Bad juju was bound to happen at some point during our Indian journey. Unbeknownst to me, just over two months in India was just the right time for that to kick in.
Varanasi was our downfall. So many things coincided to go wrong, that by the time we were on the plane to New Delhi, I was seriously questioning whether or not we were legit cursed.
Our last day in Varanasi began normal enough: baby goat and water buffalo sighting along the Ganges, men asking: "madam, do you want a boat ride?," children trying to sell me bracelets I don't want.
I am very seriously over Varanasi.
I've seen the burning bodies, fragments of skulls emerge from the flames. I've been blanketed in smoke, my clothes and hair smelling of death all the way home.
I've passed through the intense security, to visit the famed Golden Temple (Kashi Vishwanath) of Shiva, even though my fellow traveler got denied for not being Hindu (I am not Hindu, but somehow that was irrelevant).
I've grappled with giving and taking, with poverty, lies, and confusion. I've felt guilt, and wonder, and shame and revulsion for being able to be here, but also for the awareness in knowing that I am free to leave.
Somewhere while walking amongst these narrow, filthy alleyways and death-filled ghats, we must have picked up a bad hex.
How bad is bad? Think of some of your top travel fears. Now imagine them happening all at the same time.
Sickness, theft, hacking. This story has it all.
I'm pretty sure that everyone ever from a Western country who travels throughout India is well aware of the risk of getting sick from eating uncooked food or drinking unsanitary water. There are plenty of tactics you can practice in order to avoid eating bad food, but ultimately, it's a game of chance. And at long last, we rolled an unlucky hand.
No matter that we'd eaten at the hotel restaurant multiple times previously, we still picked up the sickness. As if that wasn't bad enough, simultaneously, our third travel buddy, who we left behind with the smoking sadus along the Ganges, got pick-pocketed!
Lamenting the robbery, the three of us turn into bed that night. But of course, at 3am it hits me. I awake with a stomach ache like nothing I've felt before. I've read all about getting sick in India, but we're two months in and thus far, I've miraculously survived. Now, cramps and sweats ensue, and there's no doubt that the famed bacterial dysentery is about to take me out. India is christening me at last.
But I'm not the only sickie. Honza has picked up the not-so-friendly gut bacteria too. There's a special kind of joy when two sick Westerners must share a restroom in India.
That night, I hug the toilet. I am horrified, because the next day is a travel day with car rides and a flight to New Delhi. How will I cope?
I pop a cipro as soon as dawn breaks. I feel like death—weak and tired. Nonetheless, we rally and pack. But oh hey, a new complication—when we attempt to pay our hotel bill, I discover my ATM card doesn't work! Now our band of three merry travelers is in a bind. Not only have we lost our primary money source, but two of us are sick, and our backup money is blocked for some mysterious reason.
The drama is on. Multiple ATM machines decline my card saying that the pin is incorrect. I phone my bank, but they tell me my card is not locked and should be working. None of us have access to cash, but at least I have a one very last emergency Mastercard. I pay with this, and we head to the airport by taxi.
I am nauseous, and have been unable to eat or drink all morning. I feel like hell, my energy nonexistent. It's painful to go through security, and during the flight I feel dizzy and unsettled. But we make it to Delhi. Here we are greeted by a godsend, Atul, our glorious Airbnb host who warmly welcomes us to his home where his wife, Marina, immediately reassures us that she will nurse me back to health.
Days of cipro, white rice, water with psyllium husk, homemade Masala chai tea, and hazy, polluted skies. My stomach is grumbly, but at least I can hold food in and sleep through the night.
As we recover and wait for replacement credit cards to be shipped to India (note to self: good luck with that! LOLz), one final glorious obstacle arises: my Mastercard is hacked. Somehow, in this amazing series of bad luck, my emergency credit card has been hacked in the US, entirely independent of my travels. What are the odds?!
Apparently plenty strong when you've been hit with the curse of Varanasi.
Have you ever had a streak of bad luck hit while traveling abroad? Share your thoughts and experiences below!