Down, diseased and in despair

by tkos on August 14, 2012

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The ultimate in freedom. To go from a job where goal posts moved faster than Formula 1 and nothing was ever good enough, to being responsible for nothing but eating, sleeping, cycling and donating money to good people. Life was perfect.

We’ve saved for a year for that £20k or so and we wanted to stretch it out as far as we could go. France is not cheap and we knew that what we spend on a hotel in France could last a week in Asia. So wild camping is the way forward for us. We don’t carry a lot of cash, but with some of the filming equipment, the iPad I’m typing on, laptop and iPhones, means that our bikes and bags add up to a tasty treat to any potential thief. Cycling through the dangerous wilderness of Northern France, we need to find somewhere that we can leave the bikes outside, as with some of the bags, because the tent isn’t a castle.

Now I know that northern France isn’t really dangerous in the grand scheme of things. But only a couple weeks in and the mind is still in big city London mode, despite the body swanning through country villages amidst singing birds and shining sun. For safety and security reasons, when we look for somewhere to camp, we make sure that it is out of the way. Out of the way from traffic, farmers, houses, roads, walking tracks. Out of the way from everything, including sight. The only things that can find us here are the bugs and mosquitos. And they sure did find us. We were like free all you can eat buffet at fat camp.

In one of the few times of which I have known her, Kimmi conceded defeat in our morning competition of whom had been bitten the most. Kimmi counted 24 mosquito bites over both her legs, lower back and arms. I counted 47. I won, but somehow still lost. Disturbingly familiar.

Infected and diseased

Over the next few days, we waged war on the French insect army. Sprays, creams, smoke and a good old fashioned slap. Anything that might give us the upper hand. We had a system in getting into the tent where I would distract the French army with my torchlight distraction dance far away from the tent, while Kimmi would sneak in while it was dark. Then I’d turn the torch off and do a running dive kicking my shoes off mid flight, whilst Kimmi quickly zipping the door closed behind me as a would crash land on the inadequate support of a sleeping bag. The next day, I awoke with 105 bites, from head to toe. Kimmi had 32. I was still winning more, and losing so much more at the same time.

“It might be type 2 trees. You want to put some anti-histamine on that. There is some in the first aid kit. It might be an allergy to type 2 trees” Kimmi says. I’m scratching myself stupid and laughing myself silly simultaneously. What the hell are type 2 trees? Are there more than two types of tree? It seems that there are to me, and anyway, I thought trees had actual names, not just vague and ambiguous descriptions.

Red spots cover me from head to toe and they seem to be developing as the day goes on. It’s incredible. I’ve never been through anything like this before. We have eaten the same food, been to the same places, done the same things, but Kimmi is not affected like this. Why do these mosquitoes have such an affect on me but not Kimmi. I’m not allergic to anything so that can’t be it, it’s just loaded of mosquito bites. Kimmi is the one that is allergic. She can’t do peanuts, walnuts, apple skins, pears, horses and trees of the type 2 variety. The itching is unbearable. I’m trying to scratch myself while I cycle. They are now everywhere, from the soles of my feet, all the way up every part of my body, yes, every part of my body, to my neck.

This is not work of the French mosquito army anymore, this is chemical warfare. This is some sort of rash. A symptom of a disease. I’ve had measles and got all the shots I thought I needed. I can’t believe I’m two weeks in and already my body has fallen to this disease. Maybe it is a spider bite, maybe it is worse.

I can’t eat, sleep, cycle or think. I need to get this checked out before I scratch my own skin away. The next decent size town is called Selestat where we decide we need to stay indoors. I need my body to rest to fight this infection. The host at the home stay freaked out at the sight of my body. Disturbingly familiar. She strongly suggested we go straight to hospital and within the hour, we were waiting at the Accident and Emergency hospital waiting room.

A blank doctors face is not one of comfort. Some muttered French words and he left the room, only to come back with two more colleagues with two more equally confused faces. My heart rate increased and anxiety took over. I waited patiently as blood tests were taken. I was sent back to the waiting room where Kimmi was. There was nothing that could be done now but wait. Kimmi comforted me while reading a French Cosmo magazine. I stared through the window, contemplating our future trip. What if this disease is something serious? How long would it take to recover? Would it be the end of the trip? Would I go home to UK or to Australia? Hours slowly ticked by while my fate lay in the hands of the doctors and the blood test results.

“Seychell?” The doctor called. I walked through the long hall and entered the tiny office on the right. I sat in the chair as the doctor prepared himself to tell me the results. My throat ran dry as I tried to swallow. I sat silently, sat scratching. “The truth is, we don’t know what is wrong with you”.

Oh shit. I’m going to die. “We think you’ve got an allergy to something so we are prescribing some antihistamine. Have you heard of type 2 trees?”

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