Day 71 – 73

… and there it came to pass … the runs finally caught up with us …

Still thinking that we’d take some time out to take a catamaran trip out to the island in the reserve to snorkel amongst the chiclids, we sat down to a meal at the lodge. The wind was up but the little fishing boats were still heading out for another night’s work on the lake. All you could see was bobbing lights as they made their way towards the ‘gap’, closing in on the Mozambique side of the lake. Over the sigh of the wind in the trees you’d hear the soft putter of their diesel engines, or occasionally, an oar stroke from a mokoro paddler. The lodge’s catamaran lay just off shore, it’s rigging clinking and clanking in the evening air. The sun had set a fiery red over the lake, turning the water to shimmering gold before dying out to the inky blackness of night. The moon was out so you could just make out the shape of the island yonder and the beach of white gravel shone in it’s light. Was it not for the lodge’s myriad lights facing out to the lake, it would’ve surely been a star-filled sky.

Everything was pleasant enough until I woke in the middle of the night with a keen sense of the untoward … stomach-wise. From there the bathroom trips started and became more regular. Why do these things always happen in the night? The dark makes everything feel so much worse, and with the fact that the ablutions weren’t anywhere near the actual campsite, made the whole situation far more tricky. Finally, as the sky began to lighten I simply passed out from exhaustion.

Waking up with the sun’s rays full on the tent, I was forced up and out again. The runs had subsided, thanks to a medicine measure of neat brandy (grandpa’s recipe … and it works). I was just left with the most awful body aches and pains. Dragging the tent through the sand to a shadier spot, mom and Suzann were concerned … I was exhausted. With the pains not getting any better and the night approaching fast, we headed out to the local clinic where a very kind UK doctor saw me immediately and diagnosed a ‘tummy bug’. The aches and pains were the after effects of the whole thing and the dehydration wasn’t helping any. So I ended up spending the bulk of the afternoon, into the evening, lying flat on my back in a clinic ward with an IV in my arm. But at least the litre of fluid that flowed directly into my veins helped immensely to make me feel more spritely in a shorter time. There was just no way that I could drink enough to counter the rate of fluid loss, not just from the ‘bug’ but also the intense heat and humidity at the lake … I was sweating buckets.

… and this would also be the first encounter with the East African squat toilet … Yes, I had to drop and squat after the IV was in. I couldn’t hold out for a western lodge loo. A litre of fluid directly infused into you causes a need to wee … like a machine! All I could think of when the nurse showed me to the loo, was the American lady at Ngorongoro Crater two years ago when she said, ‘Oh, it’s a hole!’ … and yes, it is indeed a hole. Still feeling a little wobbly, I was not entirely sure that I could squat and hold my shorts out of the way while keeping my balance so I did the only thing I could … undress. So there I was squatting over ‘the hole’ with my shorts and underwear held firmly in my hand. And there I noticed for the first time, in my haste to get dressed to go to the clinic I had put my underwear on inside out! Oh well, I guess the doc didn’t even notice or she was too kind to say anything.

Under cover of darkness, with a great wad of cotton wool stuck over the IV ‘hole’ in my arm, we said a grateful goodbye to the clinic staff and headed back to the lodge, threading our way through the narrow access running through the centre of the village. Being dark made the journey a bit more difficult than usual since no-one in town seemed to have a single light on (except maybe the little spaza shops) and everyone had taken to sitting outside in front of their houses which meant they were sitting in the road … Here and there folks were eating, some were asleep already, curled up on their front stoep, clothes and all. Kids were still running amok, throwing each other with sticks and stones and wrestling in the dust of the road and when we’d passed the children it was the myriad dogs that appeared out of the dark that we had to watch out for. But we made it back to the tent in one piece to a supper of cup-o-soup. Soup is for sick people, especially chicken soup … Jewish penicillin … but I wasn’t hungry and only manged a spoonful or two before pushing the bowl aside.

We were all wiped out and simply fell into bed to sleep like the dead. With the new day, improvement came … I was revived. Even though I was feeling much better, we decided to stay at Chembe one more day to truly rest and recover properly. I however, will not be cycling for a few days yet and Suzann will have to do her best to take up the slack again. We may not be able to do all the k’s set out for Malawi as a consequence but we’ll give it our best shot …

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