On my trip to Peru earlier this year, nearly everyone in our group got sick at one point or another, from one thing or another. Each day more newly ill were confirmed. For some it was altitude sickness (those of us who took Diamox ahead of time did seem to avoid this particular malady). For others, it was a gastrointestinal disturbance (i.e., diarrhea), often accompanied by other symptoms (chills, fever, etc.). The symptoms were consistent enough that it seemed like something (perhaps some kind of virus or bacteria) was making its way through our group.
I was fine for the first five days of the trip, the fifth of which was our hike on the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu. But early in the morning on Day Six, I awoke in my hotel room in Aguas Calientes and had to repeatedly run to the bathroom, the latest to be stricken with diarrhea. And then, after a while of that, came perhaps my least favorite physical sensation of all time. Nausea.
Finally, I began puking my guts up. Or so I thought. To my surprise, my involuntary “got-to-get-you-OUT-OF-my-life” stomach thrusts amounted to little more than dry heaves accompanied by an otherworldly soundtrack from my throat. (Enjoying the story so far???) Eating breakfast was out of the question. The dry heaves continued after I left the hotel room. And the most anticipated day of our trip (a full day exploring Machu Picchu) was now an up-in-the-air proposition for me. How would I survive even the (very bumpy and winding) bus ride up from Aguas Calientes, let alone the rest of the day, with my stomach as it was? (I knew just how bumpy and winding the ride ahead was, as we had taken the same bus ride down from the astounding ruins the day before at the end of our day of hiking.)
Fortunately, it just so happened that there were no less than five doctors (four of them GI specialists) and one pharmacologist in our group, and even more fortunately they came to Peru “fully loaded”. Just as the group was getting ready to board the bus for Machu Picchu, one of the doctors came to my rescue. She gave me a drug I had never heard of before called Zofran. It came in the form of a tablet that dissolves in your mouth. She told me it was an anti-nausea medication, often given to chemo patients, and that it worked quickly. Desperate for help, I took it. It proved to be one of (if not THE) most effective and miraculous drugs I’ve ever taken. Relief came pretty much instantly, and no side effects were experienced whatsoever. I went from being sick to my stomach one minute to fine the next. It was magical. On the bus ride, I knew I’d have been done for had I not taken it. I was grateful beyond words!
I thoroughly enjoyed our morning tour of Machu Picchu with the group. Our guide, Abelardo, did a marvelous job of enhancing our appreciation for the extraordinary skills of the Incas who constructed this city and the mysteries that remain about how and why it was built in the first place. Truly. Awesome.
Samantha and I had purchased permits ahead of time to hike Huayna Picchu, the mountain that dwarfs the city of Machu Picchu (see photos in the slideshow below), so we left the tour a little early to gain access to the trail before the time deadline for entrance. Between my queasy stomach and Samantha’s aching knee, neither one of us was sure that morning that we would be in good enough condition to take advantage of the perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do this amazing hike, but due to the Zofran and Ibuprofen provided to each of us respectively by our caregiving co-travelers, we both fared just fine!
We had lunch afterwards (my first food intake of the day), and I was very, very careful about what I ate and fortunately managed to hold everything down without a problem. We still had the rest of the day to do with as we wished, so Samantha and I continued our explorations on foot, and fit in the “Inca Bridge” hike (also featured in the slideshow below) before taking our bus back down to Aguas Calientes. I had a second Zofran tablet on hand in case the first one wore off before the day was through, but I did not even need to take it (what’s more, I was fine for the remainder of the trip, leading me to believe I might have had something different from what so many others in our group came down with).
It was an amazing, amazing day, filled with so many things I love: hiking, outdoor adventure, breathtaking scenery, a fascinating glimpse into one of the world’s most remarkable places, and great people to share it all with, especially my best friend and love, Samantha. It was a privilege to live it. And as far as I’m concerned I owe the whole day’s priceless experiences to a kind and generous doctor who came to my rescue in a big way (I’m omitting her name here in case it is for some reason not perceived as acceptable at large for a doctor to dispense medication of that nature outside the context of a formal office visit.) Without question, I’d have been holed up in my hotel room and would have missed out on this incredible day were it not for that “magic pill” and the doctor who gave it to me. I am forever indebted to her.
Of course, while a day such as this seems obviously to be a gift from others, nearly any (if not every) day of our lives can be perceived in this fashion, as well. Whether you choose to assign Mother Nature, God, or Randomness as the recipient of your gratitude, your existence is still a gift from something beyond yourself. You were conceived, cared for, raised, and educated by others. And on any given day you are the beneficiary of the labor of others when you enjoy any of the many things other people have created, built, fought for, or otherwise made available for you to eat, drink, or experience. The list of these things is endless, but worth contemplating. Brainstorming them would require an indefinite number of blog posts by an indefinite number of bloggers (go ahead and run with this project if you are so inclined!).
So, in that spirit of gratitude, I thank all of the people and conditions, known and unknown, that lined up to give me this amazing experience at Machu Picchu, as well as all of the other amazing days and experiences of my life. I’m also working at learning how to be grateful for those days and experiences that have been downright miserable, if only because full appreciation of the former might not be possible without the latter.
Below is a slideshow of photos taken at Machu Picchu. If you enjoy them, you have my fellow traveler/doctor friend to thank! 🙂
You can pause the slideshow below at any time by moving the cursor into the frame and clicking on the “pause” button in between the arrow buttons at the bottom. The arrow buttons allow you to scroll through in either direction at your own pace. Captions are available on some photos – click on the bubble icon (second from the left) – green turns them on, white turns them off):