One is still in Chivay. It’s been a week now. The last couple of days I have been navigating the apparent chaos of the Peruvian rural healthcare system, and, having found my way around it I’ve been really happy despite ending up with a large, and somewhat painful needle in my arm… not to mention being told I must not eat any cuy (guinea pig) for the next few days…..! Now, I’m generally shy of antibiotics, it’s been years since I took any. More common upper respiratory tract infections usually clear by themselves after a few days, but being asthmatic with somewhat damaged lungs deep chest infections can become entrenched and need some assistance to shift. After a week with no improvement I caved in and decided I needed a little help. I’m well aware that a large proportion of such infections are viral but in this case it turns out I made the right decision as I’m starting to improve. Every morning I wander over to the little health center here, pay a small fee for the injection, sit around chatting to the locals, and nurses… one in particular really wanted to know all about the British Royal Family… ha, like I’m the right person to ask about that. I am am neither royalist or abolitionist… simply ambivalent I guess although I have the utmost respect for the Queen and prince Philip and think that link to the history of our nation is important.
Interestingly being asthmatic appears not to impair my cycling ability at altitude. Having read studies about how some high altitude communities do not exhibit the expected high red blood cell counts but rather have developed more oxygen efficient musculature and metabolism I’ve sometimes wondered whether having more severe asthma during my young development days somehow forced some adaptation to simply make do with less O2. No idea… anyway I digress…
Given the time spent here and the loss of strength/fitness I’m re-evaluating my goals of riding the entire Peru Divide and instead will most likely spend my time on a slightly less strenuous but more intimate exploration of this area, possibly even returning to Arequipa at the end. A plan that also avoids the lingering poor weather in the north. It is an El Niño year, Peru suffered a devastating wet season… one that seems reluctant to let go long after it should have ended. I can come back next year to finish the job.
It may sound odd but there are good things about being sick in out of the way places. It is when you have to rely on the people around you for help that is reinforced the idea that no matter where you are in the world people are kind, caring and will do their best for you. It is also an interesting further insight into local life. In northern Sumatra I collected dengue fever, the fever was shit but the little Islamic hospital was an adventure that left me with some lovely memories. Likewise here, it is an interesting insight into the lives of ordinary people in such communities and does nothing but strengthen the sense of connection to people around the world. It’s much more interesting than being sick at home.
I am mixing the drugs with a slightly more holistic approach, old dears at the market sell a hot brew made from local medicinal herbs. It’s called ’emoliente’, very tasty it is…. and looks like this:
Indeed it is one of life’s great pleasures I have decided to sit on a stool at the market with a steaming glass of emoliente, watch the world go by, and enjoy the occasional conversation with passing locals. It’s frustrating as hell not being able to get going on my bike, but on the other hand I have the time to build some local relationships… and enjoy more street photography – and that makes me happy.
The weather has turned too, it is quite damp and raw with fresh snow on the peaks above town. My feet were cold yesterday so I bought a pair of thick alpaca wool socks at the market. They have little alpacas running around them. last night I showed my Argentine friend, Matias, at the parilla. He had done exactly the same thing and bought exactly the same socks. We laughed like idiots… and a lady at the market gave me an apple… small pleasures :-)
I’ve also been able to get a decent amount of work done which is great. This trip is something of a tester for being able to both support my business clients and spend a few months on the road each year. So far so good. I have nice, understanding clients :-)
I’ll update this post later with some pics of the little hospital here.