Coming Face-to-face with the Perils of 3rd World Country Travelling

by Brian Carroll on October 29, 2012

Travelling to less affluent and 3rd world countries requires a bit of planning, awareness and luck in order to come out unscathed. Every traveler experiences or hears second hand stories involving theft, violence or sickness in foreign countries and part of travelling successfully is coming to terms with the fact that you will not necessarily be immune from such things. That by no means implies that should you travel, something bad will happen, rather that the potential for it to happen exists and thus one should be mentally prepared should such a situation arise. For me, that potential came to a head following my visit to Macchu Pichu. After meeting up with my LA friends within the ruins and hiking the famous mountain (Huayana Pichu) in the backdrop of Macchu Pichu, my friends and I grabbed some lunch in the town at the base of Macchu Pichu, Aguas Calientes.  Really it was an opportunity to relax and celebrate their accomplishment of completing the Inka Trail. While I had felt fine all day exploring the ruins, by the time we settled into lunch, I found myself feeling extremely light-headed, dizzy, cold and running a fever all at the same time - pretty much out of nowhere. For a bit, I tried not to worry, expecting it to pass, but after bundling myself among 5 sweatshirts (on a 70 degree day) and still feeling extremely cold, I knew something was not right, so it was off to find a doctor with the help of my friend Danny...if one existed in such a tiny town. By chance, there happened to be a small little doctor's office around the corner that was able to take me in quickly (though it was really just a tiny room w/an attached pharmacy). Now to be honest, I was a bit wary of seeking medical attention in Peru, but felt I didn't really have a choice. After explaining my symptoms, the doctor felt the issue was food poisoning (My own personal feeling was that it was a combination of that AND the fact that I hadn't eaten much during the day while I had hiked a significant amount into altitude, depleting my calorie intake significantly).  Anyways, the doctor said that to resolve the issue, I'd need to take some pills and have a shot.. The first thing I thought was "A shot!?!?, that sounds a bit sketchy."  It was not something I was completely comfortable with so in the end, I opted for some pills and nothing else, crossing my fingers that they'd do the trick. For the next 24 hours, my mind was extremely cloudy and it felt as if I was in a constant state of "drunkeness" with an inability to think lucidly - to be honest, I had never felt sick like this before in my life. Making things worse, that night on the train ride back from Macchu Pichu, I was so mentally foggy that after boarding the train and handing over my ticket, I could not successfully find my seat (I know, it shouldn't be that hard, but I was THAT out of sorts)...what I thought was my seat was occupied by someone else with a valid ticket and after that, it just became a mess to get settled - I could no longer find my ticket, the staff couldn't find it and the train was ready to depart...by then I got the feeling that everyone was looking at me waiting for me to find a seat, possibly thinking I was a bit crazy, drunk, on drugs or something else.  At that moment (with all my friends in a different train car unaware of my current predicament), I was a bit worried that I might even be forced off the train to fend for myself to catch another a ride, a significant concern based on my current mental state.  Thankfully, I think with the crew possibly seeing the panic in my eyes and having just as much trouble identifying my seat, they sat me in an open seat in first class.  When the train arrived to its destination, I shared my predicament with my friends, who in turn, ensured I made back to our hotel safely, as it was late at night to boot. All that being said, within 36 hours, I felt much better and I seemed to be back on track. It was a bit of an odd/scary moment but I was ultimately glad to have friends there to help me through it and have since been much more vigilant with my approach to food out here, while crossing my fingers for some luck to avoid such an issue in the future.

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