Me, My Girl, and a Frost Free February #2: Preparations

Preparations

How we’re getting there
I checked into round the world tickets and quickly realized that they didn’t really make sense for us. We aren’t travelling to enough places to make the RTW worthwhile, and we plan on travelling overland a fair amount of the time in SEA. Also, we really haven’t planned out (and we don’t want to) our time-line, except in the vaguest sort of way.

Bangkok has some of the cheapest tickets in the world and India’s airlines have recently dropped their prices to increase travel within the county (a side-effect of all those travel warnings issued by other countries). We decided to buy as we go. This means we’re flying into India on one-way tickets, and no one, not even the Indian Consulate, can tell us whether this is strictly legal or not. On the other hand, no one has told us it isn’t either, and (so far) we haven’t come across anyone who has been turned back with a one way ticket. We have made sure that we have proof of sufficient funds tucked away in our compact little backpacks.

And about those backpacks
When we went to Europe last December H�l�ne convinced me that my ratty old backpack should be replaced. In the mall, seduced by the warm tones of the salesperson, I purchased an expensive new bag. It was a traveling case for the millennium – a sleek, aerodynamically designed duffel with those handy little wheels on the bottom and a pull up handle. It was a bag for the over-thirty-“I’m grown up now” me. What a disaster. One trip on the metro in Paris, and I knew I was in trouble. My rocket shaped bag got stuck in the turnstile, and there I was – already sweating from hauling it up and down several flights of stairs by its pathetic handle – desperately trying to yank it through the barrier. In the end it cost me an extra metro ticket just for the bag. That was probably fair, because the bag was almost as big as I was and weighed at least as much as I do.

Back to the store to try again. For this trip, H�l�ne and I each have a 35 litre carry-on size bag. The packs have different brand names, but they’re pretty much the same thing – small backpacks that have straps that can be tucked away so that they convert into shoulder bags. The essentials take up half of the room – a self-supporting mosquito net (the Walrus Bug Hut II from mec.ca), medications and toiletries, sleep sacks. We’re each taking two pairs of pants, three short sleeved shirts, one long sleeved shirt, a sarong, a bathing suit, and a few pairs of socks and undies. The do-dads and luxuries take up the rest of the space – a small shortwave radio (I’m a CBC addict), sink plug, clothes line, guidebook, novels, a sketch book for me, and a few other odds and ends. After much thought, several round table panel discussions, an emergency meeting, and consultation with the Prime Minister, we’ve decided not to sew Canadian flags on the outside of our packs. But maybe on the inside….

Shots and other nasty medical stuff

Planning a trip overseas, I expected to spend lots of cash on visas, plane tickets, hotels, food and beer. And, oh yeah, I might need some shots, right? So I toddled off to the travel medicine clinic where I looked nervously at the pictures of giant bugs plastered to the walls. Ushered into an office, the friendly nurse sat me down, asked where I was going and for how long. As I answered she smiled ruefully and made quick notations on a pad of paper. Then she began gesturing at maps and diagrams of mosquitoes, and talking about rabid monkeys. Several long disease names later, and after a few rapid calculations in my head, I determined that I would be paying roughly $1000CDN to have her stick needles in me for the next six weeks. It took real strength to pull my wallet out of my back pocket – the pain from the shots was nothing.

The other exciting medical adventure was the research into malaria. Malaria, of course, is a particularly nasty disease that kills between one and two million people each year, mostly because they don’t have access to any treatment. The nurse told me that, despite what I had heard, there was no way I could drink enough gin and tonic to protect myself. However, relatively wealthy folks like me can try to prevent malaria on trips by taking pills.

The favorites these days are doxycycline, malarone and mefloquine (lariam). None of these medications are perfect. Doxycycline can cause yeast infections and photosensitivity. Malarone seems to have pretty benign side effects, but it costs a fortune – about $6/day. Mefloquine is the easiest pill to take, because you only have to take it once a week – the others have to be taken daily. But mefloquine has a rather unfortunate (and much publicized) side effect of turning a very small proportion of users into stark raving lunatics. After much thought and some test runs with the drugs at home, I’ve decided to opt for mefloquine with a switch-over to doxy in mefloquine resistant areas. This despite the fact that some of my more granola-ish friends assure me is that all I have to do to avoid mosquito bites is eat lots of brewer’s yeast. H�l�ne is just going to skip the whole thing and wear lots of DEET. That way only one of us will go loony.

We hope.

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