Saturday, August 28

Still on the run

It’s difficult not to associate health risks with travel in India. The monsoon season is notorious for generating a noticeable increase in water-borne and gastrointestinal infections and food served on the Indian railway network has an equally dubious hygiene reputation. These cliché health warnings are easy to believe when you see the conditions many street vendors operate under. The photo above was snapped from the window of our car in Agra and sadly isn’t atypical of scenes witnessed all over India. However, despite studiously avoiding street food and watching what I drink, I’ve always returned from India with some form of bowel aliment. This latest trip has proved no exception.

This week Garry and I have both returned from India with bowel problems. Garry endured a couple of days of diarrhea while I’m now enjoying my fifth day of the same symptoms. I suspect a meal we ate on the train back from Agra on Tuesday evening is the culprit. As a seasoned traveler I’d pre-ordered the vegetarian meals for us as part of our First Class booking. These tend to less risky than meat dishes. However, on this occasion the main menu image include a diary product, a high risk food you’re often encouraged to avoid. The knowing nods that colleagues subsequently gave me in Delhi the following day were hardly reassuring.

While the food onboard may have been questionable, the reliability of our train journeys to and from Agra cannot be questioned. We departed Delhi on time at the ungodly hour of 6.25am and arrived in Agra two hours later, less then three minutes behind schedule. The air-conditioned Shatabdi express train proved just as reliable that evening, returning us to Delhi at 10.30pm, 195kms away, exactly on schedule.

The train station in Delhi was just as I last remember it. Thousands upon thousands of people flowing continually along battered pedestrian footbridges, noisly crowding platforms and just generally loitering. No matter what the hour the assault of sights, sounds and smells always bring the colourful character of India to life.

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