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So, I’ve got a beef with India: The cows. 

Who let all the cows loose? Seriously! When I say all the cows, I really mean ALL the cows. Considered holy in India, cows roam free everything. Chewing grass on the side of the street, wandering across it on a whim while the thousands of cars, tuk tuks and buses swerve around them and no one, not the drivers or the cows, seem to bat an eye. At first, I loved this about India. I love that the majority of the over one billion people in this country are vegetarian and wouldn’t eat, or even harm, a cow.

cows in indiaBad Cow Karma…

In fact, I’ve never eaten meat in my entire life. Dani and I are the only two Westerners I have ever met who have never even eaten a common hamburger.

But that sure didn’t help my cow karma, considering that last Sunday, on the way to eat pizza after watching a gorgeous sunset on the beach in Goa, I was rammed and flipped by a cow.

Now, before I start defending the cow – which I will – let me just say a few things. First of all, it hurt like hell. I didn’t exactly feel it as his head rammed into the back of my upper thighs, but I knew what was happening. I heard Dani yell out, and felt this sort of whoosh, suddenly aware that I was up in the air. Within a split second, I crashed down onto the pavement so hard I thought I broke my pelvis. Before I started screaming, my only thought was to get out of the way, not to get trampled by this aggressive beast. But he just continued down the street without giving me a second glance. His only goal was to get me out of the way. And I don’t blame him, but more on that later.

cow in restaurant in palolemLetting it all out…is this really happening? 

After being mercifully spared more damage by the cow, I began screaming, long, loud shrieks, over and over again for about….two long minutes. Locals and tourists were all staring, coming up to me, some wanted to help, some probably just wanted me to shut up. I did, eventually, but I honestly had never felt so many different sharp, acute pains in my body at once. My back felt torn in half, I was sure my pelvis or hip was broken, plus I was worried about my knee.

Looking back on the screaming (a mental image which alternates between humiliating and hilarious) I know that I was not just hurt. I think I also was in the first stages of losing my mind. I had just spent five days going back and forth between hospitals and consultations with orthopedic surgeons after a knee injury sustained two months ago in Thailand flared up so bad I could no longer walk. Luckily the MRI showed that no ligaments were torn, but I was told to stay off my feet and rest for at least another week. It wasn’t just the physical pain, but I also felt like I had been letting Dani down.

dani feeding a cow in a restaurant in palolem goaIndia has really been such a dream for her, and to travel here, you need to be agile. Catching trains, hopping in and out of tuk tuks, walking through temples and towns for hours on end…and I had not been able to do any of this the entire time. That’s why I sent her away with our travel buddies Jaime and Val to Hampi. Go, you guys have a good time and make sure to do a ton of walking around, I told her, while I rest my knee. When you get back, I promised, we will go travel the rest of Goa at least before our flight.

She had just returned the day before, and now, I get trampled? By a COW?!

cow in indiaSeveral Indian hospitals later…

So, I screamed for it all – the pain, the frustration, more immobility and guilt.  After attempting to get me into a tuk tuk and a taxi, we managed to get me into a minivan (less bending to get in) and off to the hospital. There was no doctor at the first, where the orthopedic had just gone over my MRI results the day before, as he had been called to an emergency, so we headed to the public hospital a few kilometers away. Public hospitals in India are completely free, so despite the seriously appalling service, my scrapes were treated, I was given a tetanus shot, two strong doses of painkillers and then transported by ambulance, also free, to an excellent private hospital 25 km away. In the back of this dirty old ambulance, Dani and I just kept looking at each other with this look…mine was more of pain, hers was this silent look of resignation that, even though she just could not fathom it, this was actually happening.

Had we stayed on the beach a minute longer, had I walked just a little faster, we would have just been finishing our pizza at this point, but instead we were in a rickety ambulance, with an old pine tree air freshener hanging off the dusty defibrillator. (I stared at that air freshener, imagining the scene – “Clear!” shouts the medic. “Oh, sorry, let me just remove this air freshener…” “Damn it, we lost him.”)

