"Are you sure you want to travel? UK has announced emergency. Its the worst effected", my doctor friend told me as he poured wine into my glass. It was the second week of December 2021, the Omicron was making headlines and Netherlands had announced a 10 day lockdown.
My appetite for risk is quite good and I was at my best outside my comfort zone. High altitude treks and deep sea diving had taught me, enjoy the moment and the uncertainties that come along with it.. And what was the worst that could happen?
When I had applied for my Irish visa, I had no strong intentions to travel but now I had to, for my mental sanity. Something for myself.... Do I sound cryptic, yes I do!
My visa had arrived earlier than expected, work seemed to slow down with the year end and so, click- booked my British Airways tickets. A three week vacation at Ireland. An unexplored country.
Traveling International during Covid is quite challenging with the never ending documentations and of course my first ever PCR (#1)
A long 16 hour flight with delayed layover at London finally got me finally to Dublin.
First week at Ireland was all about living the life like a Dubliner. The city founded by the Vikings is a city full of rich cultural heritage. Dublin is an educational and industrial centre of the island. The hush bush of the city life is around the River Liffey. The Air B&B just by the Ha'penny bridge making the morning view postcard worthy.
Views of the Ha'penny bridge. Waking up to the sounds of seagulls and swans swimming effortlessly.
With temperatures are low as 4 degrees, the sun is a luxury and you just want to bask by the river.
Walking aimlessly around the city, endless pictures of the cobble path and red corner buildings, evenings at the Irish pub with live Irish music made me so alive.
My first pub visit is worthy of mention, I had my first Guinness, a thick frothy beer. What a surprise for a NON beer drinker!
Days leading up to Christmas, everything started to shut down which means exploring the city by foot became so much fun. Two of my favorite run-explore were at the Stephan's garden and to the beach. I fell in love with a home too, 'For sale' it said :)
Week two, moved to a smaller town Carrick-o-Shannon.
Two striking features of this island country are the rivers and quaint pubs. Afternoons were perfect for a run, well, the temperature close to double digits said, 'No layering up!'
Am not sure if it was on the girls night out at Carrick or the next day that I contracted the virus!
I woke up on morning of 30th December with a heavy throat. I took it as a sign to slow down my guzzling spree. "No G&T or my Ciders for a few days", I told myself. The throat took less focus that day as the drive was spectacular to the next destination.
Driving through the fjords of Ireland, my last week at Ireland.
Ringing in my 45th birthday.
The sore throat just got worse, fever added on along with throbbing headache. New year eve was quiet and cozy, enjoying views of the mountains and beaches.
Views from my window at Connemara
The morning of the first day of the new year was absolutely gorgeous. Walk to the beach, finding the perfect pink cottage and amazing salmon at an Irish Pub in a village.
The days that followed were nothing short of a dream. The 4 hours walk through woods to reach Kylemore Abbey and my first glimpse of the magnificent castle. I was teleported to the highlands of Austria. If you were someone who enjoyed musicals like 'Sound of music' you would know what I mean.
The hike to Diamond Hill was another adventure. It was a crazy cold day, I had almost all my clothes' on, that the wardrobe was now empty! Sub zero temperature!! The three hour trek to the top was fun, well the journey is always more beautiful than the destination. I could hardly stand at the peak for over 5 minutes with the strong winds determined to sweep me off.
Kylemore Abbey - the Victorian Castle
It was already the 7th of Jan, time to return home. I needed a Negative PCR to board the flight. Return was via Galway and that's where the test was booked. Galway is the second largest city in Ireland. Cobble path, pubs and musicians singing on the streets keeps the city so lively. Being one of the coldest day I had never ending cough each time I tried to breath. It was the first time in 9 days I felt something could be wrong, I dint feel good!
The morning of 8th proved my right, I tested POSITIVE (#2) I was too tired to be shocked!
This meant I my tickets needed amendment. Moved it by a week, informed my boys and sister back home. Thoughts now went back to how and when I may have contracted the Virus and perhaps would never know if for the test at Randox, Galway.
Now that I was Positive, I as well stay isolated and at least recover for a few days! I had already put people around me in trouble.
I can't thank Anu and Prabhakar for their love and hospitality for the weeks that followed. I am truly indebted to you.
Three days later, my antigen test came in Positive (#3) that meant, I could still be a super spreader. Each experience of nasal and throat swaps left me terrible for hours. Only for the non stop whooping cough and never ending sleep, I felt fine.
Day 13 and 15 of antigen testing (#4 ) were Negative. My first sense of relief. I am a runner and celebrate it with a run. Went for a short one and felt happy.
Booked an online PCR test and was super confident to test Positive and fly out. The results left me so Negative. Day 17 and I still tested Positive (#6). My doctor friend urged me to stay calm. Back home, news of my friends and family testing positive started flowing in. Bangalore cases were doubling every third day.
Words of my doc-friend echoed, I was aware of the worse, contracting the virus. But continuing to test positive without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel? It suddenly reminded me of that dark night at the Everest. The only light I wanted was that of the finish line after 19 hours of running.
The wait for a Negative report continued. Some good days and some not so. Kept myself in good cheer with short runs around City West. What a gorgeous locality. Its like the Whitefield of Bangalore sans the crappy potholes roads and pollution. Evening were buzzing with activity in Anu's warm kitchen with the twins. One of my favorites being the Poker night, totally igniting the gambler in me.
New week, which means time to book another test. The HSE, Ireland Health dept has a streamlined process from booking to reports. The drive through test took less than 5 min but the swap went all the way to my brain and I was awful. Very confident of my test being Negative, I started with my last minute shopping at Zara. Retail therapy always helps :)
I was in shambles, a total mess and broke down when my day 21 results (#7) were POSITIVE. Swap picking up the dead virus, viral overload and a stranded tourist, I wrote to India embassy in Ireland. The request was to accept my 'Covid recovery certificate' and allow me travel back to my country. Well, they never got back to date.
I was getting ready to spend another week when both my sister and Anu suggested, I just get a Randox test. This is a private agency costing 60 euros and negative certificate I need travel back. Day 23 , test #8 and lots of positivity in anticipation of Negative, ha ha....
Darsh dropping a message 'miss you amma' that night kept me sleepless. Well, the light at the end of the tunnel did appear. With no days to waste, It was a straight flight back home. Test #9 at the Kempegowda International Airport was seemly smooth and 90 min later, I was home, to my warm home. It was 18 degrees and I was down to my shorts and tee.
Right now in home isolation and penning down my thoughts of my five weeks in a new country, travel during the worst times and then stranded to feeling so much love.
I traveled 8000km to find answers and I am glad I did.
Am I done, not yet I have one last test #10
Considering the active holiday and the virus, would I do it again, of course and work through Negativity....