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A week in Cusco, Peru: How a tourist city brought us up and oh so down

Posted by on September 29, 2011
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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.

Pisaq market:


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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16 Responses to A week in Cusco, Peru: How a tourist city brought us up and oh so down

  1. Jini

    Yikes! Sending you both good vibes.

    Have your parents freaked yet? ;)

    Hang in there, and perhaps it’s best you had this experience now. Everything happens for a reason, or so they say…

    Nilda is f-ing adorable, btw.

  2. avni

    you know you’ll get to macchu pichu eventually, if not in this trip, then the next. clearly, we were in need of a sehctac travel destination anyway ;)

    on to more important things – did you bit nilda’s cheeks? want to? almost? gimme.

  3. avni

    i obviously meant bite…

  4. Mina

    Eaman and Archana joon salam you guys freaked me out please becarfull getting sick like that my God. Seeing my poor baby (Eaman) on the hospital bed : ( or knowing how you felt sick Archana joon : ( please take care of yourself. After all of that I love the picture, you are lucky to be there by the way try not to eat any fruits or vegtables unless you wash them very good. Love you all. : )

  5. Subba Ram

    Arch / Eaman

    Hi kids glad to note that you are feeling better now The pictures /scenery are great !! Be extra careful when you eat out. Take care of yourselves. We both got really nervous. The baby in the picture looks really cute and reminds of Arch when she was a baby. Machu Pichu will be there for ever you can do it some other time. Wishing you all the best. Take Care.

    Lot of love
    Mom & Dad

  6. Akhila

    Oh no! That’s terrible but I’m glad to hear you have recovered… You guys have already started building stomachs of steel. Stay hydrated!

    Nilda is so rolly polly! Great photo. Also your mom’s comment that Nilda reminds her of you is so cute. She must miss you!

  7. Prianka De

    Archie & Eaman,
    Well, let’s hope the both of you got your one token illness out of the way in the beginning of the trip and the rest of the trip will be illness free. You’re right, everything happens for a reason and I’m glad the two of you are together and have each other. By the way, love the pictures! Looking forward to reading the next post.

    Take care,
    Love,
    Prianka/Minty

  8. Pratt

    Clearly the adventures have begun! Sooo glad you guys are feeling better! Sending big hugs and many healing vibes!

  9. Mahati

    So sorry to hear about the gastrointestinal infections and salmonella-Hope you are both feeling much better! You two will have very strong stomachs by the end of this trip! Hopefully you got this out of the way and have a healthy rest of the year : )

    LOVE all the pictures, btw. Keep them coming!

  10. Kaushal

    Hi guys, my wife and I, with another couple are making a trip to Peru in September. Reading a sad account of the GI infection and missing the Machu Picchu made us wonder if we should get insurance too. What insurance did you purchase for the trip? Is it an umbrella insurance that covers medical aid + trip reimbursements like that for the hike? Thanks.

    • Archana

      Hi there! We bought World Nomads insurance (http://www.worldnomads.com/) which has served us really well through our travels. They were amazing and professional to work with during our GI nightmare! Like you thought, it covers medical aid and trip reimbursements. They have a couple types of policies — one is general, the other is more activity-based — so I suggest checking out both and also checking on minimum time requirements because we bought ours for six-month stretches. Let us know if you have any other questions! Good luck!

  11. Nick

    Somehow I came across your sight from a google search and it was like deja vu. I went to Peru fall 2010 for 6 weeks and got salmonella poisoning TWICE; at the beginning and end of my trip. AND I missed my 4-day Inca Trail Trek too, $400 down the drain. I didn’t even eat anything iffy and now I’m scared of eating the food in Cusco for when I do go back. Hahaha…………

    • Archana

      I feel your pain! We still don’t know what caused it, but it may have been the sample of (unpasteurized) cheese at the market. And the worst part is, it wasn’t even good cheese! Uff. And i know what you mean about dreading going back in that sense. When we went to Colombia, Bogota smelled just Luke Cusco and we wanted to gag :/

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