Everyone dreads the infamous “Delhi belly”. Despite being over 2,500 kms away, Delhi still seemed to be exercising its influence. As we headed inland the heat and humidity climbed substantially such that we were in a constant state of perspiration and needing to drink about four litres of water a day to keep hydrated. When you order a roadside snack and the first thing they have to do is hammer it with a fly swat you know it’s only a matter of time.
In the circumstances it is not a good idea to have a fit of bravado and order the hottest curry in the district, in this case a Chicken Chettinad spiced with black pepper and chillies. About twenty minutes later the bottom fell out of our world as the world fell out of our bottoms.
Worse still, you don’t have the luxury of a sit down toilet and double quilted toilet paper to ease your pain. In this particular “restaurant” the toilet was a hole in the floor with a pair of saloon style swing doors which only reached down to about waist height, so by the time you has assumed the strategic position for ejecting a colon full of bum gravy the whole restaurant could revel in your distress. More so once they clocked the look on your face when you realised the wiping material was your own hand.
In some of the plusher establishments we had the luxury of the “bum gun”, basically a jet wash for the posteria. Being India though this inevitably meant the hose leaked so no matter how carefully you aimed the gun the water would jet out in about ten different directions meaning you left the toilet wetter and shittier than you entered. The next few days took quite a few casualties, all carrying the same pale, clammy complexion of a person whose insides are in knots and whose ring piece feels like its been violated with a traffic cone.
Still, we had no basis for sympathy, a stark reminder of which hit home as we travelled back down the East coast alongside the Bay of Bengal. This coastline had been devastated in the Tsunami of 2004 and the damage was still abundantly evident. The smiley faces of the locals and the inquisitive and cheerful children belied the experiences they must have been through.
We took a walk along the beach and played football with the kids from a nearby village. As we walked back along the golden sands and gazed out to the emerald sea the picture postcard moment was rather ruined by a local man who proceeded to squat and turf out a Mr Whippy of immense proportions. Unfortunately the tide wasn’t yet strong enough to drag it out to sea. We didn’t know whether to look on in horror or admiration that he’d achieved a level of solidity in his turd that we could only dream about.
The overnight stops came as a welcome respite. Due to the prominence of the rally the local Round Table society of wealthy businessmen often hosted the evening for us. Such events started off very sedately with a round of speeches followed by a performance of local dance and traditions.
The nature of the festivities changed somewhat once we’d consumed the contents of the free bar and introduced our own local dance and traditions. The President of the Round Table of Madurai has now discovered the delights of stage diving in to a crowd to “Back in Black” though we’re still not sure if they think the “Caterpillar” or the “Moonwalk” are dance moves or a disability.
The daytime at least left some room for culture and exploration. Something which got better and better the further we went