When they say don’t drink the water, they mean it.
(Note to reader: this is medically explicit and contains women specific problems. As a recently pregnant friend said to me… I’m going to tell you things your friends didn’t. With that said, its not pretty, but a reality, so use caution.)
It was lunchtime in Lima, where we went to the local Mercado for a 5 sole lunch (about USD $2.) I though nothing of ordering a jugo (which is not really juice, its fruit, such as papaya or pineapple, blended with water, and of course sugar.) For the 9 days after that experience, I definitely thought about it a lot as it came to haunt me. It became a guessing game of was it the chicken and rice? Was it the water in the juice? Was it the water the glass was washed in? Was it the apple I ate but didn’t wash? After 3 days, my diarrhea didn’t stop, so I started a first course of antibiotics (metromidenozal). I say first because after some research on stomach bugs in Peru, and of course the obvious – it just wasn’t working – I found I needed an anti-protozoal; so off to the Farmacia I went and got (TSM) which did the trick.
I had about a week of regularity, but not relief, when followed up by an irregularly timed menstruation. Traveling during this week is slightly uncomfortable, if anything a tad exhausting, but not enough to keep me still, so the bike and I continue onward to cross into Bolivia. Possibly, not learning from my previous market experience, Deb and I headed to the Mercado for jugo and comida. It took about 2 days in La Paz before I woke up to a lovely burning sensation while I peed and more blood. Was my period back? Nope. It was a UTI. Fuck. This is my first and hopefully my last and a pain I wouldn’t wish on my enemies. Was it brought on by dehydration? Was it from improperly prepared/washed food from the mercado? Was it from the disgusting public bathroom near the Plaza Square? Was it from a dirty tampon string? The mystery remains, but an infection I needed to deal with ASAP. Luckily Deb had a well-stocked med kit and gave me Bactrim, which seemed to help alleviate the discomfort… until I woke up with debilitating pain in my lower back. The infection had quickly spread to my kidneys. Day 3 and I was still having fever and chills and pain, so time for more aggressive medication. I started taking Cipro (thankfully I had on hand) in hopes it would help and I wouldn’t have to go to a clinic. My god, have I become an anti-biotic sampler in less than a month. Yes, I realize my system is pretty shot right now. Along with a hefty dose of water, I am trying to get things back in order. Normally I take a home-remedy route to medicine (but not recommended as a sole method since kidney infections are that serious), so I have accompanied this with herbal teas (I have been able to find fresh parsley and mint, dandelion would be good too), a jug of yogurt and apples (washed) and probiotics to get my stomach back in order, alogn with watermelon (great for hydration) and papaya (for B-vitamins.) Finding all of this, I pass by so many fruit and vegetable stands yearning for a place to cook, but knowing I have none easily accessible, since now I have to be super careful where I eat.
Note of disclaimer, this is all self-diagnosis. I am in tune enough with what is going on in my body that I know when I can handle something or need to go to a professional. I will admit, I am very nervous to seek any medical attention in Bolivia. I see how they work on motorcycles; I wouldn’t want to see what they do with me. Harsh and slightly joking, I feel I am the best judge of my body. Had I not woke the next morning feeling better, I would have had to check into a clinic. The thought of an IV drip scares me, mostly because it involves a needle and penetration and I have no knowledge of the level of sanitation. I can only imagine from what I have seen so far that it is why I got vaccinated before I left the states. This nervousness could be all in my head, but being in Bolivia hasn’t given me much confidence.
Amazingly, I made it all the way through Mexico and Guatemala, dining on street food, eating in little mom and pop restaurants throughout Nicaragua and Honduras … and it was Peru that did me in. Then Bolivia really stuck it to me. I just want to get on the road again.
(If that rant wasn’t enough… there’s more… how just writing it out can make me feel better)
So far La Paz has not won me over. Maybe it’s because I’m tired. Maybe because I am sick and my bike needs work in the busiest over-run with black-smoke belching white mini-busses scurrying around like little vermin in search of cheese. Nobody has parts for my KLR and my body is screaming at me so I am not able to leave. Maybe it’s because I can’t find internet worth a post. Maybe it’s because for being the least visited country in South America, it sure is over-run with tourists – oh yeah, its carnival time where the streets will be littered with drunk people and confetti and am continuously told its not a safe time to ride. Maybe it’s because of the food. Peru was supposed to have some of the best culinary concoctions in the world, even if I did not find that to be true, I was at least able to enjoy the meals I did find. At least I was able to eat the meals I did find. Bolivia has proven to be bland and/or fried (can’t seem to get away from that on this continent) and even their picante is nothing to get excited about…and I love spicy salsa. They are in awe each time this gringa puts a spoonful on her dish. I give La Paz one exception to the Moroccan restaurant I found, tasting nothing like South America and provided a moment’s haven from the honking of taxis that have no problem with running you over, the monotone auctioneer salesman offering the crap–of-the-day special, and the indigenous women setting up their colorful yet seemingly endless bags of goods to peddle on the sidewalks. For just a moment I was able to get relief from these overcrowded cobblestone streets. And then I went outside in a useless search of fan parts for my KLR, to be overwhelmed once again by the clatter and layers of grime of the city, where even though I tower over everyone, they like to walk into me as if I wasn’t currently occupying that space. Maybe it’s because I am bored with monochromatic people and options because I miss certain amenities and politeness of home.
I understand being sick really has my tolerance set low in combination with
Motorcycle frustration and staying a week in the craziest city so far (they win the worst drivers award) and I am not much of a city girl to begin with (despite living in LA for 9 years) that I do need to give Bolivia another chance once I get out of La Paz. When I think that I only spent a week in Ecuador, which I loved, and look at the percentage of time I spent in La Paz, I can’t help but wish I had spent it elsewhere. But this is how a trip goes… not always as planned.