How many times do you catch up with your friends and the first thing you ask them is how many times have they been to the loo? Or, do you still have the shits?
I was just reading a part of Grant Short’s memoirs when I recalled those early morning conversations. Nowadays we might consider it bad manners to enquire about people’s toilet habits as our first greeting, but things were different back then.
If not the first morning in Kathmandu it would not be too long after when this was a general topic of conversation. As much as we had been warned and as careful as we might be, the “Bug” got to us. There were not too many to escape the clutches of the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’, ‘Teheran Trots’ or similar words to describe the conditions of our internal workings.
I recall one evening when a few of us ate at a local restaurant in Lahore when, as we waited for our meals to arrive, we sat having a cold drink. Those of us still standing and chancing our luck decided to try the local food. No sooner had we been able to finish about half the contents of our bottles of drink that one of the girls went missing. I enquired of her friend where she had disappeared to. “Oh! She had to run off to the loo,” all from half a bottle of drink. I swear this “Bug” has a way of reconnecting the internal organs. It is able to connect the opening of the body direct to the exit. Out of the small group at the restaurant, a few decide to forgo the food available should they have to follow the missing girl to the back room.
For those more unfortunate than me an urgent toilet stop was a constant request. Another recollection was the bus stopping in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in India, although that is almost an oxymoron, there is really no place that is nowhere in India. A girl who had been gripped by the “Bug” had to make an urgent request and with little places to hide from everyone she squatted in the middle of an empty field. The meerkats must have all been lying down when she first squatted but within seconds, up pops all these heads with prying eyes. Do I need to say that the heads belong to males? The woman off in the distance were hard at work.
And so the question of, how many times have you had a shit today? Was as regular as we were.
All the weight loss programs we read and hear about that are available now, have nothing on the way the “Bug” could bring down your weight in just a few weeks. The stomach cramps and sitting gently trying to avoid passing wind just in case, is the possible reason people do not seek out this weight loss method.
The regularity of the question did not start to dissipate until we were well into Turkey. Then there were those of us who, out of desperation, kept up with our daily dose of ‘Lomotil’. The medication had no real effect until it was not needed. Yes that is right, the passage of goods was consistent until the tide turned, now just the opposite set in. When the goods train is held up by a derailed carriage and nothing is getting through, it is just a big of a concern as the other. One knows that all the European delights consumed over several days would be ejected at some point, or would or could they? It is only after stopping the Lomotil, a few German beers and several days later that we give birth to a water melon, ouch!!! Just a part of us wished the shits to return, if only for a day.
Haggis had his own preventative cure for the shits. He would eat a raw onion like a normal person would eat an apple. He told me he ate an onion before every border crossing in the East. I never heeded his advice, so I can't tell you whether his theory ever worked.
Indeed the first words uttered between punters (and crew) in the morning especially on overlands was the state of one's bowels.
As a measure of severity there was an unofficial index developed based on the ability to pass ones bowel contents through the eye of a needle a x paces - 50 paces indicated just water and no solids for instance.
As for impromptu emergency stops I seem to remember Col being asked to stop either in the Kabul Gorge or Khyber Pass itself on TK210 by one pax - he probably can recall the question, the location and the response better than I.
I won't say I went up the Khyber, I did travel through the Khyber on quite a few occasions, but sadly, due to the fact that I have happened to age a little, the answer to that question is, you have to be more precise, was it the gorge or the pass. I had many people shit them selves going up both the gorge and the pass. It may have been the way I drove the bus. At least whilst they were crapping themselves, they weren't asking stupid questions.
This story will be on topic but overly long (sorry): I reckon most of we overlanders picked up Delhi Belly in Srinagar and by the time TK159 got to Swat Valley, many of us had requested unscheduled stops enroute. While the rest of the punters had gone to local doctors who knew appropriate treatment and were over the worst by the time we got to Swat, I had the misfortune to be treated by an Aussie doctor travelling overland by car who had joined us in convoy for safety because of the riots in Pakistan and who had zilch knowledge of appropriate treatment. I was so crook in Swat that Dr. Roger visited me as I sat on the loo in the motel. In Peshawar, another 'home visit'. The four nights in Kabul to be close to 'facilities', meant that I missed out on the trip to Bamiyan with my husband, Rom, and others well enough to do that rough side trip. Things were no better all the way through Kandahar to Herat where I finally got to see a local doctor. His prescription for a glucose saline drip sent Gary Petersen (our driver) out onto the streets to buy the necessary equipment on the black market using Russian roubles. Fortunately, one of the punters, Sue Cannon, was also a qualified nurse and kindly undertook the procedure to administer the same. So no champagne to celebrate our wedding anniversary but a glucose saline drip which, within a short time was out of the lower orifice.
