I couldn’t understand why I was feeling extremely tired, we only had to cover 350 kilometres on a beautiful constructed but seriously boring motorway. I had just to promise to the toll guards I would get off at the next off-ramp. A false promise, as I knew full well I wasn’t even going to slow down. The only reason I could think of for why I was so tired was that I wasn’t bike fit any more after spending a week off the motorcycle while I was in Lahore.
A few days earlier, I walked into my guest house to see two slightly familiar faces but I couldn’t place them.
They jumped up and introduced themselves, apparently they new me! But I still didn’t click until they prodded me a bit more with extra information. In India I had contacted a Dutch couple (Roderick and Marleen) who were travelling in an old ambulance that they had converted into a camper van. We quickly worked out our paths were not even going to cross as we had completely different time frames. They had been on the road for a year now, and were on the way home for Roderick’s birthday in just over a months time.
‘Ahhhhh, the couple in the van! I laughed ‘Why are you behind me? You should be in front of me!’ They laughed ‘We thought you would be a long way ahead of us, until we saw your name in the book at the border!’
We seem to fall into an easy friendship that felt as if it was based on years but yet was only based on a couple of emails and a few minutes in each other’s company.
We finally arrived in Islamabad Rose Garden camping ground, which was managed by the Pakistan Army. A few years ago a group of locals tried attacking the camp ground and since then there has been a man behind a barricade defending the main gate with a rifle. It was slightly unnerving, but secure at the same time.
With less than an hour before dark, I tried to get my tent up as fast as possible, but something was wrong. I was feeling really sluggish and I couldn’t concentrate. I was fumbling with the simplest connections on my MSR tent. I said a quick hello to the Swiss overlanders who were already there and excused myself to carry on pitching my MSR tent. As soon as it was up and everything else was set up, Roderick asked me if I was ok, ‘No, I don’t think so, I’m feeling really hot and I cannot concentrate on anything, I think I just going to lay down for a few minutes’ and crawled into my tent.
Laid out on my sleeping bag, my head was cooking and I felt as if my lips were swelling up and on fire, but the rest of my body was shaking. Oh boy, this cannot be good, I thought to myself. I hardly ever get sick, and like most people I hate being sick. Today of all days as it was my 30th birthday! I should be celebrating with a beer that Roderick and Marleen smuggled from India into the country. But instead, I am feeling sorry for myself. I take a panadol to try to reduce my temperature. As I feel it kicking in, I drag myself out of my tent to sit with the others to try and enjoy what was left of my birthday.
Rodirick offered to makes us all dinner. Grabbing the ‘just heat in hot water’ instant food we brought from a supermarket in Lahore that morning, I nibbled at the surprisingly tasty meal even though I wasn’t hungry. I couldn’t believe it, this was shaping up to be quite a memorable birthday! Despite I was miles from my family and friends, and feeling like rubbish, I didn’t feel alone. The Pakistan Bikers Club were all congratulating me and I received a Honda 50cc Timing chain as a key chain present, and Malik from my guest house in Lahore arrived that morning with the biggest bunch of flowers I’ve ever received in my life.
After dinner, I crawled back into my cocoon and fell into a restless, fearful sleep only brought on when you’re sick. At one point in the night I woke with a start, knowing full well I have to get to the bathroom as soon as possible.
Normally, I would run out in my boxer shorts and singlet, but here in Pakistan that like walking around naked! Fumbling with my clothes, wasting precocious time, I emerged from my tent to find it was raining. Stumbling in the dark, as I had forgotten to grab my torch, I got to the bathroom just in time.
As I hobbled back to my tent, feeling extremely light headed, not even noticing the rain until a large shadow stepped in front of me, causing me to jump out of my skin. I had forgotten all about the army, the guy standing in front of me was dripping wet despite the poncho he was wearing, his gun he held across his chest ready for any trouble. ‘There is a free room is you want to shift’ he said to me in slow broken English. ‘No, no, I’m ok’. There was no way I was going to shift my gear in the night when I barely had any energy to walk to the bathroom!
I woke with another start, it was morning. I slid out of my sleeping bag, I was still in the clothes I had put on last night, but they clung damp to my body. I must have sweated all night. Hobbling as fast as I can go, I reach the toilet with seconds to spare. Once again on my return, I stumbled all over the place, I was feeling light headed and the world was starting to spin. I knew this feeling, I’m about to black out if I don’t lie down immediately. Marleen poked her head out of the van’s window ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘I’m not too good, sorry I have to go and lie down, I’m feeling really dizzy’. I felt rude, but if I stood a second longer they were going to have a bigger problem!
Inside my tent, I watched the rain hit my tent, congeal together and roll down the side in a large droplet gathering more along the way and increasing with speed. God, I must be sick. If I was lying here on any other day I would be going crazy with boredom in my little yellow bubble.
