Why did we return before we had planned? A difficult and slow decision that turned into a very fast and easy return. Interruptions to the route and the rainy season that caught us before crossing the Bolivian border. Map and infos about the planned but not cycled route
At the end of September we were in Huancavelica when Gerard had the first severe episode of stomach-ache. It started with intestinal discomfort, diarrhea and 39ºC fever. We were lucky that we were in a fairly big city in a comfy room, where we could rest five more days. What worried us the most at that time was not being able to continue pedaling. We started checking the progress together with the planning, the speed and the rainy season coming, and we realized that the visa would end up before we would be out of Peru. We would not be able to cover the distance and enjoy it within time and we would have to skip the highlight of the Peruvian Andes which was the bikepacking.com route called Las Tres Cordilleras. Because of that, we decided to take a bus to Ayacucho and then Abancay as a means of getting more time to enjoy the most exciting part of the route!
We took one day for sightseeing in Ayacucho and discovered an unexpectedly really beautiful city. We saw that we tend to like colonial constructions, which tend to be more architectonically complex and detailed. They have wooden balconies, arcades, decorated dors and facades, interior courtyard and typical tiles. This didn’t feel any good since we totally dislike how colonisation happened and the oppression that still derivates from it. It’s a contradiction: on one side we criticize the Spanish colonisation atrocities and on the other side we value its constructions, churches and imposed culture such as the bull plazas that can be found even in the tiniest towns.
Taking a bus when traveling by bike is not a pleasant experience, at least when the roads are not asphalted as is the case of Peru. Beyond having to disassemble the bikes and find small cards to make a puzzle that tries to protect them, the constant impacts did not let us rest peacefully in any bus stretch, we were always thinking about how the bicycles were doing down there. That is why we only took buses in limit situations, and it still was hard to do so.
From Ayacucho, we took a bus to Abancay. We stayed there for more than a week doing activities and visiting the Choquequirao ruins. We used the fact that we were in a big city with facilities and supplies to dial a bit our kits. We had broken a AllinOne Multitool trying to take out one pedal and needed a new hex tool, we also wanted to get a Cassette removal tool in case we broke a spoke. We again used the time to process pictures, send them to Ghost, chat with family and eat different food in restaurants. In the morning we had planned to leave, Gerard had 39.5º fever and stomach-ache, so we decided to stay longer, at least until he would be fine.
It’s not that bad
Until then, we had not considered asking for an appointment to the medical insurance. We thought it was just a stomach-ache and that it would recover easily.
After about three days, we left Abancay heading to the Salkantay and the route through the ruins of Machu Pichu. The body held up until Maras, after a good climb from the Sacred Valley, where Gerard had fever again and this time vomited three times during the night. We decided to take a bus to Cusco, which was only 30km away!
In Cusco we were hosted by a great couchsurfer named Ishmael, we spent 10 days with intestinal discomfort and fever at his place. This time Ariadna joined Gerard in both fevers and diarrhea! We decided to request an urgent medical visit because the situation was starting to be harsh.
The first visit was quick and without any evidence they gave us an anti-parasitic one.
Obviously, we were still with fever and diarrhea after the three-day treatment. On the second visit they took us a bit more seriously. They took our vital signs and they did a simple fecal test. Ariadna’s results came out conclusive: Ameba Histolytica. The treatment was antibiotic and antibacterial for 7 days. We also received electrolytes to recover from dehydration and before leaving the clinic we were given the first round of vein medication. They couldn’t find anything in Gerard’s feces exams but due to his fever and discomfort history, he got prescribed exactly the same.
Or is it?
All in all, the fever diminished but it did not go away nor the diarrhea neither. We were feeling better but we were not able to continue the journey by bike! We were feeling tired, we could not eat well and our defecations were horrible. We request a last medical visit but were told that we were alright, that there was no trace of Amoeba Histolytica anymore and everything was correct. No matter what was the official version, we did not feel well.
The rainy season had reached Cusco. It was already the end of October and in the afternoon the first sprinklers began. We found it unfeasible to start the planned route, a tough stretch that lasted a month in the Cordilleras at a very high altitude and plenty of altitude gain per day. Check out Mark Watson’s publication, to whom we sent our track and took spectacular pictures.
We were talking about it for a few days, analysing favourable facts of each of the options in decision-making meals that actually didn’t end up with any decision. Meal after meal, we weren’t able to come to a decision, so we finally agreed on going to Lima to make the final decision there. In Lima we would make the last medical test, which we hoped would be an analysis of prolonged stools to ensure the state of our intestines. Depending on the result, we would fly back to Catalonia to heal, eat well and spend Christmas at home.
There was no result because they did not get any evidence, they told us that everything was fine, giving 0 credit to the diarrhea and daily fevers so we decided to fly back home. We asked Santiago, our friend from Lima, if we could leave the bikes and part of the luggage in his home during the 5 months of rainy season and we bought the two way flight tickets with a return date on them: May 4th, 2019.
Less than 24 hours after purchasing the flights we were already at the airport heading to New York, where we had scale. Incidentally, Ariadna’s sister Judit was visiting New York those days with her partner Víctor. We had 8 hours of scale so we left the airport and we went to find them at Times Square, what a contrast! We had been 3 months in the mountains where solitude was always the case in the middle of the Andes and suddenly we were in the middle of one of the busiest squares in the world, full of LED screens and advertisements from all brands. We had enough time to have a coffee and hug each others and then go back to the airport.
During the plane trip, we planned each of the surprises we wanted to make to our friends and families, since nobody knew about our unexpected return. Actually we had an accomplice … Buying the flight tickets was impossible for us because we could not receive the confirmation code on the phone to make the purchase and we asked Toni, Ariadna’s father. One by one, we gave a surprise to our relatives and friends in unexpected places and moments, it was really funny.