The next day was the border crossing into Iran which involved everyone doing so on foot passports in hand through the passport office. I was so weak that Rom carried me across and I couldn't care whether I lived or died.
We arrived in Mashhad around 4.00pm. When all I wanted was a loo, bloody Gary very kindly did a tour of the Golden Mosque prior to going to the camp ground. As soon as we arrived, I was off to hospital with Rom in a taxi. Needless to say, none of the doctors had more than a smattering of English. So a lab pathologist, Ali, was brought to my bedside where I was again hooked up to a glucose saline drip. Fortunately, his English was very good and he was able to explain that I would need 3 day's treatment including daily Vitamin B injections - into my buttocks! He also advised that it would be healthier for me to stay at the camp site rather than the hospital and undertook to come all the way across the city after work to administer them. Truly a Good Samaritan! He also bought all the medication I had been prescribed. Not only that but, while I was recuperating, he took Rom around the city to show him the sights including a tour through the Golden Mosque. On the second day, Rom also came down with Delhi Belly. Again, Ali took him to the hospital and bought all the necessary medication. By the evening of the third day, we were both well enough to accept Ali's dinner invitation with his family - a rare privilege especially when he advised his wife to drop her veil. I might add that Ali also had a daughter who was of an age that she should have been in full niqab in public, but his attitude was so progressive that, to give her more freedom, his daughter's hair was cut very short and she wore dungarees so that she looked like a boy.
In the meantime TK159 had gone on to Tehran and we were to meet up again in Isfahan. So on the fourth day, we flew out via Iranian Airlines. Again, Ali was so generous. Not only did he buy the tickets (and not let us pay for them) but he and his family took us out to the airport to see us off.
When we said that we would like to repay his generosity, he initially brushed it off, saying that we were guests in his country so no repayment was required. After a great deal insistence on our part, he finally admitted that he had been admiring our Jeans Adidas (remember them - they were blue) and would love a pair each for his daughter and son. Because we were not returning to Aus until April the following year, we promised that we would write at that time to ascertain correct shoe sizes. Which we duly did. But never received any correspondence in return.
The rest is history. The Shah was deposed; Ayatollah Khomeini took over and many Iranians suffered, particularly the more progressive ones. Ali was truly a Good Samaritan, and I believe that he and his family no longer exist. But to this day I will never forget his kindness and generosity.
To conclude, two days later I was climbing round Persepolis in the blazing heat as though I'd never been ill in my life. Mind you, I had lost so much weight that my jeans were safety pinned on each hip so that they wouldn't fall off!
A great story Kathy, so many good experiences around some trying times.
I'll repeat one of my stories which has a bitter/sweat ending. Kit and I were in the hotel in Peshawar on our way out to Kathmandu on a "Flyer." Kit decide to do his initiation test on me. When the manager, Mansor, asked what we wanted for lunch, Kit suggested 5 of his hottest curries and to be topped off with a Lassie drink. That was my first and last Lassie. Struggling through the hot lunch the Lassie was there to cool the throat and stomach lining. All went alright until the early hours of the morning. A one point there was a rush to the bathroom but a haste decision was needed. The basin or toilet first? I could be sick on the floor but the other was too hard to contemplate. Fortunately for me my projectile from my mouth was strong enough to reach the basin. At one point I thought my bottom was falling out of my world and then the world was falling out of my bottom. With repeat performances throughout the night I awoke ready for a long day's drive, feeling like death warmed over. Fortunately/unfortunately we had picked up a local and gave him a lift for several kilometers, to where his village was. The local recommended having salt washed down by Limca, the fizzy lemonade drink. After a couple of hours I was feeling better. We dropped the local off only to discover at the end of the day, he had stolen one of the passenger's cameras. He must have taken this as his medical fee.
