Quite a while ago, I had to consult my doctor about the required medical precautions before embarking on my South American travels. There followed an orgy of weekly inoculations against rabies, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis A and B, meningococcus, pneumococcus, shitsococcus, influenza and tick borne encephalitis. In an effort to expedite the proceedings, my doctor injected both arms and arse cheeks on each visit, which made me feel like a second-hand voodoo doll.
The most important shot was the one against yellow fever and I had to consult a specialist for this inoculation. Some of the world’s immigration authorities actually make this a requirement of entry, so I wasn’t going to skip this one. I went to my nearest tropical medicine clinic and was shown straight into the clinic where the resident doctor gave me a quick check-up before jabbing me with the yellow fever vaccine. The physician was a fellow Australian, a resident in Germany for the last two decades. He also wrote out a prescription for malaria tablets and an oral cholera preparation with detailed information of what to take when and so on. I asked him what other health precautions I should take for travelling in South America.
“Take a bullet-proof vest. Or maybe go to Sylt instead. Or Rügen. Nice this time of year. Why would you wanna go and get shot to buggery in South America? Europe’s much nicer. Green trees, great beer and no bloody cockroaches. Hate ’em.”
My only known medical ailment is a condition called dromomania, the compulsive urge to travel. I told the doc about my need to see different bits of the world, experience other cultures and meet interesting people. He didn’t seem at all interested.
“Bugger that, mate. Watch Attenborough, stay at home and drink beer, much easier. Much cheaper as well.”
I’d take his initial medical advice on board, but ignored the remainder of his ramblings on the merits of spending quality time on the islands on the North Sea coast or vegetating on my couch.
“Fine,” said the Australian doctor, sensing my increasing scepticism, “go if you have to, good luck to ya. Do yourself a favour and train your guts while you’re on the road.”
“You know, get ‘em used to all the nasties in the food and water ‘n stuff.”
“And how do I do that?”
“Simple. Whenever you get to a new city, drink a very small amount of the local tap water, just a smidgen. If you do that, your immune system will have enough time to react to the small amounts of bugs and other shit in there. Builds up a solid defence over time. If you do that a few times a week, she’ll be right as rain, mate, no worries at all.”
During the course of the next year, I’d followed the doctor’s last piece of advice, and it seemed to work, too.
Still haven’t had the chance to visit Sylt though.