Jenny and I took turns in the bathroom all night. Alternating between vomiting and diarrhea. After we had vomited a few times each, the boys were getting concerned that we were becoming dehydrated. They wanted to get us out of the jungle and into the town to a medical center before we wouldn’t be able to make it. The boys went to speak with the hosts. It seemed that one lady was already on the phone with the medical center as she had heard us violently vomiting. Jenny and I did not want to go anywhere, but we got overruled. A medical train was on the way to come get us and bring us into town.
Eventually. After about an hour and a half, Edwin (one of the lodge hosts) came to our door to notify us the train would arrive in about 5 minutes. We walked the hundred feet or so to the tracks and waited with our flashlights so we could be seen. We were thankful we didn’t have to walk down the tracks because the darkness was nearly absolute and the jungle on both sides is incredibly dense. It would have been a scary walk. Instead, it was a scary ride. The train was a single engine, hardly bigger than a full-size pickup. There was a driver and his assistant, a police officer, and two medical professionals already on the train when it arrived. And they let all four of us on as well. The girls had actual seats while Shaun and I sat on the hood with our legs hanging out the side of the car. The driver got the train rolling and then I noticed the engine tone was changing. I looked towards the driver and noticed that he was shifting a transmission. We’ve never seen a manually-shifted train before, so that was interesting. We got up to a speed that was probably not quite safe. It constantly felt like we were about to hop off the rails. 9 of us sped off into the night and made record time to Aguas Calientes, the closest actual town.
We disembarked the train around 2:15 am. We had a short hike up the town with our police escort to the medical center. The girls were taken into examination rooms and given a workup. It was determined they had food poisoning and they were treated with a smorgasbord of drugs and fluids. We had suspected food poisoning since early on, but it didn’t make sense because we’d all eaten all of the same foods. Oh well, we were much happier to have it confirmed and proper treatment administered, than stuck in the middle of the jungle just waiting it out. Shaun and I each had a tiny couch to "relax" on. The doctor asked what our plans were, as a group, and we explained that we were headed to Machu Picchu. He said it’s no problem, we can sleep a few hours and then go. Yeah, okay. The girls were given a mystery drug, we suspect was Benadryl, to knock them out. Shaun slept about one hour. I had slept about 1 hour earlier from 8 to 9. Each time after that I was about to fall asleep, someone began being sick again, which woke me up.
As six o’clock rolled around, we had to decide whether we were going to Machu Picchu or not. The entry time to the park is tightly controlled, and our tickets were for an 8:00 am entry, with a decent hike to get to the gate. Mandy said if I didn’t go she wouldn’t be mad, she’d just be disappointed. So at 6:00 am, with one hour of sleep and infirm wives under iffy medical supervision, Shaun and I set out on our hike. We didn’t really know which way to go, but figured following the parade of tourist buses was a likely plan. We grabbed a coffee at a little roadside shop for breakfast and continued walking down the dirt road. We arrived to the gate to the park about 20 minutes later. Shaun was held up because the passport number on his entry ticket didn’t match the number of his new passport. We had to explain in crappy Spanish that he had to get a new passport because his previous one wasn’t yet expired. He was not convinced. Shaun presented a Massachusetts driver’s license, which seemed to appease the guard, and he finally allowed us in.
We started actually hiking almost immediately. After we crossed the bridge over the Urubamba River, the trail went straight up. During our planning, which was mostly handled by Mandy and Jenny, we learned that this hike was supposed to take about an hour and a half. At the top, there’s another gate to the park. We had to enter this second gate between 8:00 and 9:00 am. We had just about the right amount of time to get there, since we were starting at about 6:30 am. We arrived to the second gate about 45 minutes later, soaking wet with sweat. It was difficult, but we were hustling regardless. But then we had to wait to get in.
