Jonathan Taylor was lucky. He only got hepatitis when he went to India
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The Independent Travel
CHAOTIC India may be, but for the back-packer some things are predictable. Despite precautions (such as not eating or drinking) the odds are in favour of you contract- ing some kind of exotic complaint. I travelled with four friends, each of whom became ill. One was laid up with dysentery, while another, contracted a fever and missed the Taj Mahal. I, however, caught hepatitis.

We'd set out from Jaisalmer on a camel trek to see the sand dunes of the Thar desert. Day two, unable to eat, I became anxious when in 40 degree heat I couldn't hold down water. I dismounted from my camel, and to the amusement of our Rajasthani guides I asked to go back to the guest house. The guides pointed me in the direction of the road where I could hitch a lift. They told me it was no more than two miles, and as the sun was about to go down I was unlikely to dehydrate. Reaching the road I slumped by a boulder. An hour later a Morris Oxford stopped. A wizened motorist drove in silence to the edge of town. When I'd got out, he asked for a substantial fare because of the frequent stops he'd made to let me retch. Without the energy to argue I paid up. But the guest house wasn't the sanctuary I'd hoped for. The management were apologetic that neither the fan nor toilet worked, but keeping the fly screen ajar for ventilation enabled one guest to enter. "Before you die, my friend, you must try the ice-cream in Jaipur. It is the best." Without looking up I asked him to leave and I now feel guilty about it. Sickness was no excuse. I'd shunned the sympathies of a man I never bothered to look at.

My friends returned and took me to the local hospital and again decided that a belly-ache was no excuse for them not to travel. If I felt unable to go on they would put me in a taxi for the hospital in Jodhpur, 200 miles away. Queueing at the bank, in a state of delirium, to get money to pay for the hospital I recalled an article in a National Geographic saying that patients in Indian hospitals are provided with food only by relatives. In the event this wasn't a problem, since I was sustained by intravenous drips. Countless injections later I was told that my liver wasn't functioning properly. Had the mystic croupier dealt me the ace of spades? No, but I must have been ill because I didn't care about the cockroaches in my hair or the reek from the toilet next to my bed. Counting the revolutions of the fan above, I waited 10 days for the insurance people to take me to the nice hospital in Delhi. Flying home two weeks later, I was reading in The Rough Guide that hepatitis isn't the worst disease you can get in India. Short of Aids or leprosy it's probably right.