Delhi Belly On A 17 Hour Train Ride

What’s the worst you can imagine happening on a train trip through India? Well aside from an accident or tragedy, one of the worst things I could imagine would be getting a bout of Delhi Belly and that’s exactly what happened to me.  The first thing to go wrong was when I boarded the train and discovered that the 7-8 hour journey I was told to expect was actually going to be about 17-18 hours!  About halfway through the marathon ride I awoke from a fitful sleep with a stomach ache and an acidy feeling in my chest and stomach… oh oh… not a good sign.  I don’t get motion sickness so I knew that wasn’t it, but thought I had better go to the latrine just to be safe.  I positioned myself carefully over the squat toilet (not easy on a moving train) and that’s when the night mare began.  Luckily I had a roll of toilet paper with me (don’t travel without it!) and a couple of Imodium tablets that I took immediately.  My only hope is that I wouldn’t get sick to my stomach, because doing that over a squat toilet on a train ride to Mumbai would be just too cruel a cosmic joke.  In fact about an hour later the entire car was wracked by the sounds of a woman loudly vomiting in the latrine. I quickly put in my earbuds and blasted my iPod,  because I certainly could not listen to that and not get sick myself.   I started wracking my brain, what could have caused it? You can never be sure. I’d been in India 2 ½ weeks and hadn’t had a bit of trouble so far but  I think it was probably the mango juice I had at lunch.  I was a little suspicious when they said it came from a can and they brought it to me in a glass.  It tasted a little like it might have been watered down, but I drank it anyway.  The golden rule: always trust your gut instincts! But by far my biggest concern at the moment was the smell on the train.  It was overwhelming at times, sewage mixed with smoke from fires along the tracks – burning trash or from cooking fires – combined with B.O. and a few of the other travelers who didn’t have the decency not to ‘break wind’ on a crowded train.  I just needed to get through the next 8-10 hours… an absolutely horrendous thought.  My stomach problems were relentless, despite the Imodium (it took 4 doses to slow things down- which didn’t happen until the end of the trip) I was running to the latrines every 10-15 minutes, hoping that one of them would be open and relatively clean.  Each time I went was a new adventure.  At one point as I was squatting down, the door flew open and an elderly man was standing there, just staring at me… you can imagine the horrified look on my face.  I thought I had bolted it so I realized then that I would have to be more vigilant.  Every time we would stop at another station (it was the milk run from Udaipur to Mumbai with more than a dozen stops), the smells would get worse, and the vendors who would board the train, walking through with Chai, sandwiches and pastries didn’t help.  Since I had thought it would be an 8 hour trip, I didn’t bring much water along, only about 1 litre so I mentioned to my seat mate Hitesh that if someone comes along selling bottled water to get my attention.  At the next station stop he disappeared, returning with a big bottle of water that he wouldn’t take payment for.  He helped make the trip bearable.  When my train had pulled into the Udaipur station I gathered my bags and went to find my seat, even though the train didn’t leave for another hour.  I found the car, sleeper car #1, but when I got on board there were no lights inside.  Luckily I had my flashlight with me so I was able to find the number 15.  At first I was disappointed it was a single seat with someone facing me less than a meter away, while the seats across the aisle were bench seats.  Turns out though they were for 3 people each and when you pulled them out to make the beds there were 3 stacked and facing each other, while ours were two singles, like bunk beds, slightly more private.  By the time the train was ready to pull out from the station there were only a few people in the car, two of them were me and the guy sitting across from me… just my luck.  Hitesh is from Udaipur but working for a company in Mumbai so he was visiting his parents, who he introduced to me before the train departed.  He works in IT and had just spent 3 years living and working in Amsterdam, a man of the world and one of the few people in India to not be freaked out by my nose ring.  He also spoke excellent English and was very helpful explaining how it all worked.  He’s the one who told me how long the trip actually would be.  As we stopped in various cities and towns along the way, the train quickly filled up, usually in a state of pandemonium as people rushed on board to find their seats and get settled before the train pulled out again. It was pretty funny to watch and Hitesh and I were laughing at all the yelling, the crying babies, and the craziness all around us.  It was the only laughs I would get on the train because in just a few short hours I would be stuck squatting over a toilet trying not to fall over or make a mess of my clothes.  It is definitely one of the worst experiences I have had on my journey so far.  I wanted to take the train ride for the experience, I thought ,‘I can’t go to India and not ride the rails at least once’ and thought if it went well it would be my preferred mode of transportation.  It’s not an experience for everyone, in fact I know a lot of people, family and friends, who would not survive the trip even without the added sickness.  This is not something I am going to repeat.  If I take another train, at least in India, it will be first class all the way.

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