the clothes, which included my vast gut-related pharmacy. I suspected this would turn out to be a problem.

It was in lovely Goa that India really had its way with me. On the train to Panjim, I had copious amounts of diarrhea. Diarrhea on a squat toilet on a moving train is quite the exercise in acrobatics. The only saving grace was that I had enough toilet paper to deal with that whole situation.

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photo by author

That night, things got even grosser. I was staying in a delightful guesthouse that was the nicest place I’d stayed in all my trip.

During the night I woke up and felt something underneath me that was partly wet and partly dried and crusty. I had no idea what it would be, so I turned on the light.

Yes my friends, I had pooped the bed while I was sleeping. I had reached whole new lows of disgustingness. I had a shower, put some towels down on the bed, and fell back asleep.

A couple of hours later, I was woken up by a repeat performance. The next night, I had three rounds of incontinent diarrhea. I was too embarrassed to say anything to the front desk staff, but at least I left a very large tip for the cleaning staff.

I have never been so relieved to get home from a trip. However, this was to be the gift that kept on giving. I tested positive for the Giardia parasite, and I had diarrhea for the next two months.

India, you have reminded me of the need to be humble and never, ever think that I’m a match for all you can bring. You won this round, and I think I’m going to go ahead and call that game, set, and match. One thing that I did get right, though, was that I brought enough toilet paper. I take my wins where I can get them!


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This story is published in Writers on the Run. If you’re interested in submitting your travel stories please visit our submission guidelines.

For those who love to travel, live for travel, and always…

Ashley Peterson

Written by

Mental health blogger | MH Nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org

Writers On The Run

For those who love to travel, live for travel, and always have a story to tell.

Ashley Peterson

Written by

Mental health blogger | MH Nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org

Writers On The Run

For those who love to travel, live for travel, and always have a story to tell.

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