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.
Oh how deluded I was.
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:
Which end is more in need of the toilet at a given moment?
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.
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!