Going on an African safari had long been a dream of mine. And Uganda specifically. Ever since we had been assigned a research report in middle school for a foreign country. There were 30 students in the class and because I was running late that day due to a dentist appointment I got stuck with the last one: Uganda. But then it turned out that I loved doing that research report and my poster turned out awesome, and I just sort of attached to the idea of visiting this remote, but starkly beautiful, place in Africa.
It was an idea that never left me even as my personality was slowly transformed into someone who struggles with their personal health and personal fears—not in debilitating ways, not exactly—but certainly in ways that led to a fair amount of anxiety leading up to the trip. I was 54 whereas I had, once upon a time, envisioned going when I was 24.
I’m honestly not sure I could have done it if not for that almost life-long tug toward Uganda. Top safari destination websites that were always listing South Africa, Botswana, or Tanzania at the top, but they had no effect on me, and Uganda usually showed up somewhere on the list even if it was seemingly never at the top.
It wasn’t easy. It takes a certain amount of moxie to travel to a foreign country in which the top travel advisory from the State Department is “Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.” Admittedly, Uganda overall is listed as a Level 2 (out of 4 levels total) and a country for which to “exercise increased caution.” It’s the same rating as Indonesia/Bali, so that was mildly reassuring.
Like a lot of people, I was more excited than nervous in the days leading up to the trip, and I was taking all due precaution. I had done all the basic research from reliable sources. I had visited my local doctor’s office and gotten all the recommended shots and vaccinations for travel to Uganda. We talked about my history with gastro-intestinal issues, including the possibility of a recurring stomach ulcer or indigestion. But I had also read into the news stories. There was a piece that came out around that time in which it was announced there was a high chance an ebola outbreak would spread to Uganda at some point. Skipping to the end, it was an amazing trip and, all in all, we didn’t have any major travel issues. I’d say we got lucky overall.
Like I said, Uganda didn’t disappoint, but the rigors of traveling did start to get to me at the end of the trip to say nothing of the jet lag when I got back home. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what was going on at first. I had thought if I did get sick it would be more of the nauseous, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea-type sickness. Instead, I got a fever and body chills. I thought it was just dehydration, despite having drank a fair amount of water while on this beautiful outdoor safari. Someone mentioned it sounded more like heat exhaustion than dehydration.
Like I said, the fever and general aches and pains only seemed to get worse when I got home. There was definitely some jet lag involved, but it also seemed like something else/more. Again, I went to the Internet and read about all the various causes for getting sick while and after traveling. And again, I decided to check in with my personal gastroenterologist because I was also definitely feeling it in my stomach as well and I thought I had come down with something for sure. He seemed to indicate that dehydration and heat exhaustion couldn’t be ruled out, but also that the low-protein, vegetarian cuisine that my group had signed up for might have been messing with my levels of iron, protein, fat, electrolytes, etc. and contributed to the fever, body chills, and my generally feeling bad. It could have had an impact on my red blood cell count. Next time, he suggested, I also pack dry powder packs of Pedialyte with me. Which is a good tip for practically anybody, especially when traveling so far around the world.