Needless to say it was a relief when we pulled in to the private hospital to an army of doctors and nurses who were all there to assist me. The bed was incredibly comfortable, the nurses and doctors spoke perfect English and, after three hours, the X-Rays revealed no break, no fracture and magically nothing even majorly out of alignment, Instead, I was sent home very bruised with a deep muscle contusion in my back and told that I was confined to bed rest for 5-7 days.

cow injuries jess
Bruises from the fall and marks from the cow’s horns

Total cost of the hospital visit, which included the full attention of three nurses and one doctor, plus fluid IVs, painkillers, X-Rays and over three hours in one of the nicest hospital facilities I’ve seen around the world – $9.50. Nine dollars and fifty cents. That cheap price, sadly, was the highlight of our evening.

In the taxi back to Palolem Beach (which cost more than the hospital) the driver did his best to avoid cows. It was midnight by this time, and the big, black cows are almost impossible to see in the dark. With white knuckles and still in excruciating pain, I could not take my eyes off the road. The same animal that landed me in the hospital in the first place could possibly send us right back. The irony was almost too perfect, so I figured the chances were pretty good it would happen. But, we arrived safe and sound, and I have been largely on bed rest ever since.

palolem cow in the streetForgiving that alleged buffalo…

Looking at my folder from the hospital yesterday, I laughed out loud for the first time in a few days. The report says that I was injured by a buffalo, followed by the word allegedly. Jessica was allegedly injured by a buffalo.

Was it a buffalo? No. Did I ever say it was a buffalo? No. Does it make the story sound even worse? Yes. At least now I can always say, Hey, at least it wasn’t a buffalo…

hospital noteAs I recover, I have also completely forgiven this poor little cow, or big buffalo, whatever it was. In fact, I don’t blame him at all. That night, the street we were walking on was busy. For a narrow beach road, there were loads of tuk-tuks, taxis, foreigners on their rented motorcycles and everyone was honking and trying to get where they wanted to go. As we turned off the beach and on to the street, I had seen two cows aggressively sparring, but since I had never heard of anyone ever getting rammed by a cow, I didn’t think too much of it. The cow was agitated, his ‘friend’ was getting overly aggressive, and no matter where he walked, he couldn’t get through the traffic. There I was, walking slower than a senior citizen, taking care of my injured knee and I just wouldn’t get out of the way. And so, he flipped me. He had no interest in hurting me, but he was scared, so he did the most rational thing a cow could do to make room for himself.

cows being fed in palolem
Friendly cows

What will I take away from this whole experience? 

1. You have to make your own room for yourself in this world, and watch out for those behind you kicking you out of their way.

2. Of all places for this to happen, India wasn’t such a bad place. There were three hospitals within a 40 minute drive of each other, with the most expensive costing less than a Domino’s pizza.

3. Indian TV (of which I have watched A LOT in the last few weeks) is really entertaining and offers great insight into Indian culture.

4. I have an amazing girlfriend who is taking such good care of me.

5. Great friends help injuries heal faster (thanks again to Jaime and Val for coming all the way back to Palolem just to hang with me!)

6. I’ll be coming back to India. After all – I still owe Dani that amazing India trip of a lifetime.

dani & jess indian train station
Happier times in India

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Tags : indiaworst travel moments

70 Comments

    1. Hi Amanda, thanks so much! I’m recovering quite well now, a little bit everyday…I am so grateful that nothing was broken and I was able to fly a week later…

  1. Wow. Just wow. I want to laugh but at the same time I have so much sympathy! This sounds like a horrible experience, but hopefully will become funny with age. Like you said, hey, at least it wasn’t a buffalo!
    Lindsey recently posted..A Spending Diet

    1. Lindsey, you can laugh. It was ridiculous. And I made a scene, too. But it was truly awful for all the reasons I said. I feel like I aged about 50 years, walking around like a hunchback and getting tired after 5 minutes. But, it’s slowly going away now. So you can laugh 🙂

    1. That would be awesome, Steph, to send in the hospital report to the insurance people! Yeah, but for $9.50 – who can beat that!

