114: Sacred Valley of the Incas and all things bad with Ceviche, Motion Sickness and Altitude

I have been thinking about writing this particular blog post for a long time. I have a lot to tell and some of it really isn’t pretty. In fact, most of it is so intensely private that my partner doesn’t even know. My identity remains a secret on this blog – but a number of my faithful readership know my identity and I will have to continue to face those people in everyday life.But, I reflected a lot on what I want to say. I re-read my very first post on this blog and I made a promise to you: “If you do choose to follow me through these Tales from a Bucket List…I promise an unrestrained, candid, honest and perhaps uncomfortable examination of the self and my often trying and yet fully rewarding journey to cross off travel items from my Bucket List.”

It’s about to get uncomfortable.

I woke up the morning of our Sacred Valley bus tour. I hadn’t been feeling well due to some traveler’s constipation (nobody told me that we weren’t supposed to swallow the cocoa leaves…) and at breakfast that morning I opted not to have eggs and I stuck with some toast and lots of water.

As an aside, I knew that P and I were going to be spending the better part of a week climbing through a mountain with primitive facilities and no waste bins along the way. I was due to start my period that exact week (of course!) and so I made the decision to ‘skip’ my period by transitioning directly into my next pack of birth control pills. I had never done this before, but after careful consultation with my close lady friends and a bit of sleuthing on the web, I felt comfortable doing it just this once.

So, we hop on our bus which by North American standards actually fit the definition of ‘luxury’ with which they advertised it. I was surprised. It was a Greyhound equivalent with comfortable seats, a bathroom and large windows with a shade to pull down. I was relieved to know that we would be spending the next day in relative comfort. But, anybody who has traveled in the ‘developing world’ will know that infrastructure is most certainly lacking – especially in a Sacred Valley. Thus, the bus ride was bumpy. And on my absolute best of days, extended time in a moving vehicle makes me ill.

And so it begins. I started feeling extremely nauseous around the first of twelve hours into the bus ride. I had chalked the nausea up to the bus ride because this type of thing has happened to me many times before. Thankfully P and I were only two rows back from the toilet.

“P I need to be sick!” I nearly shouted.

He helped me down to the toilet I yanked on the door went into the room and was sick. And then I was sick again. I stood up and stared at the flushing mechanism. It dawned on me why I was having such a difficult time seeing: I had left my glasses on my seat in my panic to make it to the toilet on time, and also – the light wasn’t working. Oh well, I thought as I pressed the flush. I stared down into the toilet and wondered why the liquid was rising instead of disappearing into the hole.

I broke the fucking toilet.

I shrugged and rinsed my face and hands and went back to my seat.

“I broke the toilet,” I said to P as I attempted to get comfortable and ignore my quickly-worsening nausea.

“Oh, okay um…” he trailed off.

If he did say anything I wasn’t listening. I had tuned into my iPod to distract myself from my rumbling belly. After another hour I felt the urge to be sick again. This time, I think my nausea was made even worse by the driver’s reluctance to put on the A/C. The bus was boiling and I simply couldn’t contain myself.

“Did they fix it?” I yelled.

“I have no idea,” said P.

They didn’t. I realized this only after I unloaded another stomach’s worth of contents into the bowl. And here is my shining moment, the moment I realized that this sickness was more than just motion sickness – or even altitude sickness: I pooped. Yes, I pooped myself while I was getting sick. Of course, I immediately started to cry and finished my business on the nearly-full, nearly-overflowing bowl of my bodily fluids. Those who know me personally, only those who are near and dear to my heart, know just how uncomfortable this topic makes me. So, having an accident in a moving bus as it speeds over bumps through the Sacred Valley was not a moment of zen for me. This, sure as shit, wasn’t on my Bucket List.

In my nauseous stupor I tried flushing again only to see the liquid reach within an inch of the surface. I gave up and went back to my seat. It was at this point that P went up and told the driver about our..er, predicament. He gave us some plastic bags.

“Geesh,” said P, “that lady over there used the washroom at least four times before you got sick. What luck.” I rolled my eyes.

Shortly thereafter we stopped for lunch. I decided to stay on the bus because the thought of food nearly had me back in the washroom. I sprawled out over the two seats and watched as the driver used a long branch to drain the toilet. He looked at me and said something in Spanish that I didn’t understand. I knew what he meant though, because he shook his head and wagged his finger at me after pointing to the toilet.

So, I wasn’t allowed to use the toilet anymore. Luxury bus my arse.

While the rest of the bus was at lunch I was sick again – this time, into one of the plastic bags we were given. But of course – of course – the bag was dotted with tiny holes at its seam. I was now sitting in my seat covered in my own vomit. The driver happened to see this and he brought me a bunch of paper towels. I began to clean up my seat and the floor and he pushed away my hand and indicated that he would clean up the bus. I was to clean up myself. He took the bag from me and left.

Moments later he returned with a cotton-ball filled with a pink liquid that smelled like nail polish remover.

“I’m going to die,” I thought. I was alone in Peru on a bus with a man I’ve never met who is telling me to smell this liquid. He put it on my temples and then indicated that I should sniff it repeatedly. I’m not really sure where my self-preservation skills were, because I simply didn’t fight him. I think, at that moment, I wanted to die anyway.

So I sniffed it. And, I later found out that this was meant to help with nausea. Whatever it was, it didn’t help me at all, but I really appreciated the kindness that this man showed me. I mean he really could’ve done anything to me on that bus.

After getting sick only once more on the bus I managed to keep myself under control for the rest of the way. Throughout the day we made some stops at ancient ruins and museums and I remained incapacitated on the bus. When we finally arrived in Cuzco we had to hail a cab to our hostel. Unfortunately for me, Peruvian cab drivers have little sympathy for sick people throwing up in the back seat of their cab shouting “Disculpe! Disculpe!” He sped along zig-zagging throughout the narrow streets until we arrived. I carried with me another bag that I managed to get 2/3 full and I collapsed for the night at our hostel.

Our hike on the Inca Trail was set to start early the next morning and in preparation P and I were meant to attend a mandatory meeting that evening with our Inca Trail group. I remained in bed attempting – and failing – to stay hydrated. At this rate, I wasn’t about to go hiking on the trail in a few hours.

I continued getting sick throughout the night and couldn’t keep even a sip of water down. I concluded that the ceviche must have had something to do with the way I was feeling. For those of you who haven’t heard of ceviche before: it is raw fish cooked in the acid of lime and lemon juice. It’s good for a few bites but I felt that the lime was too overpowering. Of course there isn’t conclusive evidence to determine exactly where I got food poisoning (if that is indeed what I had) but I still blame the ceviche.

For those keeping score at home, I had also vomited up my birth control pills and I happened to start my period the morning of our Inca Trail trek.

So, at my absolute worst I began climbing the Inca Trail.

Stay tuned and Keep Wandering,



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