At no time did I suffer the Delhi Belly to the extent you did. On my trip as a passenger we did have one lass who succumbed to the infliction. Even though we had a doctor and his wife, who was a nurse , on-board they could not help her. The decision was made to fly her onto Kabul where she could get hospital treatment. A few days after we caught up with her and her husband, they were eager to rejoin the group. Their eagerness was not decided so much on the fact that her health had improved but more on the horrible hospital conditions. When she had arrived at the hospital, being a westerner, she was given preferential treatment. The local was asked to vacate her bed and while it was still warm she was beckoned to replace her. The treatment in Kabul hospital was so poor she opted out to take her chances with our resident doctor. Yes she did eventually come good. She was thin to start with so by now she was lucky to cast a shadow.
It will be interesting to see if Silver posts his encounter with the demon. On his trip out to begin our tour in Kathmandu he was hit badly, even though he had travelled this route a few times before.
What a great story Kathy. I was stuck in Mashaad for 3 weeks with a broken down bus. I was befriended by an Irani male and his wife, they spent 3 days with me, showing me around. He was an English teacher, and he enjoyed speaking english with me. There are some wonderful people in all walks of life.
I had learnt in South America that there was a very good intestinal disinfectant available that came in a long box with these cautionary words “Use for more than five days may cause blindness” which was a little off putting and I soon discovered that the box didn’t add to the amazing medical powers of the medicine. In India I was handing these out with strict instructions, dry biscuits and Lemca for 24 hours and you were cured. I seem to remember handing out green/yellow capsules on a regular basis but that must have been for some other ailment.
You could just imaging passengers today, shorts, T shirt, suitcase full of bottled water, an ipad, mobile phone and condoms, what is the world coming to?
On my original overland (P19) we had arrived in Lahore: my diary reads .....
Woke up with the craps. Bad news, no breakfast, off on city tour to Mosque, Red Fort, Shalimar Gardens. Nearly died, felt really shithouse. No Lunch, no dinner. Take Tim to UCH Hospital. Quiet night waiting for riots to start. Shits easing now. Thank God
The courier (Gary Nuttall) and I decided that a fellow pax (Tim) was getting to state where some medical intervention was needed and so we set of for the hospital in Lahore .....
Tim recalls .......
"My recollection is a lot worse. I don’t recall ever feeling as bad as I did that day. I thought I was going to die in a pile of pooh in Pakistan! What a way to go.
I recall a very rough ride in a motorised trishaw taxi, through abandoned streets due to the curfew, holding my stomach and hoping not to shit myself. Once we got to the hospital I was taken in to a treatment room while you went off to register me. Your last words to me were “don’t let the bastards give you anything til I get back”, or words to that effect.
Well a couple of stomach cramps later and I would have let them do anything, so I offered no resistance when they stuck a needle full of something in to me to stop the cramps – God knows what it was. You then reappeared and informed me that if anyone asked, my father’s name was Stanley. Apparently you had to fill in some admission forms which included a question about my father so you took a stab at “Stanley”, which by chance was actually my grandfather’s name. You were most annoyed that I had allowed them to give me an injection of something and demanded to know what it was.
Anyway, thanks to you, all was well and I survived, and after another bumpy trishaw ride back to the hotel I eventually recovered.
I owe you one, big fella!"
Mr Vicar ,
I am here alive and well ,, and yes i have had a couple of extreme experiences with the subject you mention .
The first was when I was eastbound with Gary Peterson in late 75, contracted from a lunch stop in Rawalpindi by the time we got to Lahore ,,I had it good from both ends ,,,poor Gary having to stop every 20 min or so ,,, and its quite amazing when you are in that condition all care about what and where you are doing it seems to disappear.Any way one of the hotel guys in Lahore made a yoghurt based drink which tasted foul but he insisted i take a glass full every couple of hours and in a couple of days was on the mend ,,, lost a few kilos.
The other occasion you mention was on the trip out to pick you up in 76,, a kebab dinner in Tabriz was the culprit . That night it was my turn to sleep on the bus ( for security ) and at some time after midnight my guts just exploded ,,, lucky the Trathens rent a coach had a floor hatch which when you positioned your self you could miss the tail shaft ... I spent most of the early hours of that morning gripping onto the armrests and letting it all flow .( too much information ? )
Needless to say next morning we drove off leaving last nights semi processed kebab kerbside.
I was that crook that by the time we got to Esfahan a Canadian doctor passenger went to a local Dr to get some drugs for me ,,, took a couple of days but eventually came good.
I must have wrote home to the parents letting them know of my ills and with my father being a Chemist ,, I had half a drug store to and collect at Kathmandu Post Office.