    1. I don’t think it happens that often, I think was it was the perfect trifecta – too much traffic, another cow picking on him, and me, gimpy, too slow and self-absorbed with my knee to get out of the way fast enough. THe bruises did hurt, but it was the back/hip pain that kept me down for so long. Now to figure out what the reason is that this all happened for…

    1. Hey Vi, that’s the thing! THe day before we had posted on facebook how cute the cows were, we had just been feeding them naan bread and petting them in the restaurant where we had dinner. But this was a particularly large on, a male, and a scared/nervous male at that. Ah well…

    1. Seriously Annette – several Xrays, three hours in the emergency room, painkillers, fluids, nurses, doctors – I’d guess at least $10,000, but they’d have given me MRIs and scans and who knows what else. But, I don’t think that getting allegedly rammed by a buffalo is going to happen in the US…maybe in Montana?

  2. The hospitals in India are amazing, I’m just sorry you had to see the inside of several. Thanks for the caution against the cows. It’s gone on the India tip list next to: “tell the cab driver your husband is waiting for you at your hotel”

    1. Ah, good tip with the husband! Just a note – the PRIVATE hospitals in India can be amazing. The public one was just…free. But nowhere I’d want anything serious done!

  3. Wow! What a crazy experience–glad you had a nice hospital while you were there, though. Funny how the taxis in India can be soooo expensive! Especially the ones to Palolem.

    Glad to hear you’re on the mend!

    1. Hey Adam, it was definitely crazy. And also – you’re right about expensive taxis. It’s like – how can gas and one hour in the car cost more than excellent medical attention? Especially when both parties know how much you need their help in that situation. But I guess India will leave it’s medical extortion to the US and just keep the taxi extortion for themselves 🙂

  4. Oh no!!!! I am so sorry!

    During my 2 month trip in Vietnam and Singapore, my shoulder muscles (which had ached on and off for years), just went crazy and the pain just wouldn’t go away. I was miserable for half of my trip, and it’s just awful, because like for you, I wanted it to be a trip of a lifetime.

    Get well soon!

    1. Hey Denise, yes, exactly. You build it up and then when something happens, the disappointment is as annoying as the actual injury if not more. But there will be a next time…

    1. Thanks Kristen. The bruises were bad, it was the muscle contusion in my back / hip that has kept me down for so long though. It’s going to be an awesome story one day…and I’ve managed to stop feeling sorry for myself, which is good too! Who knows where the bad karma is from, I’m going to have to be extra careful about that from now on!

  5. This sounds like a horrible experience, but hopefully will become funny with age. Thanks for letting me stopped by.

    1. Hey Lauren! For real,, it was so crazy but so true. Healing up slowly but surely now though. And yeah, the hospital was cheap, and actually much nicer than the hospitals in the UK that we had been used to from living in London before we left!

  6. Jess, great story and I’m so glad you’re recovering and seem to be ok. Very interested to read of your thoughts re: India overall. It’s been on my travel bucket list for a long time, but haven’t yet made it there.

    1. Hey Brian, thanks 🙂 I am recovering well, yes. India was a really interesting and complicated experience for us considering all of the extra drama, etc. But we’ll definitely be getting into our India experience in full in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned 🙂 But you should definitely go – for sure!

  7. I’m sorry to say but this is a bit hilarious. It’s so surreal! And those cows look so cute (though your bruises look so painful…) What a story. Look on the bright side – at least you have a tale to tell on your blog!
    Tyler recently posted..In Sedona, Think Pink

    1. Hey Tyler, yes yes of course it’s funny. But only from the outside! I’d rather not have the story to tell on the blog than have to deal with this 🙂 Laying in bed in India not walking for two weeks was not exactly great…but I’m definitely getting better day by day!

