Friday, August 5, 2016
It was a dark and stormy night. Just kidding. Bulwer-Lytton aside, last night was pretty bad. Genene finally stopped throwing up sometime after 10 PM. She was so thirsty, but each time she tried to take a few sips of water or Gatorade, she threw up again. Her belly needed a rest, and she finally just collapsed into blessed sleep. Greg seemed slightly better, having only tossed his cookies twice in the early evening before collapsing into fitful slumber. I felt like I was in the Monty Python “Bring out your dead!” scene from “Holy Grail.” I was mopping foreheads, packing bags, and trying to get things situated for this morning.
We were moving again today. When we first arrived at the resort, I thought I would never want to leave. Now I just wanted to get us out of here and back to civilization. None of us wanted any part of breakfast at the resort. In the morning, Genene was just beginning to hold down some sips of Gatorade, and Greg just wanted to sleep until we had to go. I didn’t have any appetite, and my tummy felt just a bit off. I didn’t know whether I was just having sympathetic grumblings or whether something was really wrong. (When you spend time in a room with two people who are retching the evening away, you begin to think about joining them.) In any event, I did most of the packing because Greg and Genene still felt pretty low. I got everything into our bags and prepared to head out. The lodge wanted us out of our room by 8 AM, but I told them we weren’t leaving until the van was ready to load. They did not argue.
Just before we left our room (the aptly named Shipwreck Goulbourn), our travel agent phoned to let us know that our flight to Sydney had been canceled. And I thought the day couldn’t get any worse. The good news is that they had already booked us on another one. I was very happy that they had taken care of things for us, but it meant we would have a longer layover in Adelaide.
As we left our room, a couple of the lodge waitstaff rushed up and exclaimed, “You didn’t get any breakfast! Would you like us to pack anything?” Ugh. No. We said thanks but no thanks. The massive double doors opened, and the staff all lined up to bid their goodbyes. Miss Peppermint Tea told me to have a pleasant journey. I was reminded of the Stepford lifeguard on the Barrier Reef. What the heck are you thinking of, lady? We are the walking dead here!
We had discreetly asked the hotel manager if we could ride up front in the van, because I thought that would help us with carsickness. No one paid attention to our request, and we got shoved into the back of the van. It was completely loaded, and everyone was quiet on the hourlong ride back to Kingscote except for the little California boy who had spent his time two nights ago chasing kangaroos. He was in the front seat with the driver yapping about nothing, and I wanted to put a pillow over his head. I was just hoping that Greg and Genene could keep their act together–so to speak–so we would not have to stop the van. I had packed an entire roll of toilet paper into the backpack just in case. Happily we all made it to the airport and got checked in. There weren’t even any metal detectors at this airport. I don’t think our bags went through any screening, except for being weighed. I guess they figure if you flew to the island you must be okay.
As we sat in the small terminal gate area waiting for the plane, we began comparing notes with other people from Southern Ocean Lodge. Three of the four members of the family from Calgary were ill. The family from Des Moines had two sick people. We saw another fellow sitting in the corner with his head hanging low. Then we found out that one of the van drivers was a substitute because the regular employee was afflicted with illness. This seemed like a lot of sick people for a resort that only has 21 rooms. Greg and I began to get more annoyed as we thought about it. When we were sitting in our room all day yesterday, we were only made aware of one other person who had been ill. It turned out that a lot more of us were sick. Was it food poisoning? Flu? Virus? We didn’t know, but we knew there were several of us afflicted. I was dismayed that we were not offered better onsite medical care or first aid. With 20/20 hindsight and knowing how many people were affected, I thought that the resort should have brought a doctor to all of us, or at least gone out for a stockpile of medicine and electrolytes. We watched the incoming plane unload, and the Southern Ocean Lodge people were waiting–all smiles and charm–to greet the newcomers. I thought about saying something to them, perhaps giving a warning. In the end, I just sat quietly. I hope it was the right decision.
Our flight back to Adelaide was 20 minutes. I felt like we were returning to civilization. Our airline, REX, was efficient. During the brief flight, they offered a small bottle of water and a single fruity Mentos. I thought it was a nice touch for the little puddle jumper. We had stored our large bags with REX in Adelaide while we went to the island, and they were waiting for us in Adelaide on the luggage carousel, just as promised. At least that part worked right. We took a moment to unpack the safari duffels and repack everything into our three rolling bags, and we headed into the main terminal.
Greg and Genene felt like eating lunch, and so did I. That was a good sign. We didn’t miss those fancy gastronomical experiences one bit. We found a café, and each of us had a simple croissant with ham and cheese and a big old fully leaded Coke.
Greg fell asleep in the terminal. He still felt pretty weak.
I began to feel a little “off”. I hoped it was just my imagination but alas….