We looked for a tour guide, which we had learned during the planning stage is a requirement to get into the park. You can’t just walk around on your own there. We met Gloria, a guide who spoke English. She seemed quite friendly, and funny too. We were still too early to get in, so we relaxed a bit at the gate until 8:00. She showed us on the map where we’d go, and explained to us how we’d get to hike Machu Picchu mountain as well. See, there’s the ruins, which we’d already hiked up to, but hadn't passed the gate to explore, but they’re on a ridge between two peaks, Huayna and Machu Picchu. You don’t have to hike either of them, but we wanted to, so we’d purchased tickets to hike during our planning, months ago. We didn’t really want to anymore, because of the lack of sleep, but we kind of felt obligated. Mandy would be disappointed. Not really! I told them they just had to get to the citadel but not to hike to the summit of Machu Picchu if it was too much.
Gloria walked us all around the ruins, and taught us a ton of history. We tried to absorb as much of it as we could, but we were so busy observing the incredible architecture, we probably lost a lot of the information she gave us. The biggest takeaway for us was that the park is far larger than either of us had realized before being there. And their masonry skills were incredibly advanced. We learned that it wasn’t a city so much as just a scientific and agricultural experiment. It was built primarily for scientists to study the sky and farmers to play around with different types of crops. After about an hour long tour around the ruins, she said it was her time to leave us. She showed us the way to the start of the hike up Machu Picchu mountain. Shaun got video footage of some of the tour - it will be posted in the future and can be accessed at People Walking Places on YouTube via this link here. We had to pass through a third gate, and sign into a logbook of hikers. We signed in at 9:45 am. The sign on the hut said the hike would take about 4 hours round trip.
The hike started off mildly, for about 5 minutes. From there it varied between difficult and aggressive. There were views almost the entire way because we were, in essence, climbing a stone ladder up a cliff face. We couldn’t see where we were headed because the entire summit was shrouded in clouds. The “staircase” was about 3 feet wide most of the way, with nothing to prevent you from falling hundreds of feet down the cliff. After an hour and twenty minutes of grueling climbing, we reached the top. We feasted on gummy candies and a rack of Oreo cookies while we chatted with some other climbers. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of how much we hated the hike. As a bonus, though, the views were awful, too. It was just grey in every direction because we were literally inside a cloud. After about 20 minutes at the top, we started to head back down. We turned back one last time before we began the descent, and noticed that the clouds had suddenly cleared. So, we took a few pictures, and then literally ran down the mountain. We got back to the sign-in hut to sign out after 2 hours and 14 minutes. Just before noon.
Meanwhile, back in Aguas Calientes, I had said goodbye to the boys around 6:00 am. Jenny was in a separate room. So I decided to get some more shuteye. I slept for maybe another hour and the doctor reappeared with a couple nurses. They took my temperature and vital signs. This was the first time they had checked my temperature. They told me the result in Celsius but I’m not very good at Spanish numbers so I have no idea what it was. But, they said I had a fever. They were giving me something IV. One gram. I’m assuming acetaminophen. The doctor told me that I needed another dose of antibiotic at 8:00 am and then I could leave at 10:00 am. I laid back and rested some more. Jenny eventually made her way over to visit me with her IV in tow. We were both still feeling a little under the weather but overall much better. Around 8:00 am the nurse came in with our second dose of metronidazole. She said we finish this and then we leave.
It’s interesting to see the differences in the clinic versus the medical field in USA. There were no IV pumps in Peru. So the nurses had to count the drops to determine the infusion time. Around 10:00 am the nurse came in. She really did not speak any English so communication was difficult. We think that she was trying to tell us to stay in town and come back at 2:00 pm for another dose of antibiotics. We really just wanted to leave so we said no. We were staying at the same place where they picked us up. So they took out my IV. They started to remove Jenny’s, but then told her that they were going to leave the port in so that she could administer her afternoon antibiotic. Again we said no, and asked for pills. She said, “Esta bien,” then finally removed Jenny’s IV. The nurse said that she was going to go to the pharmacy to get our medications for us and would be back in ten minutes. The male nurse started to get the credit card machine ready for us. The first nurse came back and provided us with handwritten instructions for medications and the medications themselves. We finally paid the people and left the clinic around 10:30 am. The total for the midnight train ride with police escort, all the medical care, drugs, and about 8 hours stay in the medical center was US$520 each.
