The “Black Cloud” Returns to Mark


I’m not normally willing to share being ill will family and friends, let alone on the world wide web, but this little story is too good not to share …

For the sake of this post: ‘upchuck’ will refer to vomiting.

Oh boy, I bet you can’t wait to read this post?

… I can see their smiles and I can hear the chuckles from our friends Sandy and Marty.  It was 2006, we were all in Peru and it was just hours before starting the 3.5 day trek on the Inca Trail into magical Machu Picchu.  Sleeping ON the bed IN my mummy sleeping bag, it was in the wee hours in a tiny little hotel room that I became violently ill from food poisoning.  The sleeping bag stayed intact (you try getting out of a mummy bag in one heck of a hurry and see how you do ;)) and Mark became known by Marty as the “Black Cloud”.

Fast forward to January 11, 2016 … the “Black Cloud” makes a return.

I am not sure if it was the farewell wine, Grand Marnier, and chocolate combination.  Or if it was cleaning the bathroom at 11:30pm (all good guests should clean their own bathroom after staying in someone else’s home for 10 days ;)) but this version of the new and improved “Black Cloud 10.9.6” rebooted at 4:45am with a vengeance.

The day before we picked up a rental car to drive from Escondido, California to Los Angeles airport – a 2-hour drive.  The car is filthy and there are stains on the driver’s seat, I am not impressed, but who cares, it is a 2-hour drive and we are off to Malaysia.  If I only I saw the foreshadowing, I wouldn’t even had bothered documenting the stained seat before driving off from the car rental company – or – I wouldn’t have combined white wine, Grand Marnier and chocolate with a side of toxic cleaning chemicals.

The flight to Malaysia is at 11:30am, 3 hours early for check-in, and 2 hour drive from Escondido, California to Los Angeles Airport.  So 4:45am was the perfect time for Black Cloud to return… and the story goes something like this …

4:45am – OMG (oh my Goodness), I jump out of bed and run to the restroom.

Repeat 3 times.

Load the car, pretend nothing has happened, big hugs goodbye to Joan (Chrisitne’s mom) and off we go on the Interstate 15 to Los Angeles.  I feel like garbage and I am starting to wonder how I will endure a 20-hour flight.  Without a cell phone or navigation, Christine is navigating our way to the airport using Google Map screen shots we took before leaving.

I made it roughly one hour.  We are on a 20 lane freeway and suddenly Black Cloud 10.9.6 had an update!  Driving 70mph on the third lane of a 10 lane freeway is not the best time for an update!  The first wave of upchuck surfaces, but I am pleased and pat myself on the back that I can contain it in my mouth while planning my exit plan off the freeway.  2nd wave comes and there is no more room for the upchuck – I can see the boulevard and I am trying quickly to get there.  Upchuck is now leaking from my mouth and the pants I just pulled out of the washing machine are no longer clean (sorry Joan for wasting that detergent).  Christine grabs a plastic grocery bag to come to my rescue, only, as we all know, those bags are garbage and full of holes – but it was the thought that counts and that is why we are married 23 years.  I pull over to the boulevard and leap out of the vehicle.  As I run around to the back of the car, I see California Highway Patrol vehicle coming up fast behind us – he clearly was not impressed with my driving skills.

As I am standing on the side of the highway upchucking, the police officer comes out of his vehicle …

“what’s wrong”

Well, I am just throwing up … no big deal

“have you been drinking”

Well …no

“get your hands out of your pocket”

Sorry, never thought to take my hands out of my pocket while I am here throwing up all over your boulevard officer

“so what’s wrong”

Not sure, we are on our way to LAX, have a 20 hour flight I am not looking forward to

“hmmm, ok”

Gets in his vehicle, sits there for 5 minutes while I am curled over …. Likely ran the plates, figured out I was a decent fellow and moved on.  A friendly chap, he waved nicely as he drove away in the comfort of his upchuck-free vehicle.

Christine takes over driving … great news, we still have lots of time to make it.

Arrive at LAX and we are checked in…  Thank goodness.  (We did not have any onward travel booked out of Malaysia and heard conflicting stories that we may be prevented from entering Malaysia. Consulate said if we have copies of bank statements showing net worth, we should be fine to enter the country.  We have to sign a document releasing the airline from any responsibility.)

We are in the security area.  There are easily 10 cattle-like rows of people extending for as far as the eye can see.  We are slowly making our way to the x-ray area.  20 minutes go by and we are just about to make it to the area where you take off your bags, shoes, put them in the containers and roll them through the security screening machines.  I feel another “Black Cloud” update approaching.  I tell myself, this cannot happen, not here, not now.

