Sunday, 24 February 2013

I take thee travel in sickness and in health

There are some places I've been in the world where I don't recall the breathtaking scenery, amazing architecture or tasty food.

Instead, the overpowering memory is that I was so horribly sick when I was there.

It's probably not the best holiday memory to have, but it is the first thing which comes to mind when recalling some destinations.

And I'm talking pretty sick.  Not just a common cold or headache.  In fact in some instances, I have to rely on photos to confirm that I was actually there as the memory of being sick seems to have erased all others.

Here are my top five destinations I'll always cherish for being... well... sick.

1. Jaipur, India
The Amber Palace here is amazing... apparently.  I can tell you that the entrance steps are fairly comfortable as well.   That's where I spent my time while my group was inside visiting the palace.   On the long road trip to the Jaipur I had begun to feel queasy so took an anti-nausea tablet.    Not long after, while climbing the steps to the ridgeline palace, I started feeling absolutely horrific and overpoweringly tired.  So while others went to explore the palace, I laid "gracefully" across the entrance steps - occasionally interrupted by security guards wondering if I was ok.   I wasn't.  However, after a prompt hotel visit from a doctor (something that was not only cheap, but also probably impossible to organise in Australia) and some antibiotics I was only down for about 24 hours.   I'll have to go back and visit the Amber Palace one day.  I can sit on the steps and reminisce.

Amber Palace: one of the few photos I took here while lying on the steps

2. Dubai, UAE
This was meant to be a restful stopover on the journey home from Europe.  But almost as soon as I boarded the plane to Dubai I could tell I was coming down with something.   By the time we had found our hotel in the middle of the night many hours later it was "game on" for the flu.   The heat of Dubai did little to assist the fever, though I discovered a range of cold and flu medication which not only contained pseudoephadrine, but also caffeine to "perk" you up (someone's thinking).    However even these magical blue tablets couldn't save me from forgetting much of my time in this city.  I vaguely remember seeing the skifield inside the Mall of the Emirates.   While looking through the glass I fantasied about rolling naked in the fake snow to reduce my temperature.  Probably not something some of the burqa-clad skiers would be au fait with.  It was probably just as well I was medicated, otherwise the shock of the $30 bourbon and coke while watching the sunset over the Burj Al Arab may have killed me.

Dubai: home of great cold and flu medication

3. Munich, Germany
Munich is known for its beer halls.  I remember it as a place where I spent considerable amounts of time lying down from the flu.   Lying down in Marienhof, the city's square.  Lying down in the city's famous English Gardens.  And lying down on the couch of the friend we were staying with.  However, the other powerful recollection I have of this city was the eye-opening Dachau Concentration Camp.  Clearly, the shock of visiting my first concentration camp was enough to embed it deep in my memory.
Munich's English Garden: I laid down here too

4. Siem Reap, Cambodia
I remember the restaurant's name.  It boasted the Angelina Jolie had dined there when she was in Cambodia filming the movie Tomb Raider.   I had a chicken curry which was beautifully presented in a scooped-out pumpkin.  The next morning I was rushing to bathrooms with all the nimble agility of Lara Croft herself.  Unfortunately, this was the same day our group was flying to Vietnam, so there were numerous wide-eyed moments of panic while in cars, planes and airports.

Siem Reap: I will always remember THAT restaurant

5. Big White, Canada
One moment I was skiing lovely powder in blue bird conditions.  The next I seemed to be ploughing face first down the slope.  My thumb had been violently yanked back during the process of falling and while I waited for my body to stop sliding down the slope I had a sickening feeling I had broken it.   Thankfully, I hadn't.    But the swelling and hand bruising was extremely convincing and pretty painful when trying to squeeze my hand into gloves for the rest of the holiday.
Big White: A spectacular place to have a spectacular fall

Now to be honest, I know I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed relatively good health overall when travelling, with just a few health transgressions.   In fact, looking back, I now fondly remember these incidents as some of my "travel war stories".

I'm also extremely grateful to the stomach and toilet gods that I DIDN'T get sick while:
  1. Sailing on a felucca on the Nile River, Egypt as there was no on-board toilet
  2. Taking an overnight bus ride from Cappadocia to Istambul in Turkey where there were very few stops
  3. Riding the Trans-Mongolian Express from Beijing to Moscow where attendants locked the train's toilets on approach to, while stationary at, and after each station (sometimes a period of several hours)
  4. Walking along the Great Wall of China as there are no toilets up there
  5. Riding a camel in the Sahara Desert, Morocco, as there are no toilets and no trees to run behind.
Morocco's Sahara Desert: no trees for pit stops here

Finally, I have a confession to make.

I have caused sickness in others.

While setting up a makeshift toilet at our camp beside the Nile River at sunset, I accidentally nicked our group leader's foot with a metal picket fence post.  Thankfully, it only caught the edge of her foot and did not skewer her foot completely.

The gracious and lovely group leader (who still talks to me today!) still managed to steer our group back to Cairo, albeit with a slight limp.

She showed me that even when illness hits, sometimes it is still possible to have a good time while travelling.


  1. So, you're the cause of the motion picture triumph, "Cutfoot on the Nile"?

  2. While "Cutfoot on the Nile" was inspired by true events, I think you can claim credit for the script, production, direction and camera work for said motion picture triumph!