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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Backpacking

2010 September 7

I woke up the next morning relaxed, rested and feeling like a million bucks. Upon reaching Utila, Jonas and I found a nice air-conditioned bungalow at Cross Creek, a sister dive shop to Utila Dive Center. I signed up for my 10-pack fun-dive at UDC, Jonas his open water course, had a couple of beers, a nice steak at RJ’s BBQ and called it in early after our bender the night before.

The view of Cross Creek from our humble abode.

All was right in the world. We had made it to Utila, found a place to sleep on a packed island and Sunjam was now only hours away. Sure the tickets cost $50, you couldn’t bring anything and everything there promised to be vastly overpriced. But we were going to an all-night rave, with some of the best DJs around, on a deserted island, in the CARIBBEANS. Game. Set. Match. This was going to be awesome.

Or so I thought.

My illusions of a ragingly awesome time melted away when I sat down on the toilet that morning. “You’ve gotta be shitting me. Literally.” Montezuma’s revenge, the runs, the spills, the shits. Traveler’s diarrhea. It finally hit. It always hits. You can’t avoid it. I don’t care if you have the stomach of steel, if you can scavenge like a hyena, you’re going to get the shits on the road. It’s just a part of backpacking. The key to combating the bastard is proper containment. In my case, this meant ciprofloxacin or “cipro”.

I downed the magic pill as quick as I could and prayed to the backpacking gods that that would be the end of it. 10 minutes passed, 15 minutes passed, 20, 30. I thought I was good… until I took a swig of water. Within minutes I was back on the porcelain.

– – –

As a proper warning, if you don’t want to read about the “ugly”, you might as well stop now. But if you want to read about the nitty, gritty, unpleasant and, truthfully, downright disgusting side of backpacking, keep on going.

– – –

The biggest danger of diarrhea is dehydration. Because everything is going out as fast as it’s coming in, your body doesn’t have any time to absorb water. To exacerbate matters, you are also losing salt which facilitates the osmosis of water into your body cells. Honduras was hot and I naturally drink a lot of water. If I wanted to actually make it to Sunjam alive, I’d need to keep the fluids flowing throughout the day.

I bought a gallon of water as well as a Gatorade (electrolytes are key). Jonas and I then picked up our tickets and sat down for some brunch at Bundu’s Cafe. Montezuma had also unleashed his rage on Jonas so we concluded it must have been the steak from last night. I figured I should get some solid food in my stomach in the hopes that it would settle down the broiling mess. The thing about Honduras is that restaurants are incredibly slow. You expect it in Latin America but for some reason this seemed particularly slow. After literally 50 minutes, they come out with our food but still screwed up my order which resulted in another 10 minutes of bustling around.

Soooooooooo slowwwwwwww.

As we ate, I began to lose my appetite. Things were not looking good. It was nearly 1pm and we had planned on leaving around 5. I decided the best course of action would be to return to our room and take a nap. I got back, blasted the AC and fell asleep. Jonas had some errands to run and would wake me up around 4. When he did come back, I woke up sweating and nauseous. I walked over to the toilet and out came a stream of purple liquid, tainted by the grape Gatorade that I had been drinking. Everything I had eaten and drank that day came out in one fell “WHOOSH”. But I felt better. The nausea was gone and we made our way out of the room and down towards the pier.

However, there would be one more obstacle. As I was walking down the main road, I felt a grumble in my stomach. A wave of panic rushed over me as I frantically looked for a bathroom. Most of the stores are so small on Utila that there’s almost never a bathroom attached. And all of the dive shops were closed because everyone was heading to Sunjam. I was at least a ten minute walk back to our room so there was no way I was making that. I finally found a toilet at the back of a bar. This “toilet” resided in a dark, damp hell-hole which resembled more of a medieval dungeon than a bathroom. God knows what lived on the seat and of course there was no toilet paper. I ran back out and frantically searched for some sort of paper. I found a lady selling baleadas and begged her for a napkin. I don’t think she fully appreciated the gravity of my situation as she only gave me one napkin, despite my offer to pay.

I gingerly walked back to the bar to face the music. It wasn’t going to be pretty but it beat having to go on some poor fisherman’s boat. As I sat down, the evil that had been brewing in my stomach spilled out. My one single-plied napkin was no match for such horror and I quickly realized the pickle I was in: no faucet was present, no paper was left and I was still sitting there, at least a couple hundred feet from the pier.

My swim trunks have been through a lot, including nearly 2 months of continuous wear and tear in Southeast Asia. I suppose it was only time before Central America left her mark. I pulled them up, sped walk down the road and jumped in the water. The largest toilet in the world had saved me again. We got on the boat shortly thereafter and headed out.

Finally, Sunjam, here I come.

12 Responses leave one →
  1. September 8, 2010

    …I feel for you dude, but that was hysterically funny…hope you are feeling better.

    Just got back form Hawaii with my mom and she had “issues” everyday, food /water just did not aggree with her….



    • September 14, 2010

      Oh yea, no problems anymore. It last only about a day. I’m telling you, it’s bound to happen, you can’t avoid it!

  2. September 8, 2010

    Oh man! I love that you shared that story… and the biggest toilet in the world is a perfect description!

    • September 14, 2010

      Gotta bring some light to the other side of traveling 🙂

  3. NPLF permalink
    September 8, 2010

    Soooo funny! I can feel your pain……and your joy after you jumped in the water 🙂 🙂

  4. September 21, 2010

    Thanks for adding a link to this in my post about travelers’ diarrhea–very apropos! I’m sorry you felt so ill on this trip. It’s such a bummer when you’re somewhere awesome and get disrupted by these annoying (and often urgent) bodily functions. I hope you were still able to enjoy that trip!

    • September 25, 2010

      The good news is that it only lasted for about a day. Thank god.

  5. September 26, 2010

    What a story! My ex-boyfriend and I have stomachs of very different durabilities, but similar love for street food. I had a feeling that I was a toilet widow throughout our thai trip. Luckily for him though, I always carried a pack of kleenex. 🙂

    • September 26, 2010

      To be honest, I have a pretty good stomach as well. But it’s almost inevitable that it happens to me. Only thing I can do is suck it up.

      However, what I have found is that I almost never get sick from street food, rather it’s the food from restaurants. Go figure.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Sunjam 2010 and the Utila Crew « Backpacking the World | Life in a Sack
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