Sophie picked up some food poisoning in Copacabana: probably from the fried chicken that looked like it had been sitting there for a few days. Crispy and tasty, but riddled with E. coli, listeria, campylobacter, or whatever bug it was that kept her up all night, always one step away from the bathroom.
The morning after two days of suffering though, she declared herself strong and ready for the 90 mile ride to Puno, on the Peruvian side of Titicaca. Good woman: if she feels up to it, let’s get some miles in!
The first 45 miles were smooth and painless. We were happy to be in yet another new country, pleased with the bright fuchsia border stamp in our passports that legalised our presence in Peru. And the evening bode well for the hospitality of Peruvians, as a shepherd woman and her daughter invited us to sleep in their hut, refusing our protestations that we were fine in the tent we’d just staked and prepared. It was freezing, she explained, and her hut was just across the field.
We fell asleep warm and content. Another productive day with distance behind us. But the bastard bug wasn’t through with Sophie yet and woke her up with panicky quickness deep into the night. Forced her outside where she woke the nearby bulls and lamas with awful groans and strained retching.
Come morning, there was no way she could ride. A single mile down the road and we had to stop and hitchhike. After an hour of increasing frustration at the lack of pickups, two policemen stopped their Hilux and drove us to hospital in Ilave.
The nurses and doctor, bless them, didn’t miss a beat. They sat her in a wheelchair and wheeled her to the emergency room where – no waiting time – they immediately got to work with the usual blood pressure, blood sugar and temperature checks.
“It’s a fierce bug you have, very aggressive. We have to keep you here overnight and ensure you’re strong again before we let you go”. Usually this news might come as an unwelcome setback, but the look on Sophie’s face spoke of relief as her body rocked and convulsed with nauseous agony in her chair.
With nowhere organised to stay, the ward staff allowed me to sleep in the bed next to Sophie’s, and I settled in for a day and night of waiting, watching drip changes and being available for any help I could give.
As my friend José says, “it’s not a trip in South America if you don’t spend time in a South American hospital”. Sounds about right. Well, the lass is on the mend now, trying to stick to the doctor’s orders of a chicken soup and water diet. Sure she’ll be right in no time – she’s a tough cookie.
Vida! Saúde! Felicidade!
As ever, if you’ve enjoyed reading these posts, or if you see value and a challenge in this trip, or if you’d simply like to support a wonderful cause, it would be great if you drop a little sum towards my fundraising goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Edmondstone/ to get involved. Thanks