We were up at the crack of dawn for tea and ‘cookies’ (Ritz crackers!) to catch the truck taking us to the wildlife reserve at 6.30am. We’d been warned that early mornings were cooler, and that the game park itself was 3 or 4 degrees below the area outside, but we were (mostly) not prepared for driving 30+ min in an open topped bus at 10’C. We got thoroughly cold right through, especially being sat on a bus for 5 hours.
Ranthambore reserve was once a Maharajah’s hunting ground, now cared for by a special commission. The biggest, most publicised attraction are the tigers that live wild there, although there are lots of other species too. This was the first time I’d seen a side of India that was attractive instead of just dirty and poverty-stricken or outrageously wealthy. In brief summary (because a blow-by-blow account would make drying paint seem exciting) we saw a glimpse of one tiger right at the start of the morning trip, and that was it. However there were lots of other wildlife about, including several varieties of deer, monkeys, birds and crocodiles. In addition the countryside is quite spectacular, with mountains, lakes, streams and even an ancient fortress (that we could not visit) on the brow of a mountain. Our afternoon trip was rather delayed, but we still got to see a good range of wildlife, although by the time we got back we were caked in dust.
When we got back from the wildlife trip Chris was chilled right through again, had a severe headache and was feeling queasy and with a tummy ache, so showered to thaw out & went to bed. There was obviously more to it than just a chill, and when I got back after dinner she was feeling sick & cycling hot & cold with a fever.
I went off for dinner, then came back and stopped up until about 11.30 to write up the Fatehpur Sikri visit and train journey, then went to bed.
When I laid down I just pulled the covers back as normal, but found myself shivering, so over went the thin sheet. Still not enough, so the duvet came up to my waist, again insufficient, and so it went until I was completely buried in bed clothes, yet with a nose that felt cold to the touch. Then came the muscle and joint pains, the jabs in the stomach, the queasiness, the feeling that one’s bottom my commit some serious betrayal. Finally, the fevered temperature brought distorted thoughts, and it felt as though my personality and understanding were being shattered into tiny pieces, demonic faces pulling things this way and that, all while unreadable scripts would flash past my minds eye.
Every few minutes things would become too painful in legs, back, side or arms, or I’d get too hot or too cold and have to cover up or uncover. At one point my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I developed sore patches in my mouth and throat where the membranes had dried too much and become damaged a little. 3 times in that seemingly endless night I got up for a drink, and it seemed like it had stones crushing my head as I staggered to the bathroom. Trying to spit to clear my throat was impossible and every burp brought a highly resented reminder of the curry we’d eaten every day for lunch, dinner and sometimes even breakfast.
Heaven only knows how the original explorers coped with this kind of thing, with the floor for a bed, filthy water, and no meaningful medication. It later transpired that all but 3 of the group went down with this to some degree – we’d both had a cholera vaccine before leaving, and seemed to escape more lightly than most of the others - £72 very well spent!
Morning eventually came at 7.30am. Chris seemed to fall asleep properly at some stage, judging by the light snoring, and seemed almost back to normal, though weak and with a migraine brewing (Maxalt melts are wonderful things, and it went away without returning). I was very weak, although my temperature had at least stabilised more or less, but was still very wobbly and heady. Eventually managed a shower, then breakfast (1 slice of dry toast & a banana + sweet tea).
Before breakfast I was quite ready to call it a day: I’d seen enough of India, eaten way too much good but extremely similar tasting curry – just pop me on a plane and I’ll go home now! We were about half way through, and I hoped that was it for the sickness. Several others had all gone down with the same thing at the same time, so my guess is that we’ve been fed something iffy, probably lunchtime at the buffet in the hotel at Ranthambore when the food was only luke-warm.