Before that though, let’s talk about happier times. Some friends and I made plans to explore Lake Maninjau, a crater lake in Sumatra, in Indonesia, by unicycle. It’s one of my favorite trips to date – I get to whine about physical exercise to friends who can relate; there’s great scenery and we get to distract kids from attending school.
It also instilled in me a long-term love for nasi padang and jus alpukat (an avocado shake drizzled with gula melaka and love). For the uninitiated (you haven’t lived), authentic nasi padang is not just a dish but a whole process. You’ll pick a couple of dishes you really like and these will be laid out on a table for your companions with of course, a plate of rice for each. These dishes can be refilled if you wish and you’ll be charged by what and how much you’ve consumed.
Because I’m a bit of a history nerd, I’ve also found out that there is a Dutch equivalent, the Rijsttafel (Rice table), that’s stemmed from this practice, brought back to Europe by hungry colonists. As I’m typing this, I’m also googling on where I can get great nasi padang/rijsttafel in my area so you get the idea.
Anyways. There’s great scenery. In all the travels I’ve done subsequently, I’d discovered that a ‘reflective’ lake is kind of a big thing. People actually do travel to see themselves twice, a concept I’m still struggling to understand.
Lake Maninjau is really nice, particularly so when you’re in the cool comforts of your room and not the sweltering heat that requires a double dose of that Instagram filter on your selfie and maybe an erase filter so people don’t see Satan in the background reveling in the heat. .
As I’d mentioned, we were dumb kidults and brought our unicycles with us on the promise of adventure. After a couple days of riding around, we were probably were closer to a heatstroke than we thought and were so incredibly sore, a rest day was welcome.
That’s when someone had a brilliant idea of an excursion to look at Rafflesia.
A Lesson in Great Ideas
We had a guide pack food for us – a very delectable mix of sambal, fish and rice – and we ended up trekking for hours, abseiling up and down rock faces with VERY sore thighs. Oh how we laughed at each other. With each “Ooh” and “Ahh!” from mere stepping up rocks, we giggled and shoved each other so we’d hurt more.
I’m unsure if anyone else had expectations but I really did think that “taking a walk to see Rafflesia” involved a casual 15 minute stroll to look at some flowers and not a 6 hour hike into hell to smell hell in a flower.
It wasn’t even the right season so the flower was there but that was that. I’m unsure still if I’d be happier if it had stunk so bad we would vomit from the putrid stench.
We walked. And walked. And scaled things. We pinched off leeches from ourselves and trekked further with bloody clothes. It was a mess; a war zone. When we got back to the hotel, I pinched off a leech that was so full it started vomiting my blood before dying. I should have known.
That was the last day of our trip. We came back to Singapore safe and sound and we laughed and joked about our trip.
The Real Adventure
The first day of my torment started the day after.
It started with a really high fever and by the time I got up in the morning, I couldn’t sit upright without color draining from my vision. Since I had to both shit and vomit, at some point, I was running blind to the toilet to unload.
By afternoon, I was bedridden with a bottle of isotonic drink by my side and some antibiotics that would banish demons from my digestive tract. My back ached and my doctor gave me a miserly day off. I guess if I passed out, there were enough people around who could either call the ambulance or the undertaker.
Expelling demons through your anus is apparently much more painful than the bible would have you believe (if it had mentions about it). After the first 10 poops, you kind of start developing a phobia for farting. You’ll also stop having any cravings for anything remotely spicy.
I think it took a week to fully detox. I might have lost half my body weight to the sewage system and I think I stayed off Indonesian food for a really long time after.