It was the middle of August, wet fat clouds hanging low on the horizon, the grey starting to turn a distinct black and the Yucatan sky was ready to deliver its storm.
I remember viewing the impending tempest from the top of El Castillo, fascinated by the quickness the storm gathered across the Chichen Itza grounds and beyond. I imagined the great civilization thriving below this MesoAmerican step pyramid, its four staircases leading out its four sides, with a plumed serpent resting its head at the bottom.
As I descended the steps, thunder cracking in the distance, my mind drifted forward past the Mayans as the Aztecs were the next to dominate the land. Lightning crashed nearby and the sound of thunder rolled overhead and propelled me down faster until I finally leapt to the ground.
The sky unleashed its watershed of rain before I made one yard and by the time I made the shelter I was drenched. The wrath of the wind whipped the sides of the wooden structure. While I huddled with the masses, I peaked outside and imagined a figure in the middle of the field, arms reached high, his bright red headdress on his head, exclaiming his royalty to everyone. It was an Aztec emperor who executed his brother for singing and beating his drum too loudly.
I pondered the thought when, in the farthest reaches of my belly, the first gurgle hit. Moctezuma, or more commonly known as Montezuma, had taken his revenge, an evil course striking down the best of tourist.
This microscopic bacteria that makes camp in the small intestines works its havoc on more travelers than I believe its namesake ever did to his people.
Traveler’s diarrhea or TD, so clinically named, goes by several other more descriptive names. We are all familiar with Montezuma’s Revenge when traveling in the land of Mexico. But whether you’re in India with Delhi belly, or Morocco with Casablanca crud, traveling and keeping healthy in foreign countries where your immunity hasn’t developed to many of the pathogenic organisms can bum out the whole trip.
There are a few actions you can take to reduce the chances of these buggers from hitching a ride inside of you.
First and foremost, don’t drink the tap water; drink bottled water every time, every where.
Second, walk right past the street vendor with the wonderful smells coming from the stall and choose a local restaurant instead. If you do hit up the vendor, your chances increase 30-50 percent of coming down with the Turkey trot and getting to know the bathrooms very well.
Luckily the bug passes in two to four days. For those unlucky, a week of turbulent intestines makes the vacation a very memorable one.
Other factors to consider: give up ice while on your trip (usually made with tap water); open your own bottles; tea or coffee should be boiled thoroughly; and stick to cooked foods. Avoid raw vegetables and pass on the green salads. Hot soups are always a good choice. And be sure to eat the cooked foods while they’re hot – if it’s sitting around and cooling off, bacteria-carrying flies have time to visit the food.
While sick with TD, drink lots of fluids with electrolytes (add electrolyte powder packets to your care package before traveling) and eat a bland diet of toast, rice, noodles, bananas, and soups. No hot and spicy foods….ouch!
A bottle of acidophilus tablets to munch on the whole trip won’t hurt either, and has left me the only one standing with not as much as one gurgle to trouble me (lesson learned after Mexico).
But most of all don’t worry. If struck down, as the old Arabic saying goes, “The dogs bark, the caravan passes,” and so will Montezuma’s Revenge.