I was bragging a couple of day’s ago to a friend about how I have an iron stomach. My my, how pride cometh before the fall.
Three nights ago, Sandra and I were having dinner for our last night in Chennai. In fact, when I wrote the last blog post we’d already BEEN to this dinner. But I didn’t write about it because it didn’t seem overly important. It turns out it was fairly pivotal to the next couple of days!
We had decided upon a restaurant that was part of the New Woodlands Hotel in Chennai. Since it was dark out, we were opting to take an auto rickshaw. We looked on the maps, and TripAdvisor had placed it about 1.5km away from our hotel -- so that’s good: we can negotiate a reasonable rate for the drive knowing the distance. Out front of our hotel there are a couple of guys waiting to drive people like us around. Let’s start the haggling battle.
“How much to the New Woodlands?”
“... Yes, New Woodlands. Here, get in.”
“It’s a good price, get in.”
“How many rupees to New Woodlands?”
“No problem, get in.”
“But we want to know how much.”
“It’s a good price, hop in.”
“Can you just use the meter?”
“Please get in.”
“We’ll just walk then, thank you.”
“OK, OK. We’ll use the meter. Please get in.”
So we get in the cab. Meter turns on at 25 rupees. Cool. Driver drives 5 metres straight ahead and turns left into a parking lot.
“New Woodlands Hotel.”
... Great. So it’s literally next door to our hotel: the location was just incorrect on TripAdvisor. We hand him the 25 rupees on the meter, and he shakes his head. In my mind, he’s saying “Nah, don’t worry about it. It’s such a short drive.” But he’s not giving any money back. And he keeps looking at me expectantly and shaking his head every couple of seconds. Then Sandra helps me realize that he wants MORE money than what’s on the meter. For driving us next door. I laugh and we go inside. Not cool, buddy. Perhaps what happened next was just me reaping some karma, but I still think he was in the wrong.
We sit down to eat and ask the wait staff what they recommend. They bring us a South Indian platter and a North Indian platter. Sandra opts for the cutlery approach, but being the true local I am, I start diving in with both hands. Oh, the hubris. Everything tastes so good! It’s all very mushy and wet, and I’m not letting any of the sauce on my fingers escape my waiting lips. You may have guessed the issue at this point: I have carelessly forgotten to engage in the necessary pre-meal hand sanitation ritual.
The meal goes off without a hitch, we return to the hotel (a ten second walk), and I fire off a triumphant blog post in the evening about our new Aeroplan setup. Life is wonderful.
The next morning is our bus ride to Puducherry (formerly known as Pondicherry). At breakfast, my appetite doesn’t quite seem to be with me. I usually love the pineapple slices, but they taste bland and I don’t feel like eating very many. It’s our last day: why am I not downing a tray full of those little chocolate doughnuts they have? I chalk it up to my responsible eating habits being so deeply ingrained. We head off to the bus terminal.
The ride itself was about as one would expect. The bus driver will not stop honking the horn. And the horn must be the same size as the engine, because it sounds like we’re piloting a gargantuan runaway train. Meanwhile, the two guys on the seats opposite us decide to watch (no joke) videos of a crying baby. A scream crying baby. They’re both watching and smiling as they watch this on a tablet. I’m sure one of you is related to the child in that video, but... nobody should ever watch videos of crying babies with a volume level exceeding mute. They actually watched it twice. I try to rest as I seem a bit more tired than normal, but it’s not much use given the surroundings.
We arrive in Puducherry and check in to the Hotel South Avenue. We head up to the room, get our stuff organized, and decide to go for a walk. Puducherry is known for its lengthy promenade along the waterfront, and for its French history and tree-lined streets. We grab lunch at a sandwich place, and I’m starting to feel pretty weird. I don’t really want the sandwich, but it’s lunchtime and I should really be eating. Mexican chicken sandwich. Sure.
By the time we’re back at the hotel, I need to lay down. I’m starting to feel feverish. I’m getting chills, I’m pretty nauseous. I just want to lay down. So I hop into the bed realizing that something has gone very wrong.