We take off our backpacks, I am feeling very warm.

I take off my shoes, hmmm, this doesn’t feel so good.

Christine goes through the body scan machine – another person goes between us.

My turn now …. And literally as I am being called to come through the body scanner, I feel another brutal update to the ‘Black Cloud”, I rush over for an empty bin behind me and start upchucking into the bin standing in front of the body scanner and standing in front of at least 500 people!!!  It was like you could hear a pin drop … I can see Christine on the other side of security looking at me helplessly.

They stopped the security line behind me, the security folks were looking at me from a distance like I had the plague and no one wanted to come near me.  On the other side of security, Christine is getting whisked to the side with our bags and she is having to provide our Passports to make sure we hadn’t travelled anywhere questionable.  I am dripping wet from sweat and I am responsible for cleaning up my own bin (no problem, I am a Registered Nurse after all) and they eventually let me through the body scanner.

We are allowed to board the plane.

We are in economy class – boy those First Class beds at the front of the plane look like they are worth 3 times the price of my economy ticket.

I have the window seat, Christine the middle and a pleasant and very cute older Japanese lady sits next to her.  (Mental note – when booking a 20-hour flight, think about what side the sun is going to be on, because when you do not feel well, the last thing you want is the intense heat of the sun hitting you for 20 hours – even with the sun shade closed).

We take off – yeah our 1-year adventure throughout South East Asia begins J

My body is aching like crazy, even my toes are sore and dreading the compression stockings I chose to wear for the 20-hour flight.  An hour goes by, my body is aching, I am fidgeting and I do not have any interest in the amazing movie selections (The Martian, Man from UNCLE, The Walk, Star Wars 1,2,3 etc. etc).

Suddenly the stewardess comes to us and says that the lady next to us is very concerned about me and they wanted to know if I was ok.  She asked to move seats.  I am now able to lay out “comfortably” over 2 seats (another benefit of Yoga).

When I packed my backpack, I was cursing my First Aid kit thinking to myself, do we really need all this “stuff” and there I was opening it for the Thermometer, Tylenol to bring down my temperature and rehydration salts – all within the first 4 hours of our trip!

Mental note – You can never be over prepared.

My temperature spikes at 38.7, I am popping Tylenol and I do not eat for the entire duration of the flight.  Sips of an electrolyte drink has become my meal of choice.   The stewardess continually comes by to check my temperature and notify me that they have to advise the pilot that they have a passenger with a high temperature.  I have gone through 3 cooling gel pads and 2 ice packs (all were supposed to last 8 hours each).

We wonder if we will be spending a night in Japan in quarantine.  Thankfully, my temp comes down to 37.7 by the time we land.  We have 50 minutes to catch the connecting flight and we made it.  The final 8 hour journey from Japan to Malaysia was uneventful and we have never been so happy to spend $220 Canadian dollars on a hotel room to get a few hours sleep and lay horizontal.

We stayed at a former Pan Pacific Hotel, so I figured it would be safe to have some water from the tap in the a.m. when I woke up and was totally parched. I am later told, “do not drink tap water!, you may get very ill”… oh boy, what’s a trip to a foreign country without a little upchuck here and there??

Currently just waiting for updated “Black Cloud Version 10.9.7” … but when it IS released, you won’t be hearing about it from me J

Life is an Adventure … and this is just the beginning of this one.


P.S.  I finished the Inca Trail no problem and the plus was I never had to use the wonderfully maintained and exceptionally clean – NOT – toilets on the Inca trail.  There is a light at the end of every tunnel J

27 thoughts on “The “Black Cloud” Returns to Mark

  1. Well I must say this sounds like a great adventure! Many giggles reading the adventures of Black cloud! Look forward to living vicariously through you both! Take care❤️


  2. Thanks Black Cloud I really needed a chuckle tonight. It is amazing how we all can laugh at the suffering of others (must be the writers ability to find humour in whatever life throws at you) Hope things get better for you Black Cloud.

    All our love and prayers to you both. Richard & Michelle

    PS you know that you will forever be known as Black Cloud now.

    Compliments of both my thumbs



  3. Thanks Black Cloud I really needed a chuckle tonight. It is amazing how we all can laugh at the suffering of others (must be the writers ability to find humour in whatever life throws at you)
    Hope things get better for you Black Cloud.

