Peru comfort food: Chota style (part 7)
Within an hour of settling in the room, my son started throwing up violently, over and over all night. Then the diarrhea started and there were times when both happened simultaneously. Sometimes he wouldn't make it to the bathroom. It's the kind of mess, that only a mother can clean.
We used every scrap of towel and every trash can available. In between bouts of vomiting, our guide showed up to check on us. I told
my son that I wasn't sure how things worked here and we should hide the extent of his sickness. So we smiled and said everything was fine. I was carrying packets of vitamin powder, which contained a little sugar. I poured one into my son's water bottle and stared him straight in the eye (fortunately, he was lying down at the time) with the instructions that he should sip no more than 1 teaspoon every 5 minutes. It's the only time in his life that my son actually listened to my advice.
The guide remembered that we had not eaten all day and insisted that I eat dinner with him on our way to get the prescription. I was actually very hungry, but it was the last thing on my mind. When asked what I wanted to eat, with my usual sense of humor, I said, "a nice vegetarian restaurant." We laughed at the prospect and he and I went out to get the prescription and food.
Although it was late, people were still out and about and the guide asked the first person he saw if there was a vegetarian restaurant in town. I nearly fell off the edge of the cobbled road when the pedestrian pointed and gestured towards one of the streets. The guide followed the directions and we stumbled into a delightful place. I recommend it highly. (if you're ever there, just ask on the street like we did).
We were the only occupants and received the most wonderful vegetarian meal I have ever eaten. Hot, crispy homemade fried potatoes and a mound of rice were the foundation of the meal and heaped on top were perfectly ripened avocado slices, sliced tomatoes and fried eggs.
Comfort food, Chota style. Just what I needed. The guide enjoyed his meal and didn't complain at all about missing meat. He was a good sport. All for less than $5. We picked up the prescription for antibiotics and headed back to the hotel. The guide would stay near us in the hotel for the night, even though the rest of our group had continued to the lodge in the mountains where they would start work on our service project.
It was a long night and the next day was long too. I decided to try a day trip up to the lodge where the rest of the group was staying, while the guide stayed in town near my son. I caught a ride with "the Professor and Marianne" up the mountain to check on the rest of the group. Marianne (her real name was "Filly,") was the young housekeeper at the lodge and she came down to do the shopping. She arranged for the 3 of us to hitch a ride up to the lodge in the 4-wheel drive vehicle of a local guy.
The moment we crossed over the river on our way out of town, the "road" became a primitive trail of rocks and mud for the entire 12 km. We bounced and dodged our way up the mountain and arrived at the drop-off spot for the lodge, then hiked the rest of the way up. (everything in Peru is either "up" or "down", except along the coast).
The lodge was in the middle of nowhere. This was the edge of the planet earth. No electricity, no plumbing, no addresses, no mail. I guess I didn't have to worry about any of the students getting into trouble out here! The other teacher was relieved to see me. When we parted at the end of the bus ride, they had no idea if they would see us again on this trip. A couple of the boys had been acting up and she was on her last nerve.
Everyone was having difficulty with the transition to this part of our trip. The Cusco and Machu Picchu portion of the trip was incredible. Vidal was awesome. By comparison, coming to northern Peru was more than a letdown. I don't mean to be critical of the culture or the people. The people are as nice as you will find anywhere. It was just so different. Cajamarca looked tired, dusty and worn out if you compare it to Cusco. I would learn later that fewer than 1% of tourists to Peru even visit the north. But the longer we stayed the more we fell in love with this edge of the planet.
The generosity of the local people cannot be compared. Later that day, (after promising everyone I was planning to return), Filly arranged for me to catch a ride back down the mountain. I sat in the back seat of the truck cab between two women, one with an infant, while two men sat in the front, and several hopped in and out the back of the truck as we made our way down the mountain. Although it was raining, no one seemed affected. They didn't try to dig out their raingear or fashion raingear out of plastic. Life goes on, with or without the rain. Everyone around me spoke Spanish. For a couple of hours I was completely alone and immersed into the mountain culture. In order to communicate, I had to do it in Spanish. They weren't even going to pretend they knew one word of English, nor did they care. I loved it!
It seemed that the virus my son had was showing signs of retreat by the second night. The Professor and I we came up with a plan to try to transfer him to the lodge.