The time to leave finally came. It took us forever to board the plane, and we were so far in the back that we loaded from the rear door of the aircraft. Once aboard, I had a small altercation with a rude man who thought he should take up the entire overhead bin with his jacket and briefcase. When I tried to move it to make room for my camera backpack, he admonished me not to wrinkle his jacket. I said, “Why don’t you consolidate it then?” (After all, his jacket and a small briefcase were taking up half the bin.) He got up to move it and then told me my bag was too large for compartment. I finally said never mind and went forward a few more rows and found a spot for my bag. On the way back, I looked at him and said, “Thanks for your help.” My heart was gladdened a few minutes later when a big burly man put his gear on top of the guy’s jacket. I’ll bet the Bin Hog didn’t argue with the Muscle Man quite so much.
Just as we got to cruising altitude, I came to the sad but inevitable conclusion that my stomach rumblings were not in my imagination. I knew I was going to be sick. Luckily we were only three rows from the back of the plane. I jumped up quickly, airsick bag in hand, and managed to make it to the galley area in the back of the plane where the jump seats are. I was out of sight of most everyone, thank goodness, when I tossed up the first load. The flight attendant was a sweet man. He was my angel, the Angel of the Qantas. I couldn’t believe how helpful he was. He got a cold wet napkin for my face and gave me some Vicks “lollies” (candies) to “get the yucky taste out.” I felt miserable. He let me sit in the jump seat for the entire flight with my head hanging low. The flight was just under two hours, which seemed like an eternity as I sat there watching them unload coffee and snacks from the rear galley.
Of course, just as we were coming down to land, the second bout of sickness struck. This time was the real McCoy. I filled the sick bag. It was nasty. (To bring to mind another Monty Python scene, “just one wafer thin mint.”) The Angel advised me to just toss the airsick bag into the trash. The flight was about to land! I managed to squeeze into a bathroom and tried to throw away the sick bag. I was in a hurry because I knew I had to take my seat for the landing, and I felt like ten kinds of crap. I tried to shove the bag into the trash, but we all know what the airplane trash cans look like at the end of a flight. It was so full that the little trap door didn’t want to open. There I was, rushing to shove that bag in, get rid of the evidence, and hustle back to my seat before the air marshals came for me. I pushed a little too hard on the trash can lid, and the entire contents of the bag basically exploded onto me, the side wall of the bathroom, the floor, you name it. It looked like the walls were weeping. I have never been so mortified in all my life. I was walking in it. It was all over me. I kept apologizing to The Angel. I tried to clean it up but just made things worse. The Angel was undoubtedly one of the most gallant men I have ever met. He acted as if this happened every day and was not a big deal. (I hope his job isn’t really like that.) He told me not to worry and said, “The ground crew can clean it up when we arrive. ”
I walked back to my seat in disgrace, tracking the evidence of my shame along behind me. My clothes were spotted. I stank. With each step, I could feel the stickiness beneath my feet. I can never fly Qantas again without wearing a bag over my head. When the plane landed, I let every single person get off the plane before I got up, including the three rows behind me. They deserved to get off first for having to put up with that hideous funk!
Our driver was waiting for us at the baggage carousel, and so were our bags. I guess when you are the last one off the plane, your bags have time to make it to the claim area. We warned the driver that I was sick and refrained from the usual handshakes and pleasantries. He got us to our destination swiftly and without commentary (except for the usual grumbling that experienced drivers do in a big city).
We were returning to Pier One in Sydney, the same hotel where we began our stay in Australia. I felt distinctly unhip this time. The glass of champagne they offered us upon arrival was unappetizing (so you know I was really sick!). We asked them to bring ginger ale to our room, and we went directly to our suite and called a doctor. How novel! They had a doctor on staff and for a price he would make a house call. While waiting for the doctor, I hosed myself off in the shower and bundled all my clothes into plastic. In 40 minutes, the doctor arrived, rolling medicine bag in tow, and checked us out. I didn’t have fever. The doctor told us that our symptoms were “suggestive of food poisoning” but he couldn’t be sure. Whatever it was, it was nasty. He dispensed a fistful of medicines for all of us, and Pier One added his bill to our tab. We felt pampered by Pier One. They knew how to take care of a sick person! They brought cold bottles of water and called to make sure we were okay.
We knew we would be in no condition to tour tomorrow so with sadness we called to cancel our plans. I was particularly let down, because the one thing I felt had been missing from our tour thus far was real and meaningful interaction with aboriginal people. Tomorrow’s tour called for a traditional aboriginal welcome in a sacred area in a national park. It was our last chance to learn more about their culture. When we phoned our guide to cancel, he tried to convince us to change our minds. This only made us feel lower because we really wanted to go. However, none of us could really be persuaded to wake up early after our death march across Australia. We took our medicines, turned off all the alarms, and went to bed.