Published: December 1st 2010October 17th 2010
A lovely stone doorway at sunset
I don't know why, but whenever I travel, I absolutely insist on an unscheduled visit of the local hospital.
I should start a coffee table book.
Normally, I don't write about the experiences, because 1. it deters from the absolutely fantastic time I had traveling to the far off destination, and 2. I don't want to remember it. But this time, enough funny things happened to warrant a small mentionable blog.
So, I'm on my way to Puno (3827m), crammed into a bus van with a bunch of other people, tourists mainly, all excitedly chatting away about Titicaca. It's actually really funny to hear a bunch of different languages rambling on - with the word Titicaca occasionally popping up - sounds like blah blah blah blah, Titicaca, blah blah blah. I had to stifle a laugh every so often.
Anyhoo, we stop, actually come to a screaming stop on the side of the highway because there are flocks of pink flamingos in a lake and the people on the bus are losing their freakin' minds about it. The place, I later learn is called Lagunillas and is a stopover for many migrating birds on their way south
Sun sets on Titicaca
looks like a fire line on the horizon. Spectacular!
I'm still feeling kinda woozy, but I figure the fresh air will do me good, so I bail off the bus with about a dozen others to take pictures. Got my pictures...and suddenly start puking my guts out. Some kind old local lady selling trinkets approaches and starts rubbing me down with smelly herbs. I try in vain to fight her off...but she smothers me with a liquid that smells reministic of Drakkor Noir. I am now dry heaving angrily. When I finally get my shit together, and thank the little old gal for her attempted assistance, and get back on the bus, everyone has that horrified expression like I may rupture an alien out of my stomach at any moment.
In Puno, I get a hotel room and sleep it off. In the morning, I'm supposed to board a boat to go to Lake Titicaca and then onto the island Taquile for the next homestay adventure. I tell my Swiss friend Ricola I can't...and to go on yodelling without me. I'm about to go back to bed, when I notice my lips are blue in the bathroom mirror.
Okay, that can't be good.
Row row row your straw boat
how could you not break out in song
Long story short, I end up being seen by a local doctor who comes to my room, and immediately wants me in the hospital. Rapido! I comprehend that. We gather me up with my stuff, his nurse, him, and a rather large oxygen tank, and all cram into a very tiny taxi where we proceed to be driven around...there apparently is a parade through Puno at this very second - so the streets are all blocked off and it takes a few tricky moves for us to get around that, only to come across some rather horrible construction rubble piles in the middle of the streets. The taxi is forced to drive up over said gigantic piles of rubble. Can't. And then tries to drive around them. Can't. So now we are going in the wrong direction away from the hospital, and the doctor is cursing out the taxi driver's mother. I comprehend that.
Good thing I'm not dying or something.
At the hospital, I learn I have a severe pneumonia infection, which has caused me a case of extreme altitude sickness, which in turn has brought on a pulmonary oedema. I spend the next three days in
Very cool landscapes. The colour slightly altered thanks to bus window but still gives you an idea of dry andes
a weird technicolour fog while small town hospital antics unfold in front of me. I'm pretty fluent in 'food' Spanish and 'directional' Spanish, but can barely speak 'medical' Spanish. So there is a lot of, "Wait, what are you giving me?" "What is it for?" and "You want me to do what?" and "Hey hey hey, stop! That freakin' hurts!"
I have three nurses assigned to me, all who do not appear to be over the age of fifteen. They mill about. I had to show one of them how to put in an IV line properly. Eek.
I remember bits and pieces in my fog - like waking up late one night to find all three nurses sitting in my darkened room, watching my TV - a blaring Spanish action movie, gossiping and giggling loudly into their cell phones, and eating all the snacks left out for me. I remember thinking, okay, this wouldn't happen in Canada. But I laughed it off. These nurses quickly grew on me and I nicknamed them Shikira, Madonna, Lady Gaga - mainly because I couldn't remember their real names - but mainly because they were adorable. We spent the rest of
Lake Titicaca and a boatload of tourists
my stay doing a weird version of charades, before it was all friendly hugs and heart-filled goodbyes when I departed.
Being sick and alone in a foreign country can be horrible, especially without much to look at other than a oddly coloured orange wall. To pass time I read about the region and talked to the nurses about their lives here in Puno. Lady Gaga is a direct descendant of the Uros people. The Uros consider themselves 'the oldest people on earth' and have these amazing floating islands made of Totora reeds. They are colourful people who weave and make their houses and boats from reed. The pictures taken for me truly show how stunning the region is.
A few days later and I'm right as rain. Infection all cleared up, and all the other symptoms have vanished. My insurance company is still insistent that I get to sea level immediately, but I tell them no way jose - I'm picking up where I left off and headed for Cusco on a bus. It will take more than a pulmonary oedema to slow this girl down.
...oh and a big thanks to Ricola and the Kiwis for
wow what a beautiful place this is
providing me pictures of what I would have seen while in Puno. It looked like it would have been fantastic!
There are more photos below