I woke up early the next morning and rushed to the bathroom. I could hear and feel the gurgling in my belly. “This can’t be happening…” is all I could think to myself. But it was. I had the inevitable traveler’s diarrhea. I had eaten just a few pieces of lettuce the night before which must have caused this. Francis, our guide, had told us not to eat anything that could have been rinsed in the water. But I was craving some fruits and vegetables, and it was just a few pieces. I really didn’t think much of it…then, at least. So I spent a few hours rushing back and forth between the bed and the bathroom before everyone else woke up.
“You should really just take some Imodium,” Mike pleaded with me after he found out what condition I was in. “I promise you, in an hour, you won’t have this problem anymore.”
I was reluctant, thinking I might have the opposite problem if I over medicated myself, but quickly took a swig of water out of the bottle on my nightstand and threw two pills in my mouth. I took a shower and by the time we left our rooms for the morning, I was back to normal.
We had the day to relax around the resort. There were a few optional tours, but we wanted some downtime to enjoy the pool and the sun. And Julie and I were going to get massages!
After breakfast, we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool. It was peaceful, beyond peaceful. There were only three other people at the pool, and the quietness of the desert brought a serene feeling about all of us. We lathered on sunscreen and grabbed a few drinks before jumping in the pool.
Seconds after we were soaking up the coolness of the water, Matt screamed, “No! Stop! Come back!” and went running and splashing out of the water. We looked in the direction he was running and saw that a monkey had ever so swiftly swiped the sunscreen bottle that was sitting on the table near our chairs and towels. We had been told that the monkeys were quick and liked to steal things if they could. But sunscreen?! I could feel the laughter of the monkey and his friends as they tossed the sunscreen bottle back and forth, high in the trees, celebrating their victory. From then on, we kept our things in a tightly secured bag tied to a chair.
Matt and Mike decided to enjoy the sun for another hour or so while Julie and I were getting our massages. We headed to a small, round building right next to the pool area. It was like a tent, but more permanent, with a straw roof and ceiling. The temperature was cool and it smelled of massage oils. There was a soft music playing in the background, and inside were two small rooms, separated by a sheet hanging from the ceiling. We both took our places on the massage tables and were told that each massage would consist of several parts.
First, there would be an exfoliation of the skin, followed by a quick shower. Second, we would be moisturized, followed by another quick shower. Finally, the deep tissue massage would end our hour.
I took off my bathing suit and crawled, not so gracefully, up and onto the high table. The very kind masseuse covered me with a white towel and began rubbing my skin with what felt like sand and body lotion. A few minutes later, she asked me to get back into my wheelchair and follow her. I assumed I was headed for the first of my two showers. What I didn’t know, though, is that I would have to go outside, wheel around the entire building and pool area, and proceed up a very large step to get to the shower. And of course I would be doing this wrapped in a towel while attempting to maneuver through rough grass.
I more than exposed myself several times with the towel falling from my chest to my waist every few seconds. I simply couldn’t hold it in place and propel myself at the same time. At one point, I just gave up and started moving quickly, completely topless, through the grass and around the building. “If the rest of the animals can be naked, why can’t I?” I thought to myself. Fortunately, there were few people around, and I doubt anyone actually saw me. Of course, if they did, I’m sure they understood my struggle and never said anything to me. I did this a few more times before my massage ended. Needless to say, it was not the most relaxing experience.
After an afternoon of sunbathing and massages, we took quick showers and headed for the hippo exhibit. Near the resort, just a short walk down a boardwalk and into the desert, there was a swamp where hippos lived. We took a short walk, maybe 15 minutes, and ended on a pier-like landing over looking the dirtiest water I’ve ever seen. It was black, and thick, and mucky. But in the water, deep in the water, were hippos. Boys and girls and babies. A few round, smooth humps stuck out of the water, and there would occasionally be a very loud grunting followed by slow movement as one hippo would reposition themselves in the water. We watched for about 30 minutes as the hippos soaked up the sun, the same way were just hours before.
We ate dinner outside that night, watching the sunset. As it cooled down, Julie decided to go back to the room to get sweaters for each of us. She came back with a perplexed look on her face. “What is going on?” We asked, knowing she must be up to something…
“The staff wouldn’t let me go to the room alone. They told me I could only go if it was an emergency and I told them we really needed something to keep warm. They escorted me carrying a flashlight and two sticks in their hands all the way to my room. And then they waited for me while I got our things.”
“What the heck?” Matt responded.
“Yeh, they said the hippos like to run free after dark and that they will attack the guests. Apparently hippos have killed a lot of humans in the past.”
We wrapped ourselves in our sweaters, thankful that we had guards who would escort us back to our rooms that night. I can’t even imagine what I would do if a hippo approached me…