“Gross” is a word that I try to keep out of my vocabulary, especially in this part of the world. My experience in India has taught me that there will be days when you sweat so much that your fingers prune. I learned that you always have to watch your step while walking on the street for fear of getting animal (or human) excrement all over your shoes. I now know that are a few temples where you have to avoid stepping in a puddle of goat blood after a fresh round of sacrifices. (Don’t even get me started on Delhi Belly stories!) But once I start thinking, “This is so gross”, then I stop appreciating the beauty of the bigger picture around me and start to focus on uncomfortable details.
There was, however, a 48 hour span, during my big road trip through Western Nepal, when I couldn’t avoid being grossed out. (I affectionately refer to this time span as the two grossest days of my life.)
It started out with an epic 8 hour bus ride from Butwal to Nepalgunj. The scenery offered by the Terai was beautiful beyond belief, but I had other problems. The man behind me insisted on coughing on the back of my neck for the greater portion of the journey. He wasn’t an incredibly old or even a sick-looking guy (although I frequently questioned what disease he might have). He was a normal young guy who couldn’t take a hint. I often turned around and glared at him and even purposefully coughed into my hands 2 or 3 times while he watched me. Though he seemed to understand and would even start to cough into a handkerchief for a bit, he would just as quickly resume using the back of my neck as a cough shield.
The 8 hour coughing spell was bad, but the worst was to come. We had a rather enjoyable afternoon in Nepalgunj where we met with a fascinating reporter and caught glimpses of Nepal’s Muslim population. But, considering time constraints, we decided to move on to Dhangadi later that evening. That meant another long bus ride with no possibility of a shower until the night. Due to an unlucky road closure [See The Bandha Conundrum entry for the frustrating details.] we were left stranded with the rest of our mini-bus crew in the tiny village of Lamki.
There was only one guest house in Lamki with room for 3 people, and, to make a long story short, it was far from anyone’s ideal. For about 65 cents per person, we had a dimly lit room with spit stained walls, a curiously wet trash can, numerous flying insects, and three beds with mattresses that looked like they hosted lice and other unnameable parasites. And to top things off, there was no bathroom at all, meaning no way to wash off a days worth of grime!
Luckily we were saved… before settling in, the road opened up and our mini-bus driver told us that we could make it to Attariya, a town near Dhangadi, before it got too late. We arrived in Attariya around midnight and there was, again, only one open guest house with a room for 3 people. And, believe it or not, this room was even worse than the accommodations in Lamki.
After a restless night’s sleep (I concentrated for most of the night, making sure that none of my bare skin came in contact with the mattress…), we proceeded to the rural Doti district. It was a new day and suddenly I felt optimistic, even if my skin was covered with dried sweat, grime and cough residue.
The first hour of our mini-bus ride to Doti was enjoyable. We were leaving the heat of the lowlands and beginning to catch the cool breezes and lush vegetation of the hills. But as we continued, we picked up more passengers and the little mini-bus became crowded to the point where a young woman had to sit in the little aisle between my seat and the back of the bus driver’s seat in front of me. My already minuscule amount of legroom was completely cut off. We were so cramped that our knees were jammed together as we shared the same tiny window. Still, the scenery and temperature made the ride bearable.
After 40 minutes into the trip, though, this young woman did the unimaginable… she started to vomit full force out the window. The fact that her head was about a foot and a half in front of me was disturbing, but that was not the worst of it. The wind and movement of the bus forced little stringy flecks of puke to fly back into the vehicle, and directly at my seat. I dodged a fair amount of this but the back of my seat was not so lucky. If she had vomited only once, it would have been uncomfortable, but she took my discomfort to a new level by vomiting 3 more times throughout the trip. And even though I insisted to my travelling comrades that I didn’t get the slightest amount vomit on me, I knew deep down I was kidding myself.
We arrived in Doti later that afternoon, and the first thing I did was take a long bucket bath. (I went through 2 buckets of water…. one for the coughs, sweat, and grime, and another one for the vomit!) Immediately afterward, I fell asleep on a clean bed, hoping to wake up in a few hours and forget the past 2 days.
It is now two weeks after the fact, and I have only recently been able to write about the two grossest days of my life without getting a little shiver down my spine. To be honest, I can actually chuckle at the memory of those two days… who would have thought it possible? After all, you can’t cry over spilt vomit.
Posted By Ted Samuel
Posted Jul 12th, 2007