In an instant I knew. Something was not right.
Up until then, the day had been magical. My husband and I had left our lodge, the Four Seasons Serengeti, at dawn to visit the Ngorongoro Crater, a Unesco World Heritage Site and home to Tanzania’s 25 remaining black rhinoceroses. After a four-hour drive through Serengeti National Park where we saw a male and a female lion up close; a tour the crater itself where we spotted not one, but two, of the elusive rhinos; and a gourmet picnic beside a hippo pond where eagles flew overhead, we were on our way back to the lodge.
One minute I was reflecting on the natural wonders we’d been so privileged to see, the next a stifling queasiness was overtaking me. What was happening? The roads were rough and scarred with ruts from flash floods that formed with the onset of the rainy season. But this was not car sickness. No, it was so much more. In the middle of nowhere, flushed and growing more uncomfortable by the second, I only had one thing on my mind.
“Please don’t let me pull a Thompson*.”
What is a Thompson, you may ask, and why did I fear it so?
A Thompson is named after an acquaintance of mine who had had the misfortune of becoming ill on safari. The poor guy had to flee his land cruiser (they don’t have bathrooms on those things) and disgorge himself from both ends in the midst of dangerous wildlife and under the glare of horrified and pitying fellow travellers. Yes, the man was so sick, that shitting in front of lions and strangers was his best course of action. This was one of my worst travel fears come to life. But here I was with bile rising and two more hours to the lodge and the safe embrace of private indoor plumbing.
Out of sheer survival, my inner voice began a running loop of positive anti-vomit talk. “You are fine.” “You feel great.” “Just breathe.” “Keep it together.” “Go to your happy place.” I groaned, I sighed, I took deep breaths and changed position every 2.5 minutes. I knew the sickness was inevitable but if I could Just. Hold. On.
Finally, after a nauseated and sweat-soaked eternity, the lodge was in sight. It was going to be OK. Then our lovely driver, Francis, stopped the car and turned back to us.
“Would you like stop here and enjoy the beauty of a Serengeti sunset?”
Sensing I was about to lose my shit, literally and figuratively, my dear husband declined the offer and delicately explained why we should really just floor it instead.
On we went. I had to dodge the welcoming committee that greeted us in the driveway. Hot towels? Cold towels? Cocktail? No. No. No thank you. I ran to the room and darted inside only to come face to face with a full-sized male baboon standing on the other side of the sliding glass doors trying to break into the room. Never a dull moment in Africa! But there was no time to marvel at the giant simian on my balcony, I had only one mission. And thank Jesus, I made it.
Of course the rest of the evening was an endless slog back and forth to the toilet. Eventually I stopped the pretense of trying to go back to bed and just succumbed to the cold tiles of the bathroom floor.
The worst of it though was that I was scheduled to go on my much dreamed of balloon ride the following morning. After each purge I believed it would be the last and I’d be fine for that 4:15 a.m. wake-up call. At 3 a.m., exhausted, wrung out and crying my face off I had to concede. There would be no balloon ride for me.
By 5 a.m., after one last, violent double-ended exorcism, in which Satan was finally released from my body, I took to my bed, at once achieving the sleep that had eluded me all night. For the remainder of the day I rested. The chef sent some chicken noodle soup up to the room and by 4 p.m. I was able to rise for the walking safari and bush dinner (five-course feast for the hubby, Fanta and bread for me). And thankfully there was still room on the next day’s balloon flight.
It was a brutal 24 hours, but at least I was no Thompson.
*names have been changed to protect what little dignity remains of the innocent
Anybody else have any good “sick while travelling” stories?