Bronchitis in Cusco

Trip Start Apr 08, 2012
Trip End Sep 25, 2012

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Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, June 28, 2012

Copacabana is right on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the largest highest lake in the world at about 3840 m (12 600 ft).
The water is incredibly clear. Probably because of lack of pollution; there are very few towns on the lake and all are quite small.
The largest island on the lake is Isla del Sol where there are two main villages and a nice hike from one end to the other.

Unfortunately I didn't get to enjoy any of this as my cough from La Paz had turned into much more.
I was quite determined not to let this ruin the Lake for me so I booked my boat ticket to Isla del Sol, hoping I would be feeling okay enough to make the hike.

But I was not. I barely made it to the island, coughing my lungs up and all the other gross noises that come with being sick.
My travel partner continued on with the trail after some arguing and after a few photos I laid down in the sun and fell asleep to wait for the ferry back to Copacabana.
That night I got just a few hours of sleep and felt just as awful the next morning.
I was really hoping that going down in altitude would help at least a little but we wouldn't be getting to Cusco, Peru until early the next morning.
At this point, though, I was drinking about 6 litres of water a day and drinking Coca tea as often as possible so I was sure what was wrong with me had nothing to do with the altitude.
We left Copacabana that afternoon and entered Peru before stopping at Puno to have a tour of the floating islands found on that part of the Lake. 
The Uros people that live here never need to leave their islands. They have food and water aplenty and the community is large enough that there is even a school on the main island. 
It was very touristy though, almost disturbingly so.

After this tour, which I barely remember, we continued onto Cusco and arrived at 4.30 in the morning.
I slept for about four hours and when I went into reception I saw a massive sign saying "ask here if you need medical attention."
Well, yes I do.
When we entered Peru and filled out the usual entry card there is a space for you to state your purpose in visiting and one of the options is for "health."
I remember thinking, who would specifically choose Peru for medical care?
But now I know why. Maybe the public hospitals are different but the private clinic I was sent to gave me the best medical care I have ever received, in the US or in SA.

I was fully prepared to get a taxi and go to the clinic the hostel would recommend but instead she called them and 15 minutes later the doctor came to me.
He spoke fluent English and after a short exam told me I sounded like I had pneumonia so I must go to the clinic with him for an X-ray.
So we got in his ambulance and when we arrived there I was ushered into the room by three nurses, all of whom spoke at least a little English. 
I was given an IV almost immediately and there was even a heater in my room.
They took various tests including an X-ray and came to the conclusion that I had bronchitis, and in a few more days it would become pneumonia so I needed antibiotics right now.

Unfortunately I had a total of four infections so the doctor wanted me to spend the night at the clinic. But the next morning I was feeling unbelievably better, those antibiotics had worked a miracle on me.

The one thing I'm super thankful for is the fact that I only felt bad enough once I had entered Peru. I have heard some pretty bad stories of the hospitals in Bolivia and they are easily believed once you have spent any time in the country.
So if you get sick in South America, try to have it happen in Peru.
Also, have travel insurance because I ended up paying no more than the $2 taxi ride back to the hostel.

Now, about Cusco. Once I was feeling better and could actually breathe again, I was able to explore the town a bit.
In every town that I've spent more than a couple of hours in, I get a feeling, a first impression. 
Some are places that I just wanted to leave, places that make you wonder why anyone lives there. For example, Punta Arenas (which wasn't that bad, but not a whole lot to recommend it), or most rural places in Bolivia.
But others really just make you happy to be there. And Cusco is one of those places.
It's one of the oldest towns on the continent, founded in 1100, and the layout of the city really shows it.
The roads and sidewalks are all cobblestones/bricks and most of the buildings have inner courtyards giving it a definite medieval feel.
The hostel I'm staying in is made of rocks polished by so many years of wear with steps that look like they came from a castle and two courtyards with a gallery running the length above.
Maybe it's because I like really old things but I love the feel of this city.
And of course, it's about as touristy as a town can get with about 2 million visitors a year. 
People spend sometimes a couple of weeks just in Cusco because there is so much to do around here. Machu Picchu is the obvious attraction but there's also the Sacred Valley, mountain biking, white water rafting, and there are tour agencies on every corner that can organise trips into Manu National Park and Tambopata.
So Cusco is the base of almost everything in southern Peru.

Maybe it's because I've come from Bolivia, and also probably because I'm in a really touristy town, but so far I've found that Peru is not very cheap.
But I don't intend to spend much time outside of the touristy places so I don't know if I'll ever know how cheap Peru can get.

Tomorrow I go to Machu Picchu for 2 days, but until then, photos from my Amazon tour near Puerto Maldonado.

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