Before going to India a lot of people had warned me about the a phenomenon called the ‘Delhi belly’. The term refers to a rather self-limiting condition caused by bacteria, manifesting in unformed stools, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. It can be caused by poor hygiene, therefore my well-travelled friends and family members warned me to avoid having drinks that contain ice cubes, salad, street food, cheese and dairy products, unpeeled fruit, ice cream and unfiltered water (even to brush my teeth with).
Knowing me even a little, you must know that these exceptions are life-limiting for me, especially when it comes to not having ice cream in sometimes 40 °C. Nevertheless, thanks to some kind of miracle (or the guardians of Ganesha, who is known for his sweet tooth as well), I survived travelling around in India for two whole months without experiencing any major Delhi belly.
However, after we crossed the border to Nepal on a bus that could barely keep its mechanism together (you can read about that story here), things were about to change. For an expressively hyperactive person it is rather difficult to bare a 26 hours bus ride from Varanasi (India) to Kathmandu (Nepal). Little did I know that the degree of suffering was not even significant in comparison to the upcoming days that were awaiting me in the Nepali capital.
It all started on the second day when we had some of the famous traditional Nepali dish, called dal bhat (cooked mild lentil curry with rice) and some fried chicken. After dinner, I started to feel a bubbly sensation in my stomach… I felt like there was something boiling inside me and demanded to come out immediately.
Travelling on a budget doesn’t always mean that you have a bathroom available when you need it. In the travel lodge where we were staying in Kathmandu – namely the Holy Lodge (how ironic), there was a shared toilet on each floor. So, to act as quickly as possible, I found myself rushing (let’s be honest sprinting) to that shared restroom.
When I finally made it to my “safe place”, I wasn’t sure which end of my external body orifices (or holes) I needed to prioritize first… I went for the bottom one. I say I went, although there was no voluntary muscle movement involved regarding the discharge of 110% liquid excrement. The same procedure was repeated at least 7 times that night. So by the morning, I felt soaked out of all my energy. Surely there was no more food in me (neither dignity for that matter).
This hell-on-earth-state was going on for another three days. Everyone on our floor was well-aware of my dirty business and so was the hotel staff. They were all giving me a compassionate nod whenever we passed one another on the corridors. In the meantime, the famous Holi Festival took place in Nepal, where people throw colours at each other and have insanely much fun. At least that’s how it seemed from the bathroom window, where I spent most of my (office) hours.
After the 5th day, when I has been through living hell quite a few times, I was only able to consume electrolytes in liquid form, and got rid of those in the exact same form. I realized that this was not the way I would have like to continue living my life. I decided to take some definitive actions. I wasn’t going to give up on my life just yet. In fact, I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something about my, let’s not sugar-code it: very much scheisse situation.
So I asked Marthe (my long-helping caretaker/ entertainer/ nurse/ loving girlfriend/ my connection to the outside world) to contact the appropriate health care professionals in order to seek help. That basically meant to give a call to her grandfather, who happens to be someone I not only trust but admire, and also a medical doctor. The call was rather short, Marthe’s grandparents explained that they had a similar experience when they were in Nepal before. So they could equip me with the necessary pointers, such as charcoal tablets and some antibiotics (ciproxin or ciprofloxacin).
After having taken the recommended dosage of medication, I soon felt that I was freed from hell. As a consequence, I was finally able to leave the throne (shared toilet). And after just a few hours, I could also leave the Holy Lodge behind. My first solid dish was a slice of toast and a strangely looking plate of mashed potatoes, which gave me a new hope in life… And gave me back something to look forward to – solid fecal discharge and relatively normal bowel movements.