Falling sick while travelling is a shitty experience, one that I’ve had to get used to in many of my travels. From falling stomach sick for a week in Gondar (Ethiopia) to that time I felt like I was dying from altitude sickness in Huaraz (Peru), I’m no stranger to being bedridden while abroad.
This time, however, getting sick was a whole different experience. Not only did I find myself in the most remote area I had visited in Nepal, a small mountain town comprised of only one road named Nagarkot, but there was also a full-on pandemic going on outside in the world, which made the idea of being sick all the more scary and worrisome.
GETTING TO NAGARKOT
Nagarkot is a very small town up in the mountains, located about 30 Kilometers from Kathmandu. It has a small population of about 4500 people, and offers some of the best hiking routes where one could see the Himalayan range, including Mount Everest.
I first heard of Nagarkot from a couple I had met in Chitwan. I was supposed to meet with them after having spent a few days on my own in the small town of Bhaktapur. Unfortunately, they decided to leave Bhaktapur early and head back to the capital and take a flight back home, out of fear that Nepal – like many other countries in Asia and around the world – would end up imposing a lockdown. Time would prove them right…
I arrived in Nagarkot from Bhaktapur in yet another decrepit rust bucket which took about an hour and a half to cross a painful 14 kilometers road filled with holes so big you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that an asteroid had landed on the road and made a dent.
The bus dropped everyone at the entrance of the town. As the only person wearing a large backpack, I was asked I had to pay a “foreigner entrance fee” of 350 NPR to enter the town.
Nagarkot did not look like much. One main road connects both ends of the town from east to west. There are very few accommodation options in Nagarkot, even though the town is still somewhat popular with tourists. The budget options will most certainly guarantee a shack with a pet cockroach on your bed while you get eaten by mosquitoes during hot weather. I chose to stay at a medium range guesthouse which albeit a bit cold, offered some great views of the Kathmandu Valley.
GETTING SICK IN NAGARKOT
I completed a short 1-hour hike to the closest viewpoint in town, the Nagarkot View Tower. It was a small warm-up to the 3-hour hike I was planning for the following day on the Nagarkot Panoramic Hiking Trail which had been highly recommended.
Later that night, as I had failed to meet any other travellers in town, I decided to splurge on my own and bought a bottle of Nepali wine along with some snacks and a proper meal at one questionable restaurant.
The next morning, I woke up with a shivering cold even though my skin felt extremely hot. I got up, showered, and tried my best to start my day as normal, but my body wouldn’t have it. I dragged myself downstairs where I had to force myself to eat breakfast. Up to that point, there was no question of not going hiking to the Nagarkot Panoramic Hiking Trail, not only because I didn’t want to miss a perfect day with perfect weather, but also because I did not want to have to stay in Nagarkot an extra day if I didn’t have to.
I left the guesthouse and walked a big total of 2 minutes before my body caved in. My stomach hurt as if someone had just brutally punched me on the gut. My legs became weakened and my arms felt like they couldn’t carry the weight of my small camera bag. I had no choice but to head back and jump straight back to bed.
It was one of the worst food poisonings I’ve ever had.
The following day, I did not feel any better. I still felt weak and could barely ingest food. Although I felt like maybe I should go to the hospital by that point, the nearest functioning clinic was about 1 hour from town. Instead, I decided to drown myself in antibiotics and pain killers from the local pharmacy. Also, because of the fear over coronavirus, I was hesitant to let my hosts know that I felt ill. Eventually, however, when my situation worsened, I had to. Luckily, they were quite supportive and made sure I was tended to as needed.
I finally began to gain some strength back about 3 days later, and while I wasn’t yet ready to take a bus or do any routes to another city, I found myself with little choice but to do just that, as the Nepal government suddenly announced that all transportation would close down on the following day. I somehow managed to pack my things and carry my backpack through what was a painful journey all the way back to the capital, where I would find myself stranded on a government-imposed lockdown for the following two months. Ultimately, Nagarkot ended up being the second city I spent the most time in Nepal, and the one where I saw the least.