On a quiet morning in the dappled light of the pine forest, the Climber and I made our way through the raspberries (nibbling quite a few on the way) to a little crag in the Frankenjura. It’s a very pretty spot, tall trees above and a springy carpet of pine needles below. The rock was a bit damp from the light overnight rain but not wet.
The Climber did a few laps on some of the harder stuff (easy for him) and I tested out my lead head with a few 5a+’s. I felt awesome! Sure it’s easy climbing (the jugs were big enough for wildflowers to grown in) but it felt so good to not be vomitusly terrified. I ended the day tired but terribly pleased with my effort and ready to crank it up a notch the next day. The think the Climber was pretty chuffed that I was finally enjoying leading.
Unfortunately, in the night I started to feel a little bit sick. By morning I was proper sick – complete with almost uncontrollable vomiting and frantic hole digging. Yuck. The Climber was certain that this was caused by the raspberries from the day before and was sure that if only I ate enough bananas I would soon be cured. I have no idea where he gets these ideas. After two days of this we decided that we should probably visit a chemist as it wasn’t getting better by itself. I took the stuff he gave us and miserably returned to the forest to see if there was any improvement.
I was quite conscious of the fact that I had six days before my flight to Kathmandu (on my way to Rishikesh) and I was damned if I was going to let some stupid tummy bug stop me finally getting to India. So I demanded that David drive us to Berlin, so that I could be sure that I was in place to get my flight to Paris (the first leg of the trip).
We started driving and got about a quarter of the way before something about my slumped figure indicated to the Climber that the time had come to detour to the nearest hospital. Apparently ‘I’m FINE!’ becomes less convincing when you haven’t stopped vomiting in four days. We were, at this juncture, in the absolute middle of German no-where and the closest hospital was in Naila. Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry. You’re not missing much.*
At the hospital we were directed to the waiting room where the nurses quickly decided I was a diabolical germ menace and so we were promptly seen to by a doctor. Well, I think he was a doctor. Curiously, despite the fact that every second person you meet in Germany speaks more or less fluent English, absolutely no one (expect for one Indian doctor) spoke English at Naila hospital. It was rather lucky that the Climber speaks German.
In any event, I was taken to an isolation room, where I was to spend the next four days. By ‘isolation’ I mean that I wasn’t supposed to leave but everyone else came in at will, some bothering with the gowns and masks, most not.
In what my mother-in-law assures me is typical German hospital fashion (she should know, she was a nurse there), the nurses didn’t feel it was at all necessary for me to have access to a shower, and in fact refused to let me across the hall to one. Now, I felt rather sick, but you have to feel quite deathly to not care about having not showered in a week and being covered in your own bodily fluids. So, after enduring the filth for three long hospital days, I dragged myself to the bathroom sink determined not to leave until I passed out or washed myself properly. Totes didn’t pass out.
On the first day the hospital didn’t bother with food – just a cracker or two and the drip. That was fine with me. The second day it must have been decreed that I should try some light food. I would have thought that a few more crackers and perhaps a bit of dry toast would be in order but obviously I think quite differently to the German health authorities. Wurst Salat (a number of different sausages chopped up and stirred together with some diabolical approximation of mayonnaise) is not a dish I would recommend to anyone and I would strongly attempt to dissuade anyone who feels even the slightest bit unwell from smelling it, let alone consuming it.
I continued to feel horridly unwell and so it was proposed that an endoscopy and colonoscopy be undertaken. Oh joy. I had managed pretty well until the second jug of the pooping mixture started to take effect and then I burst into tears of exhaustion and frustration. Meanwhile, the Climber was fighting his own battle against the hospital accounts woman: Das Boarface. She was of the opinion that the Climber ought to go directly to an ATM, withdraw several thousand Euros and deliver these to her and then he could make a claim on our insurance when we returned home. He was of the opinion that she should accept the guarantee being offered by the insurer. This was complicated by the fact that the insurer’s contact was in Spain and their German agent, based in Greece, was on holiday and that they hadn’t any other staff who could speak German. Das Boarface was unwilling to accept an officially translated letter and couldn’t get her head around the idea that the insurance procedures for medical expenses are quite different to those for a lost handbag.
Four days after arriving in Naila I still felt wretched and was also now quite puffy from all the saline (when you poked my skin it was kind of squishy, like a waterbed). Nevertheless, the doctors decided that my ‘levels’, whatever these might be, were sufficiently reduced to release me. I was strongly encouraged to not rebook my flight to Kathmandu but instead stay in Europe or return to Australia.
I couldn’t actually stay in Europe as my visa was going to expire in three days and so, at my mother’s insistence, I booked myself tickets from Berlin to Adelaide. The Climber decided to drive the van back to Sweden to sell it and then meet me in Australia.
And so we headed to Berlin.
In consideration of my being sick we’d decided to splurge on indoor plumbing and booked into a cheap and cute little hotel in an old apartment building near Kreuzberg. It was very comfortable but I didn’t really sleep either night because I had absolutely awful stabbing stomach pains. The Climber demanded that I eat more bananas.
In the two days we were there I managed a few gentle strolls around the area. We visited an old crossing of the Wall where there was a very moving memorial to Peter Fechter, who at 18 became the first person to die trying to cross to the West. We also had a bit of a poke around Kreuzberg itself, admiring the street art and having a look at a few of the fun little shops and bars. Feeling weak and tired, I made the most of the green space of the Prinzessinnengarten, a lovely little community garden. There were tables set up under the trees and we spent a morning and an afternoon quietly talking, cuddling, trying to read German newspapers and enjoying the soft light of a European summer. It wasn’t the raging party weekend I’d planned to finish the trip with, but it was very sweet.
*actually, one damned interesting thing did happen near Naila, once.