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Yvonne van Dongen: Spew reasons to go off the beaten track

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Projectile vomits aside, a weak constitution does have its upside, as Yvonne van Dongen explains.

'If I'd never suffered travel misery, I'd never have had the pleasure of throwing up on a policeman in the Brighton Railway Station.' Image / Daloui
'If I'd never suffered travel misery, I'd never have had the pleasure of throwing up on a policeman in the Brighton Railway Station.' Image / Daloui

Despite the fact I write about the joys of travel, what I'm best at - actually what I excel in - is travel misery.

So, most of the time the foundation of every glorious travel story is a bedrock of ghastliness. It's the unwritten back-story, my invisible house of pain, the reason why I never indulge in extreme anything. Simply getting out of bed is risk enough. Then getting on a plane? Crikey. Total adrenalin rush.

All because I have the constitution of a mayfly. This is not my fault. Just an unfortunate genetic glitch and to date I haven't let it stop me. I probably should have though.

Thinking about this the other day, my first thought was - imagine what I would have missed.

I'd never have met the late Andrew Quarmby, a UN worker in Nepal, who'd spied me zonked on the Kathmandu Post Office steps. He told me I was unwell. I told him where to get off. Undeterred, he followed me to my dive in Pig Alley whereupon I shooed him away again, but only after drinking six bottles of his water.

The next day Quarmby invited me and my friends to his home until I was well. And, kind man that he was, every day for 10 days Quarmby cycled my dear little stool sample to the hospital just so I could find out I had amoebic dysentery.

If I'd never suffered travel misery, I'd never have had the pleasure of throwing up on a policeman in the Brighton Railway Station. Like Quarmby, the copper had come to see why I looked so poorly.

Before I could explain, the reason why was trickling down his leg and over his shiny footwear. I got a free trip to Exeter Hospital in an ambulance for this feat where I was going to have my stomach pumped since I was surely a drug addict.

Just as they were about to insert the tube they asked me what I'd been doing, so I mentioned the fish'n'chips I'd eaten, omitting to mention that my companions said they were foul, but since I am a human gannet, I'd eaten the lot.

"Was it the Greek outfit?" they asked. Er, yes. Oh dear.

The stomach pumping stopped but the heaving didn't.

Alas, the railways were on strike so I spent four hours on the train back to London making my carriage unfit for human habitation. My companions were mortified.

Plus I'd never have experienced the kindness of strangers.

I have fainted in numerous airports, once so embarrassingly the Herald photographer I was with walked away.

An Australian couple, who still send me Christmas cards, carried my ailing self on board the plane, hissing under their breath "Bloody men!" The photographer steadfastly ignored us.

Then there's the meanness of hotel staff. On that same trip I threw up in my hotel room, ordered some water and when it came, the waiter refused to leave until I'd crawled out of bed, on hands and knees dragging my bucket with me, to get him a tip from my bag on the other side of the room. Now, tell me why you love India.

If I'd never suffered travel misery I'd never have been wheeled through Customs in those whizzy wheelchairs or been given a restorative medical massage in Thailand.

So I'm proud of defying my genes. Most of the time.

Clever doctors know the truth, though. A wise, old specialist dive doctor who was supposed to give me a certificate of health for a learn-to-scuba-dive trip in Queensland sent me away saying: "My dear, I wouldn't allow you on the boat."

Before that he'd said "Do you think you could even lift the aqualung? Also, it's likely your brain has scars and you don't want to find out how bad they are 60 feet down."

That, I thought, was laying it on a bit thick.

Besides, I might have been poorly most everywhere in the world but I have never, not once, ever been seasick.

- NZ Herald

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