While shuffling everything around in my tent I had discovered water had seeped through a hole in the floor of my tent. I had completely forgotten about the last time I pitched my tend and later found a cicada inside my tent. On closer inspection, I realised it had hatched underneath it and eaten it’s way out through my tent into the light. I knew I had to fix it but I didn’t have the energy, plus I wasn’t wet yet.
I hear the van door opening and a heavy foot step come towards my tent.
Roderick’s voice penetrated my thin walls ‘Hows it going in there?’ ‘I’m ok, just resting a lot’ ‘Did you want to come into the van?’ This sounded like heaven on earth so I packed up my sleeping bag and crawled into their comfortable bed.
The van was decorated with brightly coloured streamers as today it was Marleen’s 30th birthday! What’s the chance of meeting two like minded people and have our 30th birthday so close! Rodirick and Marleen sat at the table playing a board game while I dozed most of the day, grateful to have a comfortable bed, a house and nice people to wait on me hand and foot!
The time it took to walk to the bathroom seemed to get longer, I was feeling the energy getting sucked out of me. On one particular mission, I watched my vision fading until I could only make out the shapes in black and white. I felt extremely light headed, placing my hands out before me I prepared to keel over, but I was able to sit down on the ledge of the concrete path. Holding my head up in my hands, I blinked trying to clear my vision all while I felt pressure on my bladder. Slowly faint green crept into my sight. I stood once again as the pressure on my bladder was intensifying. I walked a couple of meters before I felt dizzy once again and the faint green faded into a sharp black and white picture before me. I only half felt the ground as I sat down a second time.
I was really scared now, I didn’t know what was happening to me and I couldn’t call out to anyone. I don’t know how many minutes past before my vision slowly came back to me first starting with green then the blues, I lifted myself off the ground and shuffled the remaining five meters to the bathroom. I noticing one of the army guards who was washing the dishes stood to check to make sure I was ok. I gave him a weary half nod and carried on past him, I just had to pee.
On my return to the van, I was extremely relieved that I could get there in one go. I lay down on the bed and told Roderick what had happened. He suggested I should take antibiotics, it was something you normally avoid until you were sick for at least a couple of days, but I was heading down hill really fast. I pulled out my first aid kit and tried to work out which pill to take and how many.
After another so called ‘dash’ to the bathroom, I felt as if nothing was improving, Roderick asked which pill I had taken. I looked down and read out Idiom. ‘Why did you take that one?’ ‘huh?’ ‘It’s a stopper not an antibiotic’ ‘shit, I thought…’ wow I must have been really delirious as I never take just the stopper unless you really have to. I rummage through my first aid kit once again and pull out the right pills and take that. Within a few hours I felt a lot better, I still couldn’t sit up and my long journeys to the bathroom were not taking as long, but I was far from right.
Not long after I had taken the pills, I suddenly leapt up and made for the door, holding my mouth. At the door of the van I couldn’t hold it any longer and it just exploded from my mouth. ‘I’m so sorry’ I managed to say feeling completely embarrassed before it happened again one step from the door. I sat down on a chair for a second before I had to do another round. Before washing down the area, Roderick and I had to check my vomit for evidence of the pill I had taken. Luckily for me I hadn’t eaten anything and didn’t have to dig around!
Roderick and Marleen were on a tight dead line and didn’t have much time. They had planned to leave the next day to the KKH. Originally I hope to travel with them, but from the way I was feeling, there was no way I was going to be able to. I needed more rest. I crawled back into my slightly damp tent and fell into a deep sleep despite the on and off dozing I had done all day.
I woke to see the sun shining, I crawled back out of my MSR tent and felt amazing, like a completely different person. I walked to the bathroom and back stopping to talk to the Swiss couple who I had ignored the two days before hand. I had been standing a whole 30 minutes before I felt as if I have better sit down again. This was a record compared to the previous day.
That morning, everyone left me for the KKH. I was now the only camper left at the camping grounds. I shakily walked across the road and spend an hour doing a couple of small chores before heading back to my tent for the rest of the day.
Over the next couple of days, I felt my energy return to me as I started eating once again and was able to venture out to the diplomatic enclave and apply for my Iran visa. A German motorcyclist called Michael arrived, another old German guy travelling alone in a huge camper van pulled in and then a young Swedish cyclist magically appeared in the night. I was no longer alone and started to enjoy talking to everyone as I become myself once again.
No matter where you went in Islamabad you came across these plants – in fact unknowingly I pitched my tent in the middle of a huge patch photo by Michael
NB. Sorry for the lack of photos, I know you all love looking at the pictures rather than reading – My only excuse was that I was too sick!