After four fantastic days in El Nido, it was time to be on our way. In the extremely cramped interior of a tricycle we, along with all our luggage, made our way to our next destination, bouncing and bumping along for over an hour. Nacpan is a 4 km long unspoiled coastline with white sand and turquoise water, and we were going to put our feet up there for the next four days. And when I use the word “unspoiled”, I mean it literally. At Nacpan, every five minutes nothing happens, followed by some more nothing a minute later. Just for extra effect.
We made ourselves at home in an eco-friendly (read “without electricity”) wooden shack barely ten meters from the beach, and with the hypnotic clash of waves in our ears and the prospect of four full days of doing absolutely nothing, our couch-potato meters were pushed deep in the red. But shortly thereafter, Mr Fate would also be on our doorstep…
A golden rule for any traveller is to respect the host country’s fauna and flora. Regardless whether it’s a kangaroo in Australia, a tulip in the Netherlands, or a goat in Zimbabwe. The Philippines do not have a variety of game species that will have Richard Attenborough jump on the next plane, but there were some tropical birds that made me look twice, and next to the Nacpan Road I even saw a water buffalo or three grazing in the distance. In addition to this uninspiring sum of viewing, however, I could not observe any other animal life with the naked eye. Of course, that shouldn’t be a problem, because what the eyes don’t see, the heart does not feel. But – as I discovered to my deepest regret – what the eyes don’t see, may be felt very, very intensely by intestines.
It started shortly after our first evening’s dinner – there was a suspicious rustle in my intestines. A rustle that I initially attributed to the digestion of the food that we had just eaten. A very ordinary, everyday phenomenon. But the rustle soon developed into a rumble, and the rumble soon became a grumble. And the next thing I knew, the grumble turned into a mighty roar.
Somewhere, someone reading this might be eating right now, and therefore I will deal with the finer details very economically. Within the scope of only a few hours I underwent a complete metamorphosis – from a careless holidaymaker to a human jet fountain. A two-way human jet fountain, to be precise. And no matter how loud I called George, he never answered…
Thanks to the many, many periods of youth preparedness that I attended in school in the 1980s, I was fully aware that it was of the utmost importance to remain calm during this crisis. Not to put the cart before the horse, not to make a mountain of an ants’ hill, not to throw out the baby with the bath-water. I was indeed in the process of being turned inside out, in a godforsaken place without any medication. But I just had to stay calm and take the blow on the chin (and on my guts) because the microscopic creature that was wreaking havoc in my intestines, would find its way out again – sooner or later.
Unfortunately for me, this turned out to be later rather than earlier. Much later. At first I was afraid that I would die, but later I was afraid I would not die. I had chills, I had fever, I had crying fits and I had deliriums, but I could not be persuaded to look for a doctor, because I would “feel better soon”. Eventually, after two days and two nights of feverish eruptions (and… well, spitfiring), I threw in the towel and we embarked on the gruelling journey back to the relative civilization that El Nido offered.
When traveling, hospitals are not very high on my list of attractions – for obvious reasons. This time, however, I was prepared to make an exception, but to my utter dismay I had to learn that as far as health care is concerned, a clinic was the best that El Nido could offer. Then, again, at that stage I would have been more than happy to be treated by just about any quack, and in my view the unsung Palawan Medical City was on par with the best hospitals in the world.
I cannot recall much about the hour it took us to reach El Nido in that rickety tricycle, but when I finally stood before the receptionist at the clinic, my knees were on the point of collapsing under me, quite like a wiggling new-born little rooibok. But despite my unsteadiness, I was examined, and I was asked to provide a series of samples. And, given the medical condition in which I found myself, that was one of the easiest medical requests with which I ever had to comply.
Barely ten minutes later, the verdict was returned: a parasite, with the intimidating name of “Entamoeba Histolytica”, found his/her/its way into my bowels. I was more hydrated than an SAD raisin, and all that would help was a dose of antibiotics (administered intravenously), followed by a bag of the most nutritious vitamin water that the Philippines could offer (also administered intravenously).
So there I lay – on a wooden bench in a semi-luminous room, with wide strips of adhesive bandage holding a needle as thick as a baby’s little finger in my forearm. Defenceless. Listless. Powerless. But thanks to uncle biotic’s wife (antibiotics!) that kicked in, a fight to death started between that damned parasite and me. In the process of slipping in and out of my trances, I called for help to, respectively, my mother, Santa Clause and Naas Botha, but just as the case was with George, those pleas of mine also fell on deaf ears.
After about four hours of roller coasting, I started to gain the upper hand over the parasite, largely thanks to the intravenous chemical boost which I received earlier. Well into the seventh round, I finally knocked it out. After one more hour, I could get out of my sick bed, and soon we were on our way back to our beach paradise at Nacpan.
As is often the case, this time there was also a bit of luck with the accident. Before leaving China, I decided to go jogging on the Nacpan Beach every morning and every night, in an effort to shrink those roles that were accumulating along my waste. Inviting a parasite to help me achieve this goal, was not part of my original plan, but after shaking several kilograms within only three days, I’m more than ever convinced that the end justifies the means. Thus, as far as battles to lose weight are concerned, I can now recommend the E. Histolytica parasite. Don’t wait – catch one today! It really works!
Next week you can read more about our adventure in the Philippines.
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