Max Williams has been delving into his most treasured travel memories and holiday horror stories. Today, he shares a terrible tale of when he literally painted the town brown.
I awake to an urgent need. My stomach is experiencing an internal storm – lots of rumbling. (Don’t pass wind, Max. Too late). Clean undies, please! We are midway through a nine-day coach tour of Morocco in North Africa. There are 40 of us on board the bus. As soon as we hop on today, it’s clear that others too have been affected by this bug. Probably food poisoning. This is going to knock a few more over, I’m betting. It will be an interesting and a most uncomfortable day as we head over the Atlas Mountains.
This is the last place I want to be right now. I feel nauseous, with the shivers and a headache. I rug up, despite the warm conditions outside. Another passenger passes out and is flat on the floor of the bus. Luckily, there are two nurses aboard to assist. The passenger is stabilised and returns to his seat but it’s not long before he is out again, with a very weak pulse and clammy skin – this is serious!
There’s a suggestion that he should be hospitalised, but this is not an option in this location. Luckily, he recovers. The bus stops again – another one down with both motion sickness and gastro. The tour guide decides to continue on to our destination, but after a very urgent request (more like an order) from someone else, the bus stops yet again. It is catching on now and people start reporting waves of sickness and stomach cramps.
Things settle a bit when we get through the worst of the winding and mountainous roads. After a long and difficult drive, we finally reach our overnight stop. Most of the people on the bus have succumbed to the bug in varying degrees. They head straight for their rooms and stay there. Surprise, surprise – the restaurant is mostly empty for dinner tonight. Maybe tomorrow will be better for us all. We take some tried and true medication, and drink Coca Cola to hydrate and to settle the gut (our guide’s remedy). Maybe it’s the very acidic liquid that does it or is it the fizz? This will be a day to remember. Luckily for most of us, it’s only a 24 to 36-hour illness and whatever it was, it passes quickly (pun intended).
The following morning, we are over the worst of it and tentatively settle back to enjoy the rest of our trip. Another adventure to add it to the ‘experience’ file.
In a separate incident, we are in India doing an eight-day tour of the Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. You wouldn’t believe it, but I come down with the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’.
I am so careful to not drink or clean my teeth with tap water, and I use hand sanitiser at every opportunity. But you only need to touch a handle that someone has contaminated or eat dodgy food, and bingo. Another DB victim. This has laid me very low. Up during the night about 10 times. It’s very much UCS – uncontrollable crappy squirts. My stomach just wants to evacuate (Jenny also wants to evacuate – but from the room). Luckily, we are at a hotel and I only miss one day of the activities. A doctor comes from the local hospital and loads me up with drugs and rehydration fluids. I’m back on the bus the following day and taking it easy – just water today.
Lunch time and the temperature’s over 40°C. At a roadside stop we go in for a buffet lunch, Indian style. I see one Russian lady passenger hoe into a big plate of Indian delights and wash it down with a couple of large beers. This is not going to be good.
Back on the bus and all’s not well for the lady. Everything has passed straight through. Her white slacks are stained brown. We all look the other way and hold our noses when she goes to the emergency toilet on the bus. Oh bugger, the bowl is blocked. The stench is overwhelming. We stop at a rest area and she gets her husband to fish out a new set of clothes from her case. He exits from the toilet block with her used clothes at arm’s length. Please don’t bring them back on the bus – throw them in the bin, mate!
The next day we visit the magical Taj Mahal. On the way back to the bus, we see that another case of light coloured ‘stained’ slacks. Oh, poor thing, quite embarrassing for her. A few of the ladies separately whisper in her ear. This makes it worse for her because now she knows that everyone can see what she has done. She is aware of her dilemma but must wait until we get back to our hotel to clean up.
So, what should we do when we travel to these places? Well, first of all, never ever drink or clean your teeth with tap water. Always drink from unopened water bottles, and check to make sure the lid seal has not been broken. Some unscrupulous vendors sell bottled water filled from a tap. Don’t eat salads (usually washed in tap water) or use ice in your drinks.
Take suitable medication – Imodium, hydration fluids, antibiotics. Maybe drink Coca Cola. Don’t wear light coloured slacks. Always carry mini wipes and hand sanitiser. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t let this potential setback put you off. Just put it down to another experience.
As they say in the classics – shit happens. Yeah, literally in places like Morocco and India!
If you are wondering if I’d go back to these places – yes, in a heartbeat.
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