Things didn’t go well for me in Peru.
I feel weird writing that. I feel like as a travel blogger, I’m supposed to be so in love with traveling that no matter what happens, I consider every trip to be a success.
So let’s start with the positive things about my three weeks in Peru.
First, perhaps more than any other backpacking trip, I met a lot of great travelers who I know I will stay in touch with for years to come.
Second, Peru was a pretty easy destination. I was able to communicate using my “backpacker Spanish”, I didn’t get too lost, transportation connections were easy, etc. After I left Lima it was also pretty easy to find good vegetarian food.
Finally, the places I visited were actually quite beautiful. I was surprised by the prevalence of Brutalist architecture (which I love) in Lima, the wildlife of the Ballestas Islands was amazing, Huacachina and its dunes were like something out of a science-fiction movie… I could go on.
Unfortunately, all of the quinoa soup and desert oases in the world can’t make up for the fact that Peru absolutely kicked my ass. I was in good health when I arrived, but could barely function by the time I left the country three days ago. Despite all of my preparation and positive attitude, there was nothing I could do to avoid becoming sick in Peru.
It wasn’t just one thing. When it’s one thing it’s easy to go to the doctor and to start getting better. However, in my case, every few days presented a new medical issue.
My problems started during a two-day Colca Canyon trek. As a young teenager I once had something similar to asthma, but it hadn’t reappeared in more than fifteen years. Unfortunately, climbing 1,100 metres up the Colca Canyon one morning, before breakfast, was more than my lungs could handle (even after being given two days to acclimatize to the altitude!). I developed a cough that is still kicking around today (I’m going to the doctor on Monday).
The next stop on my trip was Puno, which was at an even higher altitude. Here, the Colca Cough made it harder than usual to breathe, and I developed additional symptoms of both altitude sickness and the common cold.
A week or so later I found myself in Cusco, where a dinner of a (delicious) salad resulted in digestive issues that left me unable to eat solid food for the remainder of my trip, and continued stomach upset even today (yes, I’ll go to the doctor on Monday!). TMI Alert: I literally packed an extra pair of leggings to Machu Picchu because I figured there was a 50-50 chance I would poop my pants. (I didn’t!)
For two out of three weeks, I was feeling bad. Not just “not good”, but bad. I wasn’t just sick in Peru, I was really sick in Peru; I was constantly sick in Peru. When I got home a few days ago I slept for sixteen hours, and have done very little other than drink tea and binge-watch The Honourable Woman since returning. I was looking forward to recovering and putting the trip behind me…
… and then my phone range this morning.
It was my bank’s Fraud Detection Department. They just wanted to touch base about some unusual activity on my account in Peru. I was happy to confirm that I’d been in Peru and had used a number of ATMs, all located at major banks. I was not happy to learn that since I’d left the country, ten unauthorized withdrawals had been made from my account, to the tune of more than $2000. I checked my bank accounts online yesterday and they looked fine; all of the transactions were posted overnight (I think scammers might withdraw cash on weekends on purpose, so that the transactions aren’t posted until Monday morning?).
Fortunately my bank is great and they have already concluded that the transactions were fraudulent. I’m hoping that by the time the money is refunded to my account I will also be feeling better, and I will be able to put the entire trip behind me.
I hope that I don’t come off as pessimistic or unappreciative. I know how fortunate I am to have time and money to travel, to have access to medical care, to have a trustworthy bank, etc. I also know that travel doesn’t always go smoothly. However, this trip took an exhausting physical and mental toll, and I think that failing to acknowledge that would not be fair to myself.