We landed in Cusco last Friday and have accomplished the following thus far:
1. Walked the local neighborhoods
2. Sampled local cuisine at the San Pedro market
3. Visited the Pisaq market and climbed to the mountain top there
4. Contracted gastrointestinal infections
5. Contracted salmonella poisoning (Eaman)
6. Spent a night at the Cusco clinic (both)
7. Missed our four-day trek to Macchu Pichu
Let us explain…
Everyone–friends, guidebooks and all–warned us that Cusco was nothing but a tourist trap. Once we began to explore, we thought they couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a vibrant, bustling mountain city with enough hometown charm to prove any Lonely Planet wrong. The locals are warm, the babies are beyond squeezable, and the food at the market? Out of this world! I mean, rice, eggs and beans–all delicious–for $1. Hello!
Corn sold on the streets:
$1 lunch at the San Pedro market:
After getting a feel for the town, we joined our friends Brandee and Natalie, whom we met in Lima, last Sunday for an awesome day trip to Pisaq, located in what’s known as the Sacred Valley. Think ancient ruins.
With our friends Brandee (left) and Natalie (center):
The hike up the mountain was beautiful, but I could barely enjoy it. With every step, I felt more and more nauseous. Eaman and the girls were moving swiftly and with enough time to take pictures and gaze out to the mountains. I, on the other hand, felt like keeling over in the fetal position.
Wanted to vomit at this point…and every other point
That should’ve been my first indication that something was wrong. But i figured it was altitude. My explanation for everything now!
Trying to hold it together:
We eventually made it back down the moutnain and bought some goodies at the market, including the hot pink blanket of Peruvian design that I had been eyeing since my arrival. We made it back to Cusco by early evening and took it easy after an arduous day trip.
Tree in the center of the market, very “The Giving Tree,” no?
The next day Eaman and I both felt terrible. No, terrible isn’t the world. Miserable. Yes, miserable. We were weak, had the chills and raging stomach aches.
We did our best to fight it, but with our Macchu Pichu trek looming in two days, we didn’t want to risk anything. And so we called a doctor (through a clinic our hostel works with), who came to our hostel within 45 minutes. After examining us both, he determined we both had GI infections. Unfortunately, Eaman’s had caught up with him a little sooner than mine had.
The antibiotics were supposed to be enough, and for me, they were. But for Eaman, not so much. The next day his body was totally rejecting the meds a.k.a. he was vomiting. That meant he needed the meds through an IV. And that, my friends, was how we got to our first hospital abroad within a week of traveling. It looks like we may have gotten ill from the traditional Peruvian drink known as the Pisco Sour, which uses raw egg whites for its foam. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but EVERY tourist drinks them. I guess it was luck of the draw. Or perhaps it was the unpasteurized cheese from the San Pedro market, which WE DIDN’T KNOW was unpasteurized. Ugh, no more sampling.
Here’s Eaman at the clinic. In my defense, he told me to take this picture:
We spent a day a the clinic, where Eaman got his IV and even more meds because, as the test results showed, he got salmonella poisoning. (i had missed it by a hair.) I kept him company and we watched approximately 800 movies on TV. (The Other Woman, starring Natalie Portman: OK. Frantic, starring Harrison Ford: Good. Mars Attacks, starring everyone in Hollywood: Weird.)
The stay at the clinic obviously meant Eaman was out of the Macchu Pichu trek. According to the doctor, I was actually well enough to go, but I wasn’t about to leave Eaman alone. To be honest, my stomach wasn’t feeling 100% anyway. It was oddly fun to be cooped up in the room with our friends, HBO and Cinemax. Don’t judge; we felt like crap.
We got out yesterday and these past few days have been such a blur. A part of us just wants to get the hell out of Cusco. It’s left a sour taste in our mouths, and that’s not just because our antibiotic has a tendency to leave us with a none-too-delectable metal flavor on our tongues. We feel defeated that this happened so early. And I hate to say it, I had a moment–during extreme gastrointestinal pain–when I just wanted to be back in the U.S. I just wanted a friggin’ bowl of Cheerios.
But we’re trying to stay positive. Our insurance was wonderful and will hopefully reimburse our whole Macchu Picchu trek. So instead of doing a taxing four-day hike, we are leaving this coming Monday for the Inca jungle trail, which includes hiking, mountain biking and ziplining. (We’re assuming we’ll be back to normal by then. Fingers crossed.)
I believe that everything happens for a reason, and there was some reason we weren’t supposed to go the classic route. Plus, we have a whole year for adventure. Such is the beauty of long-term travel.
For now, our goal is to just grt better. And now that I’m absolutely frightened to eat anything unfamiliar, we’ve sadly been eaing pizza and McDonald’s 24/7. Sigh. I feel like such a sell-out. But it does give me peace of mind that Mickey D’s was the first meal that I could successfully eat since getting sick. Chicken sandwich, French fries and Sprite FTW!
Eaman’s a little more worse for wear than me, but sitting at this coffee shop in Cusco with cappuccinos and chocolate truffles is helping. As does playing with this adorable girl named Nilda:
We’re planning to head to Arequipa, a colonial town southwest of Cusco, after the jungle trek, so about a week from today. We’re a little less than enthused to have three more days in the city that kicked our butts, but this is what letting go of comforts teaches you: to get back up when you’re feeling terribly, awfully, miserably down.
We just didn’t think we’d have to learn that lesson so soon!
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