We made our way through the town and stopped at a market for some snacks. We didn’t really want to eat at Gea Lodge again. In general, we weren’t that hungry but we figured we should have something with us that wouldn’t be too harsh on our stomachs. We opted for some granola bars, oranges, and yucca chips. We were fully prepared to walk back to the lodge now. Along the way we realized we had cell phone service, so we texted Rob and Shaun that we were alive and heading back. It took us about an hour walking along the train tracks and sprinting through the train tunnels to reach our destination. Once we made it back we laid down and immediately fell asleep.
We continued to run down the mountain all the way back to Aguas Calientes because we were dying for a pisco sour. It started to rain slightly, and we learned that thunder is really intense when you’re literally inside the cloud. The after-hike drink and fear of disappointing Mandy were really the only things motivating us since 6:00 am. We talked about the fact that the rain was making everything slippery and that we should probably take it slow. We opted to continue running. At 1:00 pm, off the mountain and back in Aguas Calientes, we saw a sign at Las Rocas Sagradas for 3-for-1 pisco sour drinks for S/20, which is about $6US. We didn’t even have to give it any thought, this is where we needed to be. We sat in the furthest corner of the restaurant away from everyone because we were saturated with sweat and we smelled fierce. We got three piscos each and they were amazing. While we were drinking and cooling off, we calculated that we’d hiked about 12 miles and a little over 3,000 feet of elevation in 6 hours. Not bad! We got a food menu, but the prices were rather steep, and they only accepted cash. So after we finished our drinks, we cashed out. We walked further into Aguas Calientes until we found a restaurant that accepted a card. We had some cash, but not a lot, so credit card acceptance was the main consideration. By this point we were pretty exhausted from sleep deprivation and exertion, starving, and pretty buzzed. We were dead set on chicharron de cerdo, so we ordered a plate each and another drink. When our waiter returned a few minutes later to notify us they didn’t have the pork available, we decided to leave. As we were walking out, he arrived carrying our drinks. We weren’t in any state to refuse a nice cold drink, so we sat back down to enjoy them as we requested the check. So four drinks in, we made our way back down to the street in search of chicharrones. We made it one door down to Hot Springs 2 restaurant. We sat on the balcony overlooking main street and ordered another round of drinks and chicharrones de cerdo. The pisco sours were a little odd tasting but we weren’t in a state to care about that. The pork was incredibly good, and more than made up for it. By this time, we’d been able to send and receive a few texts with the girls, and learned that they’d simply walked back to Los Jardines de Mandor from the medical center, so we decided to do the same. It was only about 4km. Yay, more hiking! At least it was flat and we were buzzed. It really wasn’t that bad. We laughed pretty much the whole way and were generally just being ridiculous.
Back at the lodge I had slept from about 12:00-2:00. At some point the host knocked on the door and asked if we needed anything and how we were feeling. I woke Jenny up a little after 2:00 to take her antibiotics. It was at this point in time that I realized the directions from the clinic had switched the metronidazole and ciprofloxacin schedule. It helps to have some medical knowledge, especially in a foreign country. Jenny slept some more and I sat outside to work on the blog while drinking my electroral. Jenny joined me around 3:00 after she had slept a little bit more. We sat and chatted outside while awaiting for Rob and Shaun to get back from town. They had told us they were going to stop there for food on their way back.
The girls were sitting on the porch and heard us coming several minutes before we arrived. We were happy to see them keeping drinks down and generally being not-dead. We caught up on their day and told them all about our high-speed hike. We all relaxed on the porch a while. After a shower and eating some snacks, I started to feel somewhat normal. I accompanied Shaun to the restaurant across the train tracks but decided I didn’t want to eat anything. Afterwards, we returned to the room and I promptly passed out as soon as my head touched the pillow. In the middle of the night I awoke to some very intense rain. At the time, I didn’t think much of it.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.