    All our love and prayers to you both.
    Richard & Michelle

    PS you know that you will forever be known as Black Cloud now.


  4. Ahh, I feel bad for you but you did make me have a good chuckle, so thank you. I hope you are feeling better and Christine does not become “The Black Cloud” Thanks for sharing.


  5. Oh no Mark!!! So sorry to hear the start of this amazing trip -perhaps Black Cloud will move on now that it had its vengeance and will you both to enjoy the rest of this journey. Big hugs to you both! Don’t drink the water! M


  6. Pat and I laughed and laughed at your misfortune…but sympathized at the same time!!
    You have a great way of telling a story…you should write a book..hmmmm, maybe in a year we can look forward to “The Adventures of Black Cloud”


  7. Pat and I sympathized with you Mark, but your storytelling made us laugh!
    You have a great gift for telling stories. hmmmm, maybe the next Erma Bombeck??? I’ll buy your book!!


  8. Very resourceful. I am amazed they let you on the plane? i wonder how the other passengers faired after sharing cabin air with you. How is your sweetie?
    The weather is great here in Kelowna. 32 degrees, sunny for days, flowers blooming and there is a sweet perfume in the air wafting by as I sit in my lounge chair by the pool…NOT


    1. Oh Graham … how I have thought of you so many times this past month as I go from a Hindu temple to a Buddhist temple to a Christian church …
      I want to share the awesome poem you put together in a moments notice for Christine and I before we left Kelowna. And to put it in context, this poem was written after we sat in a coffee shop in Kelowna and listened to you play the guitar, accordion and piano while singing Christmas carols … truly a night to remember.

      ‘Twas a night before Christmas
      And all thru the shop
      They were singing to Jesus
      And drinking coffee a lot

      The mochas were made
      With love and with care
      Sure that everyone
      Would want to be there.

      So as you go onward and upward
      With your sweet lovely wife
      Make sure you plan your return
      To your Canadian life.


  9. Bill Bryson move over, there is a new travel writer on the block – and he has even better stories!
    Can’t believe that the Black Cloud was, shall we say, just a one-way street – or is there more and you are not telling us? Saving it for the book?
    Safe and interesting travels to you both . . . “Auntie Rita”


  10. Mark I laughed so much during reading this but with underlying living what a unwelcome visitor this must have been! The plus is that you must so appreciate feeling healthy again and that’s a great way to start your trip! Send pictures when you get a chance so we can feel where you are ! 😍 To you and Christine !


  11. Mark, I feel for you but must say I had a good laugh at your expense. Some day I should tell you about the Black Cloud I endured while snorkeling at Xel Ha in Mexico. Lets just say the fish around me were like piranhas and did a fine job of cleaning up my donations. Fat little buggers! Hope you feel better and are free of the Black Cloud for a while.


  12. Hi Mark and Christine Sure hope that you are going to the Batu Caves. I understand they are 400 million years old. I love history but could not manage all those stairs! Have a wonderful time! Marge


  13. I’m in Pearson Airport in Toronto snorting out loud at your story. I am sorry you had this rough go, but thanks for the laugh! Look forward to more non black cloud updates 😜


    1. Steve … I miss you. If you can figure out a way to take a trip to SouthEast Asia, I could use a snorkelling partner … you know how Christine is in the water … I will buy you a beer … or two 😉


  14. OMG Mark & Christine-
    Speaking as a live witness to the Black Cloud in Peru, I can tell you I WAS DYING ( and laughing) all over again for you as I read about the dreaded flight to KL. The airport barf episode was especially exciting- bad for you Mark- way worse for poor Christine😜!! You poor things. It calls to mind our nasty hi speed international vomit ferry from Athens to Santorini- only 8 hours of hideous smells and retchings! Never again…
    I am sure Marty will add his own recollection
    Of the Black Cloud naming process. At least you didn’t eat Guinea pig like others in our party.

    Keep the stories coming! After a weeklong semi-stoned virus experience, I completely enjoyed the Schadenfreude associated with your adventure.

    Try to stay healthy. You too Christine!

    Black Cloud accompanist
    Sandy R. Xxoo

    Loved the Bhutan update from your fanbase😄


  15. Hey Sandy 🙂 Oh that ferry crossing is a bit brutal and if your ferry was anything like ours when we did that trip, it was not very luxurious. I have been thinking about you a lot as I got over my Black Cloud. What are the chances? Fun times indeed. We need to chat about Bhutan 😉


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