Around five or six in the evening, I realize I’m not making it out for dinner. I’ll sleep it off tonight. Get lots of rest and get this crazy thing over with. By ten in the evening, the grand water poops commence. My formerly glorious bowel movements are now merely a dribbling garden hose. Or maybe like if you took one of those big straws from a bubble tea place, sucked up a bunch of caramel pudding into your mouth, and then blew the pudding back out through the straw at terminal velocity. My poops were like that.
It got old after the first five times. Poop. Wash hands. Rehydrate. Walk back to bed. Try to fall asleep whilst nauseous and cramping. Awake ten minutes later to repeat the process. Over the course of the evening, I clocked in well over two dozen of these lovely journeys. My stomach would cramp up during the deed, so it never quite felt like I was finished. And I was so nauseous and achy that it was a small hell just to sit on the toilet. Not a good mix.
There were two particular highlights to the night, however.
At one point during a toilet session I became so nauseous I realized something had to be done. The saliva flows and my body warns me that it’s go time. But the general toilet area was presently in use by my lower half. So in my fever-induced haste I promptly vomited a Mexican chicken sandwich into the sink. Stringy chicken, jalapenos, cheese. Various stringy greens. Everything, of course, able to neatly block the drain such that the sink is now utterly useless and remains full to the brim with putrid waste. Ugh. I’ve managed to add another problem to my list. Once my rectal water jettison is complete, I jump at the chance to unroll swaths of toilet paper, reach wrist-deep into a cesspool of my own filth, and attempt to collect enough regurgitated goop to get the sink functioning again. This is my definition of unpleasantness. I have not felt this sick in as long as I can remember.
Later the same evening, I return to bed from a lengthy toilet session to find my stomach still giving me “Mission: Incomplete” notifications. I’m exhausted, and I really don’t want to get immediately back out of bed to try again. It feels like a big gas bubble is trying to force its way Alien-style out my abdomen. Now at this point in my life, I’d like to think I have a pretty reasonable degree of rectal control. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m the type of guy who can tell a fart from a poop. I know how to open up the pipes in such a way that only the most infinitesimally small quantities of air can escape. Like a blast of eye gas at the optometrist. Like the “p” sound in “poop”. Like a whisper in the wind. So I went for it.
Something’s not right. I turn onto my side. I reach down slowly with my hands for a cursory spot check. Surely I didn’t... there is definitely dampness. There is a reasonable amount of dampness. I can feel it spreading like a plague across my underroos. Houston: we have a code brown.
I shuffle dejectedly to the washroom to do battle for another round. Hands clean. Undees off too, this time. They’ve been soiled in the truest sense. I flick on the lights. Sandra’s got her eyemask on, so she doesn’t immediately awake. I lift up my side of the covers to assess the damage: tango down. There’s a watery, non-pine-scented stain the colour of warm masala chai where my buttocks used to lay.
“Sandra, I shit the bed.”
I am demoralized. She wakes up and helps me remove the sheets. Mattress cover? Non-existent! We discard the bottom sheet and replace it with the former top sheet. We both crawl back in bed and try to fall asleep. This is hopefully the low point of the trip.
The Lonely Planet India defines Traveller’s Diarrhea as: “the passage of more than three watery bowel actions within 24 hours, plus at least one other symptom, such as fever, cramps, nausea, vomiting, or feeling generally unwell.”
Three? More like twenty three. One other symptom? I nailed all five with gusto. That’s way better than a hat trick. It’s a sombrero trick. I think it works because it’s a big hat. And also because of the Mexican sandwich I puked into a sink.
With the exception of a thirty minute excursion to “get me outside”, the entirety of the next day was spent in the hotel room. Needless to say, we don’t have a lot of great photos of Puducherry.
Another day on and we’re now safely in Madurai, India at the "Astoria Hotels”. Yes, a singular hotel with a plural name. Sounds fancy, right? It’s not the Waldorf, but hey, it’ll do. I’m back on the path to health, but not entirely out of the woods just yet. You should hear from us again soon.
May good movements be with you.