Sitting in a hipster café, in a town dubbed ‘Bali’s beating cultural heart’, I feel out of place. Everybody else is glowing, goddess-like, their yogi pants tight on their taut thighs, feathers in their hair and white crochet tank tops against tanned skin.
I, on the other hand, look like an extra from Shaun of the Dead. Grey face, sunken eyes, puffy skin, broken expression. I plaited my hair at least – but that was three days ago and I think the charm wears off when it’s frizzy and unwashed.
I got ill. Head cold, chest infection and a migraine for good measure. This would normally be the time I ring mum to tell her I’m coming over to camp on her sofa for a week and she’d better have Ribena, snacks and a cuddly dog waiting for me.
But alas, I was in Lombok in Indonesia, and to make it worse, I was alone. My wonderful travelling companion had just left me, she was bound for home, I was bound for Bali.
It came on suddenly. I was sitting in the airport for 8 hours waiting for my flight to Bali (delayed), and could feel my body deteriorate. I couldn’t think straight. Everything ached and nothing made sense. By the time I landed, I’d had to cancel all bookings and check into the closest airport hotel I could find. It’s amazing how quickly travelling plans can change.
I woke up the next day in the airport hotel and could feel the tell-tale pressure of a chest infection. My head was stuffed with snot and a migraine had burrowed nicely in my right temporal lobe. With no access to a pharmacy, healthy food or even large bottles of water (the hotel only sold tiny bottles for crazy prices), I needed to move. I packed up, checked out, and caught the two hour bus to Ubud, said hipster town.
The bus journey was a blur. I had a temperature, which, in 31 degree heat, wasn’t ideal. When we finally reached Ubud, I headed straight to the pharmacy and found cough syrup, some herbal cold and flu tablets they recommended, and ibuprofen. All of it was in Indonesian.
Back in my new found hotel/den in Ubud, I tentatively sipped the cough syrup. It was disgusting. The box gave nothing away at how much I should take. So I took a glug. 10 minutes later I passed out and woke up, 4 hours later, feeling marginally better.
Two days went by, where I would sleep, take more drugs, sleep some more, force myself to shuffle out and hunt down orange juice and vegetables, force them down me (I still wasn’t hungry), then return, exhausted from the trip. I skipped dinners, slept badly and watched too much Harry Potter. The hotel staff must have thought I’d just been dumped at the altar, for all the shuffling around I did with tissues in my hand.
But Ubud was a life saver. Yes, I probably wasted one of the most culturally beautiful cities in the world by hibernating inside a hotel room for so long, but I have finally emerged, still a caterpillar, but less of a maggot. I celebrated with a little trip to this hipster café and ordered an ‘Orange Spirilius; orange juice, Irish moss (don’t ask), mylk (no idea) and ice (frozen water), said to be their ‘immune booster’. It’s comfortingly vile.
I still feel weak, drained, and a bit shocked how I could get so ill so quickly, but it was a humbling experience. Being ill sucks, being ill when you’re alone and abroad is GRIM. Thank god it didn’t turn into anything serious, and best wishes to all those solo travellers feeling sick right now.
A note: For the first time in my life, I actually took out a decent travel insurance policy for my trip to Indonesia. It was such a comfort to know if it had got worse, a visit to the Doctor’s would have been covered.