The Worst 24 Hours in Sri Lanka

I woke up to a dull ache in my stomach. Groaning, I flipped over, hoping it would subside. But it only got worse.

Beside me, Lewis was tossing and turning, his distress and pain evident. Eventually he couldn’t tolerate it any longer.

“Bathroom.” He groaned feebly before stumbling towards the en suite.

I rolled over again, trying to block out the pain in my stomach. It was the middle of the night, evident by the darkness that engulfed our room. So far, sleeping had been rough. Although we were in a lovely room with working AC, our painful stomachs had brought us to consciousness too many times.

It was evident we had eaten something bad. At this point, our hazy minds weren’t quite up for identifying the culprit which is however glaringly obvious to us now. Why did we think it was okay to eat at a buffet where the food wasn’t even hot? It had evidently been out for hours! We’d even seen the flies hovering over the food when we got it. That was a rookie mistake.

I was in some sort of half-awake half-asleep state when I heard Lewis scream. I sat bolt-upright in bed. What the?

“Spider!” He yelled. “Huge!”

The screaming persisted. I knew he was afraid of spiders but this fuss was unlike anything I had ever heard in my life.

Frantically I looked for anything. A glass, a jar, anything to catch the spider in. Alas, our room was pretty much empty. The minimalistic design was really screwing us over now.

Lewis came dashing out of the bathroom, a look of pure panic on his face.

“It’s massive! We have to get rid of it.”

I decided to go and take a look at what we were dealing with. As I made my way towards the bathroom I noticed a large black creature, far larger than the spread of my hand, crawling across the floor.

Holy fuck. My heart starting to beat at a record rate.

The monster spider started trying to crawl up our bedroom wall. Its body was an incredible size. The body alone was greater than the spread of my palm. Then attached to its rotund body were eight long, hairy legs.

What happened next was my worst memory in all my years of travelling. Just writing it down and acknowledging it actually happened, makes me feel sick.

Lewis was still leaping around the bedroom in panic and for a moment I stood petrified with absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I couldn’t just leave it to crawl round our bedroom. We’d be terrified. I couldn’t grab it with my hands. What if it was poisonous? There was absolutely nothing to put it in like a tub or container.

I had no time to think of any other options. The spider was ascending higher up the wall and I was running out of time. So I grabbed my Timberland boot. Even with a boot as heavy as that, it still took three strikes. I felt so ashamed and so remorseful. I hate to kill.

We both hardly slept after that. Between our terror at what had just happened and our frequent trips to the bathroom, sleep managed to creep away from us.

The next morning things were no better. Neither of us managed to munch down so much as a morsel of breakfast. I was doing the better of the two of us. Lewis looked like he was on the verge of collapse but I still had some energy in me, even through the dizziness that threatened to consume me. I guessed that maybe that fish that I rejected and gave to Lewis may have sent him over the edge.

I do seem to have a habit of turning down food that later turns out to be contaminated. This was just like the time back in the UK when I ate one clam, decided I didn’t like them and gave the rest to Lewis. He ate them all, as well as his own. That gave him the worst bout of food poisoning he had ever had and I escaped with just a tender stomach.

The worst part of this was that there was no time for either myself or Lewis to rest and sleep off our sickness. Our host from our upcoming AirBnB had just arrived and was about to take us on a 2 hour drive to Negombo where we would have a couple of hours before catching our flight home at midnight tonight. How on earth were we going to make it through the hectic day ahead whilst feeling like death?

The drive to Negombo from Bentota seemed to take forever. The car bumped down tarred roads whilst Lewis started to nod off into a fevered sleep. He kept complaining of feeling really, really cold. I was sick with worry. The car was boiling! Between naps, I kept trying to get Lewis to drink as much water as he could, so much so that I forgot to drink any myself.

Chaotic traffic through the capital of Colombo put our driving time back by an hour. With no access to the bathroom for two hours now, Lewis decided he couldn’t wait any longer and requested a stop-off at a local restaurant in order to use the bathroom.

