Travel: Your holiday disaster - Eating rich food before climbing a hill in the heat can be a recipe for embarrassment, as Paul Frame found out
Sunday 16 August 1998
So, fortified by lunch in a vegetarian restaurant, I began my climb just after midday. No hat, shirt off and armed with only a small bottle of water for the journey up. Stupid. Very stupid, and not surprisingly, back in the hotel that evening, I began to feel decidedly unwell.
Cold sweats, occasional shivers and a slight disorientation suggested heat-stroke and this, combined with my overly rich lunch, must be why, in the wee small hours of the morning, an urgent moonlit flit to the communal toilets across the hotel courtyard became necessary. I made it, just, emerging half an hour later relieved and somewhat drained but still able to manage a reasonably civil comment for the smiling night guard who inquired if Sahib was "feeling quite okay?".
Of my journey back to bed I have no recollection at all. When I woke next morning, I felt slightly better, but quickly realised all was not in fact well. Like a child who on waking knows snow has fallen during the night, a sixth sense told me what had happened. The fetid air above my bed and a careful lifting of the bed sheet confirmed the worst. Another moment of laxity in the night and a true disaster.
To make matters worse, the hotel had been full when I arrived and I had reluctantly accepted a bed in the dormitory where I now woke. A long room with ceiling fans whirling over 40 canvas beds laid out in rows. Each bed, I suddenly remembered, provided with a pair of spotless white sheets similar to those in which I was lying. Oh God! What do I do now? Needless to say, the beds around mine were empty, despite the fact that it was barely an hour after dawn.
I'll wrap myself in the bed sheets, run back across the courtyard and clean up in the wash room, I thought. No! Running like a demented Roman senator with the all-too-obvious trots across a courtyard full of backpackers driven from their beds at dawn was not an image I could live with and I abandoned the idea. There was only one thing left to do. I would lie back, think of the price of cauliflower and, in true "Cool Brit" style, grin and bear it till the rest of the dormitory emptied. This did not take long with the overhead fans quickly circulating air through the dormitory.
But fate had one last disaster in store for me that morning. "Are you sure you feel well," she said. It was definitely not the night watchman. I knew it was the Norwegian girl I had talked to in the cafe the night before. Embarrassed beyond words, I pretended to be asleep. She asked me again, this time gently shaking my foot. "Yes, I'm fine thanks," I said, listening with horror to the buzz of flies rising from the bed sheets.
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