    1. UGH! What falls under ‘seriously injured’ ? 🙂 The bruises don’t even do it justice. But no, I mean, luckily he wasn’t being aggressive against me and just wanted to get me out of the way. I for real thought he would trample on top of me in that moment! And about your buffalo idea – I think you’re totally right, and can’t believe that didn’t occur to me, but yeah – they may have not wanted to blame the holy cow, because we def never said buffalo…

    1. Thanks Ann, you’re exactly right. India isn’t going anywhere! I am going to focus on getting myself into even better shape than before and then conquering that place with Dani next time!!!

  8. I will eat a cow in your honor and to let it be a warning to all other cows , stay away from Jess and Dani

    1. Thanks David. No need to kill any cows, I have forgiven him…but I will definitely be a LOT more aware next time we are in India! 🙂

    1. You’re right, it’s definitely a unique experience Tammy. The bruises hurt, but it was the back/hip damage that did me in. The private hospital was great, too, which made things go so much more smoothly in the end. But anyway, I’m getting better now and truly have a story to tell out of it….

    1. Thanks Val! The first set of flights, down to Kochi, were really hard, but our super long flying day(s) actually was bearable. I just had buckets of ice on my back and got through it!

    1. THanks Stephanie! It’s getting better every day now! Back up and walking, and feeling much more positive again, too. India may have won this time, but we’ll conquer the subcontinent soon! 🙂

    1. Ah, you picked up on that hmmm? 🙂 Yes, it was only fair that Dani get to go with Jaime and Val to see Hampi, I was just limping back and forth from restaurants to the hotel everyday. No fun at all – and it could have been any beach town in the world, so not thaaaat exciting. About the cow…in the end, I guess I didn’t want to hurt the cow’s feelings either, since I have decided to forgo blaming it at all…:)

  9. So you’ve got a beef with cows… I know I shouldn’t be laughing, but that first line cracks me up. I wonder if the cows are more aggressive in the south. I was in the north when I was in India and while the cows were omnipresent, I never feared that they would trample me!
    Ekua recently posted..Hey Girl, Whatcha Doin’?

    1. Hey Ekua – def don’t think they are more aggressive. As I said, he was totally pinned in to traffic on the street and another cow was being aggressive with him. I was just the easiest thing to get out of his way, and then he just mosied on by me as if nothing ever happened. I was pretty embarrassed about the whole thing, NO ONE gets trampled, right? But, I took the bull by the horns and wrote the post anyway 🙂

  10. Reading this made me laugh out loud… I know horrible me, but I just till can’t believe it happened. Like for real… of all people you, who had already been having such bad luck all over the place here. You know I am sorry it happened though and that it didn’t allow you to see more of India than well um yeah Palolem. I’m glad I was able to go back and be with your for a few days. I had fun just relaxing and chatting away those few days. Hope you are feeling better.
    Jaime recently posted..15 months on the road & this is what’s in my backpack!

    1. Yeah well… when it rains, it pours, I guess. Like I said, though, Jaime – couldn’t have recovered as quickly had you and your smiling face/drunk ass hadn’t come to cheer me up and make me laugh! It’s awesome that you came back – you’re an awesome friend. I mean, you gave up PUNE for me! 🙂

  11. Sorry I’m just now seeing this, but I’m glad you’re ok now! Sounds like such a scary experience! The buffalo thing is funny though. Maybe they didn’t want to put cow because it would be saying something bad about their sacred cows? Who knows. I hope all your injuries are healed up!
    Ali recently posted..Istanbul in Photos – Agya Sophia

    1. Thanks Ali! I’ve all but recovered from the alleged incident 🙂 Took longer than you’d think but definitely got through it. Sacred cows is the best reason we could come up with, too for the ‘buffalo’ blame.

