From Paradise to Purgatory

September 13, 2009

This is the beach of Mancora, Peru. Looks like paradise dosen't it? If sunny, year-round perfect weather, and nice accomodation for less than $10 a night is your idea of paradise, then I won't blame you. I spent a couple of relaxing days here before making my way down to Lima. The town is mostly inhabited by a mixture of Peruvian and foreign tourists. The ocean water is warm enough to bath in, and the wind is perfect for windsurfing. However, what I enjoyed most was simply being in a t-shirt and shorts, and soaking in the sun. After the cold of Quito and Cuenca, I really didn't want to leave! But I had a flight from Lima to Cuzco coming up, and had to push on south.

From Mancora to Lima it is a 17 hour, overnight bus trip down the coast. As it was my first attempt at such an odyssey, I decided to buy tickets in the "luxury-class" of the best bus-line, which supposedly had reclining bus beds. Well, I can see how an average-height Peruvian would consider what was offered to be luxurious. But for my 6'4" frame, it was downright uncomfortable. The seat only partially reclined, and I had no room to stretch my legs. My body ached the entire trip, and I barely got a wink of sleep. By the time we finally arrived in Lima the next morning, I was a walking zombie. To make matters worse, I began to feel ill almost immediately upon arriving at my hotel. A fever was brewing. Perhaps in an attempt to ignore the coming storm, I ventured out and distracted myself for a few hours with the sights of central Lima.

Lima is a sprawling, traffic-choked, polluted, and gray city where the sun isn't visible for months at a time. But I had little energy to focus on these things. After dinner, the symptoms of sickness rapidly increased. My head pounded, my stomach turned, and I shivered from fever. Yet, I was scheduled to fly the next morning to Cuzco, and I stubbornely resolved to bear the pain and make my flight.

After a fitful night of sleep accompanied by frequent trips to the toilet, I made my way to the airport. It took every bit of energy I had to make it to my gate, and I still had a flight ahead of me. I asked the flight attendant for an airplane bag right after taking my seat. Somehow I made it through the one hour flight without needing to use it, but I felt more and more sick all the way until landing. Upon arriving at my hostal in Cuzco, the receptionists immediately noticed that I was ill and called a doctor. Low blood pressure, dehydration, and signs of a serious infection. The doctor recommended that I spend the night in his clinic and have tests performed.

So here I was, alone, laid up in a Peruvian clinic, with an IV drip in my vein and antibiotics being pumped through my body. I had come down with a "very strong" parasite that had somehow made its way into my mouth through contanimated food or water. All of this could have been a much more terrifying experience, but the clinic was quiet and clean, and the nurses were extremely friendly. In addition, the hostal staff frequently called to see how I was feeling, and even sent someone over to accompany me back when I was ready to leave the next day. The hostal workers prepared chicken vegetable soup for me over the following days as I slowly regained my health. Peruvians are known for being cariñosos (caring), and I got to experience it firsthand! So thanks to excellent medical care and to the staff at Hostal Qorichaska, I'm ready to hike the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu tomorrow morning!

Gracias por tratarle a su huesped como familia, señoras!


  1. Adam, man, this is a crazy story! The type I'm going to think back to next time I have to grit it out through some sort of sickness. I can't believe you made (and held on for) the flight. Glad you made it through alright and hope the trail treats you well. Looking forward to hearing more...