The night before I took my final flight back home (SO SAD), I went out and decided to eat dinner at a restaurant in the alley near my hostel (there’s a whole bunch of restaurants down there that cater to both locals and tourists). I sat down at one that was playing the Knicks game (I hella missed basketball!) and decided to take a risk and get a caesar salad and a chicken consome soup – I really missed eating fresh raw vegetables. I asked the waiter if the salad was washed in “agua purificado”. He said it was – or, at least, I thought he said yes maybe he didn’t hear me, who knows.
The dinner kinda sucked. Well, the soup was okay and I did appreciate the food; however, it was very expensive (I really don’t like paying US prices for mediocre/bad food). It was also hella hard to overlook the fact that my caesar salad was a salad with a bad cheese sauce and pieces of lunchmeat ham instead of sardines (for the most part, don’t get Italian or American food out here, it’s probably not going to be worth it. Unless it’s a decent pizza joint – or it’s Ekeko’s in Puno, where EVERYTHING is good). To say the least, the salad was not good.
To add insult to injury, I got really sick from the food that night and pretty spent an hour in the bathroom on the toilet (good thing my roommates were either asleep or out!). It was incredibly painful – it felt like I was turning my sphincter inside-out.
(Lesson Learned: be careful with the salads!! As much as you miss fresh vegetables, eat them sparingly – if at all)
To add further insult to injury, my other (barely 21 years old) roommates came home around 2 am, turned on the lights (despite the fact that two other people were sleeping at the time), and proceeded to talk in normal (valley girl) voices. I’ve been hella fortunate to have had great dorm roommates during both my travels throughout Southeast Asia and Peru/Bolivia – however, these girls were an exception. They made hella noise. They even made fun of the other people in the room that were sleeping! Still sick and pretending to be sleep, I listened to them talk on and on until they finally went to bed. Even though I was about to get only four hours of sleep that night, I was happy knowing that I wouldn’t feel guilty about making noise in the morning as I prepared my bags to catch a taxi at 6 am.
My last taxi cab through South America. My last plane trip back to the States. It was all very sad and sobering for me. I didn’t want to go back. I still had dreams of finishing my South America trip – hiking through Patagonia and experiencing Buenos Aires – but that would have to be for another year, or so. Two months of travel is not very long, in the bigger scheme of things. Most of the other travelers that I had met were traveling for at least four months, if not a year or more. My trip, as amazing as it was, was waaayyyy too short.
On the plane ride back, I tried to eat the airline food (also awful – don’t get the pasta!) and rest up so that I wouldn’t be deathly sick when I landed in San Francisco. While my voice was still raspy from getting a bad cold in Sucre, I was starting to feel another flu coming on. But upon exiting SFO’s airport about 15 hours later, I was happy to see familiar faces – and happy to be in my own bed once again that night. Despite the freezing cold and my sad feelings for leaving South America so soon, there was a nice comfort of being home.
A week later, I went to my doctor back in Oakland and found that I had gotten E.Coli from the salad that I ate. My doctor was like, “Wow, that’s a strong bug that you picked up out there! There’s only one antibiotic that will treat that.” Oh yay.
That brings me to the following points:
MY (MINOR) PERU AND BOLIVIA TRAVEL LESSONS LEARNED
In no particular order:
1. Don’t eat raw vegetables. Or eat sparingly (and if you’re really sensitive, watch out for things like ice cubes or things that might have been made with local water) I don’t recommend eating whole salads like I did in Lima. Luckily the water wasn’t the issue – it was definitely the E.Coli.
2. Only bring currency bills that have NO rips in them – they won’t take them!
3 Reserve your buses or flights at least 2 days in advance to guarantee a seat. And double check their departure times! Many flights get cancelled.
4. Oftentimes there’s just not that much to do in each city, unless you go on some kind of tour or meet really fun people who can make fun happen outta nowhere. Create your own fun!
5. Make new friends, be open-minded, and smile. It can make all the difference.
6. Create a currency exchange rate guide so that you know how much 35 bolivianos is in Dollars (and vice versa), or whatever home currency you got.
7. Don’t forget that you can bargain prices – at least a little bit. People usually give you a high price at first because they think that you will try to bajar el precio a bit (just don’t negotiate down the price of tours, it will lower their quality and safety!)
8. Always bring two camera batteries for long trips, so you don’t run out of battery power by the time you reach Machu Picchu after four days of hiking.
9. Have gratitude, live in the moment. Always.
10. I’ll say it before, and I’ll say it again: LEARN SPANISH!!