I was relieved when we finally made it to our AirBnB in Negombo. We had gone full-circle and were back at the house where we had spent our first night in Sri Lanka. Being a mere 30 minutes from their airport meant it was the ideal stop-over when travelling to and from the airport. Of course, with our flight at ridiculous-o’clock, we were not spending a full night here. Our host had kindly offered to drop us up at the airport at midnight tonight which is ideal. In my state, the last thing I wanted to do was haggle with a taxi or tuk-tuk driver.

We now had a couple of hours to rest before midnight. We had 8 hours, to be exact. There was no questioning what we needed to do. Lewis and I went to bed, determined to try and sleep off the sickness.

I lay awake in the scorching heat, the fan on above us. Beside me, Lewis was shivering, still complaining of being too cold. He had wrapped himself in numerous blankets and my fear for him was increasing. What if he was very sick? We were all alone in a foreign country with our flight home tonight. If we missed this flight, I wouldn’t be able to afford to rebook another or if I did, it would really dig a hole in my pocket.

I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid as to let this happen. By now I was certain it was the buffet that was responsible. Food that had been left out in the heat for hours, especially meat and fish was just a terrible idea. I suppose we had just got lax as so far our experience with food in Sri Lanka had been wonderful.

I didn’t sleep at all in that 8 hour period. Between checking on Lewis and heading off to the bathroom, I just couldn’t settle down for long enough.

Fortunately, Lewis slept through most of it and woke up complaining of the heat. Thank god he was feeling the correct temperature again, just in time to set off for our flight. However, if only things went so smoothly.

We waited in the hall of our AirBnB with our luggage. The fan buzzed in my ear and I swatted a couple of mosquitos away from my face. As my stomach growled in agony, I could make out rough snoring from a room nearby. It was midnight. Where was our host?

Beside me, Lewis was munching his way through a bunch of bananas he had stashed away from breakfast this morning. I glanced enviously as he took another bite. I hadn’t eaten for over 24 hours now and my stomach had never known pain like it. My vision was swimming in front of my with hunger and fatigue.

“Are you sure you don’t want one?” He nudged a banana towards me.

I pushed it away in disgust but as I hunched over my ravenous stomach, I knew I couldn’t refuse. Every bite was agony. I didn’t even have any water to wash it down and I felt like the banana mush was glueing itself to my oesophagus. I gagged. Not even the banana could take the edge off my starvation. I’m bad enough when I’ve not eaten for around 2 hours, let alone 24.

The snoring persisted and no one emerged from the house. I watched a gecko as it clambered across the wall above the curtains, on the hunt for flies. Even the flies would appeal to my angry stomach. I wiped a bead of sweat from my forehead and the silence dragged out in front of me.

The minutes passed. Still nothing. Had he forgotten? He couldn’t have forgotten, could he?

The worst thing that could possibly happen now was that we didn’t get a lift to the airport and so missed our flight. I was starving, tired and feverish. Lewis had only just regained some energy after being bed-bound all day. We had to get on that plane. So, I decided to give our AirBnB host a call.

I heard a phone go off. The snoring abruptly stopped and a woman answered the phone. I politely explained the situation, worried I’d awoken the whole household. I didn’t quite get her response but when no later than 5 minutes later our host emerged, I assumed she must have passed on the message.

“Ready to go then?” He asked breezily, as if he hadn’t nearly slept through and forgotten to take us to the airport.

“Yes!” I replied in delight as we stood up and threw our rucksacks on. We had a chance of making it back home alive after all!

I’m pleased to inform you that the rest of the journey was fairly straightforward. We arrived at the airport with surplus time to dig in to some food before sleeping our way back to the UK. It isn’t exactly how I hoped our last day in Sri Lanka would pan out but then again, when did life ever go to plan? But we made it and that’s all that matters.