How to Make Unbridled Belly Friends
You’re riding the bus to Ministro Pistarini International Airport, Buenos Aires, and need to fart. You’ve successfully come to the end of five months travelling in South America. Got on a bunch of buses, hung around backpackers and ate your weight in avocados. But, like most western travellers in non-western countries, you’ve picked up an intestinal parasite.
On many unbridled bowel-moving occasions, you’ve stopped to ask yourself whether you let it out or hold it in. So would you trust this one?
Let’s go back five months.
You’ve packed the DETTOL Healthy Touch Kills 99.9% of Germs, baby wipes, gastro stop and, most importantly, probiotics with added vitamin C. However, no matter how many billion little acidophilus bacteria are in those bloody probiotics, parasitic amoebas are going to crash the party.
It will start with your first Chilean empanada from Santiago’s world-renowned food market. 50 cents worth of meat filled, pie-like goodness. A specimen that is sure to bring happiness to any Australian pie enthusiast.
But in the servicio hygenicos behind the empanada stand, there isn’t any toilet paper. There’s NEVER any toilet paper. And the señor who handed you the cheap and tasty morsel definitely hasn’t washed his hands in a while.
Mum warned you of being pickpocketed; your passport is safely locked up at the hostel. But unfortunately, you can’t lock away healthy stomach bacteria for times like these.
You’re now a month deep in your travels and have made it to La Paz, Bolivia — home to empanadas, juices and everything fried under the sun. You name it and they’ve got it selling on the street. The smells fill up your nostrils and are overwhelmingly good.
“I wouldn’t eat the street food here,” your mate encourages, “it’s meant for only local stomachs.”
So you follow along to a Chifa, Chinese, for dinner. The chicken fried rice seems the safest option on the menu. Except it’s bland as all hell. You spoon mountains of the picante (a mix of tomato, red onion, chilli and pepper) onto your meals. A bit of spice can’t hurt, right?
24 hours later in a Peruvian bus station, you’re running straight past the angry ladies to get to the toilet. You really shouldn’t have trusted that last fart.
“Necesita pagar para la baños, señorita!” they yell. But there’s no time to pay for the toilet now.
You sit there until you’re sure it has passed, realising that that little blue Inner Health + guy has failed the parasite test.
You make explosive actions with your hands directing out of your hide to the pharmacist within the bus station. The act, however, is only leaving her in hysterics. But it’s really not funny because you suddenly need to fart again.
The 12-hour bus trip ahead of you is beyond dreadful, but surprisingly, you manage to make it all the way up to the Caribbean without a blow out.
Confidence has built up. You think you have the “guts” for tap water consumption. After drinking it for a week, you’ve been feeling fine, healthy even. Intestinal behavior is normal.
Suddenly, you are struck by the most unfortunate episode of projectile vomiting into the hostel kitchen sink. Halfway through the dinner you’re sharing with fellow travellers.
You shamefully scoop and scrape the half-chewed rice out of the plughole. You question your source of future hydrations and opt only for potable, bottled water.
Finally, you’re off to Brazil. You’ve had a few hiccups lately, but no burps or farts. Except for some reason… wait! Is that an intestinal parasite you feel coming on?
Making yet another hostel dinner, you start to regret your decision to eat canned fish and lentils, because you’ve just farted and that is exactly what it smells like. The farting continues all through the night and into the next day.
The pain in your stomach on the bus is leaving you thinking you might never be cheerful again. Your stomach is blown up like a balloon at a kid’s party, but no one’s laughing. That is until Mr. Parasite lets one silently rip at the same time Señor Colombia cracks open his Coca-Cola in the seat in front of you.
You have to chuckle to yourself. It’s the small things in life.
Still you’re holding it in, having a green-to-yellow-traffic-light heart attack. You may turn into the human version of a mushroom cloud if you hang onto it any longer. But there’s no one next to you and, besides, this might be the last time you fart on this continent. You sit comfortably and take a final look around. You believe you can trust this one and smile.
Cover by Perry Grone