  12. Of course, you know why it was ‘allegedly’, don’t you? They had the cow in the next room and he was swearing you hit him… :0)
    Actually I feel a little guilty. In the grand world of Karma it seems like you inherited some of mine. I have, on occasion, has run-ins with beasts of a bovine nature; the last memorable time was in Thailand, when I had to help give one an injection of antibiotics. The beast wouldn’t allow anyone near it, so we end up throwing its lead rope around a tree branch and hanging off the other end, creating a kind of swinging-cow piñata. He wasn’t too thrilled – and neither was the vet, who managed to inject herself twice in the process – but finally we got the drugs into him.
    He chased me around the tree before, during and after the hanging debacle, but never caught me.
    But you know what they say – what goes around, comes around… I daily expect to be buffaloed! One reason for me to stay out of India I guess…
    Oh, and I have to ask – how many times since the accident have you been told ‘Don’t have a cow, man’?
    :0)
    Tony
    Tony James Slater recently posted..The Great Perth Storm of 2012…

  13. Holy crap, that’s both incredible and upsetting at the same time. Sorry you missed out on fun because of this. It’s funny, we were among the bloggers approached about a new web-based reality show about unfortunate travel mishaps, and the truth was we had no good stories to share. You, on the other hand, would be a ringer!
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..INTERVIEW: The Incredible Story of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars

    1. Haha Bret! Dani actually wanted to submit my oh-so-embarrassing story to those nice producers, but you had to be in NYC, LA or ATL for filming and I can’t be in any of those places for the interviews…

  14. ‘Allegedly’? That’s the best bit about the whole story. That cows are so holy in India, one could not possibly have done that to you. It must have at least been a buffalo and even then there’s no proof – just your word against his!

    1. Totally! And normally I would want to embellish the story a little bit, but in reality, it was just a cow and I am happy about that!

    1. Karen, thanks for this! I appreciate your well wishes and the empathy, too! Injuries can really affect how you enjoy your travels, right?!

    1. Thanks Cole. The bruises actually weren’t the hard part though – it was the torn back muscle and hip contusion. But hey…it’s getting funnier;)

  15. Oh dear Jess….I better not even start commenting on this! Wow those bruises are nasty! I fell off my moped during the monsoon in Goa twice and jeez did that hurt,so I am feeling your pain. I also have knee pain and gall stones right now…so I know how miserable it is to be in pain. However I did find the way you wrote it hilarious and sorry but I did lol. There have been many a mishap on my travels that with time,u just laugh about and it’s great telling everyone your story,as u forget the pain!
    Oh bless you I am so glad you are ok though. Please don’t let it put you off travelling in India though. My worse experience there was having a cockroach crawl in to my ear in the middle of the night and me screaming trying to find my tweezers….thank god I had some with me. I finally managed to pull the bugger out half it’s body came out,the other half’s fangs,teeth or whatever they have firmly clamping on to my inner ear!!! It was by far the grossest thing ever happened to me…of the animal variety ever on my travels.
    It’s not really funny even now…but it is a great story to tell. It made me cringe for days after,as I chalked anti cockroach chalk all around my bed and slept with a scarf round my ears.

    Anyway I am glad you are ok now :))) xxxx

  16. Ps.. Lol not the most encouraging of stories to put u at ease about Travelling in India..whoops sorry but thought u might think now eugh that has to be gross. I was assured by all the neighbours in the little jungle hut I was staying in,with open roof tiles,that it had never happened to any of them ever and they had lived there all their lives!! I am a bit like u…gave up eating meat when I was 16 but always get into scrapes with the wonderful creatures. Have to say Mr. Roach died for his exploring nature!!

  17. How have I not seen this post until now?!? I even wrote one of my own on Goan cows around the same time…. They basically have about as good a life as a cow can have, but they do have to put up with drunk tourists trying to pose for photos with them and occasionally trying to sit on them. I can see how they might get fed up with us westerners and think nothing of “nudging” us out of the way.

    Also, sorry for laughing at your misfortune, but I did. A lot.
    Daniel McBane recently posted..How to Waste a Good Typhoon

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